Interview: Funk Schwey

In Vancouver, there are hundreds of incredible young performers rehearsing, writing, and performing. Sometimes, as in the case of Funk Schwey, we get to witness bands on the come-up; groups with the talent and originality to make their mark on the Vancouver music scene.

Funk Schwey are challenging to summarize, mostly because its members have such a wide range of influences. Singer and bassist Isaiah Dobbs uses a perplexing mix of reggae wailing, rapping, and smooth soul vocals. Marcus DeVerteuil’s guitar playing packs a Doors-esque bluesy punch. Jacob Schwinghammer can literally play a jazz melody on the keys blindfolded. Not to mention drummer Zak Haddad seems to play just about everything. They call themselves a rock outfit, but their tunes are a marriage of jazz, blues, R&B, pop, hip-hop, and whatever else the band feels like playing.

It doesn’t look like it will work on paper. But the result is music that’s fun, energetic, and—for lack of a better word—funky. It’s different enough to put them miles ahead of all the other high school rock bands, but accessible enough so that just about anyone could hear a Funk Schwey tune and start bobbing their heads to the beat.

They’re still getting the ball rolling on some fronts; they’ve had a string of successful gigs, but are just beginning to record their first studio tracks. And while their lyrics are engaging, there aren’t a lot of them—most of their songs only have one or two verses. But this can be forgiven considering the band’s irresistible onstage energy. They all genuinely seem to be having the time of their lives in the spotlight, and it’s hard not be dragged along with them. Just like Oh No! Yoko a few years back, the band is poised to take the indie scene by force.

We sat down with Funk Schwey to talk about what inspires them, where they’re going next, and what it’s like to be a band on the come up.

Lotusland: Who are you?

Everyone: FUNK SCHWEY!

Jacob Schwinghammer: Jacob, Big Dolph.

Isaiah Dobbs: It’s Isaiah!

Zak Haddad: The Zak.

Marcus Deverteuil: Marky D, underscore, ick.

Jaeden Froese: The producer dude.

LL: How would you describe Funk Schwey in one sentence?

JS: Mojo-rock.

ID: Post-apocalyptic One Direction.

ZH: Damn, that’s what I was gonna say. We’re basically One Direction, but funky.

ID: And with more sex appeal.

MD: We’re actually a little bit like the Bank Dogs, but with a little more sex appeal.

JS: Or like, a lot more sex appeal.

LL: You guys have played a lot of gigs around town, including spots like Astorino’s and even some concerts at schools. What’s been your favourite gig thus far?

Everyone: Astorino’s!

JS: Astorino’s was our first show with Zak as the drummer, and they had just gotten a new sound system, so we just had this awesome, awesome sounds.

MD: Plus we pulled a Guns N Roses at Hamber.

ID: We showed up SO late.

MD: Like an hour late.

LL: So Zak, how did you come to join Funk Schwey?

ID: Can I tell the story? I wanna tell the story!

ZH: It’s my story!

JS: Let me tell the story! So we had this drummer named Jackson, and he loved math and his girl named Crystal. Anyways, we had a Thursday night show booked for Astorino’s.

ZH: This is why Astorino’s was our favourite show.

JS: And Jackson was like, a week before the show, “Guys, I can’t make it. I’m doing Artona with Crystal.” And we were like, you know what? We have another drummer in mind. Sorry Jackson, but now we have Zak and he’s great.

LL: “I’m sorry Ms. Jackson?”

ID: I am for reeeaallll.

ZH: And if you want the longer story, over the summer me and Jacob were jamming and doing some jazz stuff. And then Isaiah came over to jam and we were like “Hey, let’s jam some more.”

JS: Zak was like, “I don’t wanna just be in a band with you, I wanna be friends with you.” We just had great chemistry.

ID: Now we’re friends.

MD: I still don’t like any of em.

LL: You guys have already mentioned the Bank Dogs. Is there a friendly rivalry going on there?

ZH: You know the movie Westside Story? It’s kinda like that.

JS: You know the Outsiders? It’s like we’re the Greaser’s and they’re the Socs.

MD: You know Shrek?

ID: It’s exactly like Shrek.

JS: They’re like the evil fairy godmother.

ID: They’re like Farquad.

MD: They are all Farquad.

JS: Whoops, I think I was thinking Shrek 2.

ZH: Can I be like Pinnochio?

LL: Zak, do you feel any animosity towards them because they have a Zak in their band?

ZH: Yeah, I feel like I’m not even an individual anymore. I’m just a clone.

LL: But you guys also supported the Bank Dogs in concert at one point, didn’t you?

ID: We don’t talk about that.

MD: No comment.

ID: No comment. It’s not like I grew up with the bassist or anything.

JS: It’s not like I live across the park from the drummer and we’re childhood friends. I actually made him cry at his own birthday party by throwing a block at his head. I was 10 and he was maybe 12 and he told a bad joke I was like “boo”, and threw a block at his head and made him cry. I had to go home after that.

LL: Funk Schwey doesn’t tolerate bad jokes, huh?

MD: Not unless they’re ours.

LL: Do you guys see yourselves collaborating with any artists in the area? You recently played a show with Skunt, for example.

MD: The Beatles.

ZH: Probably D4NNY.

ID: We’ve pretty much molded our entire career around D4NNY. Biggest inspiration, hands down.

LL: You guys have very eclectic, vibrant music. What are some of your individual musical backgrounds?

JS: I come from a jazz background, but wanted to play some more fun music, because jazz is super fun, but it’s too much playing in coffee shops with an audience of chin-scratchers and tea drinkers. I wanted to kinda appeal to the youth. Funk Schwey is for the kids, man. Think of the children.

ID: When I was growing up, my dad was super hip- total hipster. So I grew up with some Tribe Called Quest, a lot of hip-hop and soul- Stevie Wonder and stuff. And then I got really into the Beatles. I even bought a sitar-base and went full McCartney. And now I just really enjoy pop. Love me some One Direction.

ZH: I started out at the prime age of four playing classical violin. I started playing drums when I was 7, playing rock music…

MD: He has amazing pitch.

JS: Perfect pitch! The drummer, out of all of us, has perfect pitch!

MD: Who’d have thunk it?

ZH: Then I started with jazz drums when I was about 13, and now I play…this.

JS: For the kids.

ZH: Mostly for the girls.

ID: I don’t like girls. Girls are scary. And they smell like cheese.

MD: I actually just started playing guitar 12 days ago

[Laughter]

MD: No but really, when I started playing guitar I was into all the classic stuff. Clapton, Hendrix, all that really good classic stuff. Then I started getting more recent, you know, incorporating some swag avalanche rap. But I really only know how to play like five songs.

JS: Smoke on the Water, Seven Nation Army…

ZH: Thunderstruck, Smells like Teen Spirit, and Iron Man.

JF: I did a whole ton of drum stuff, some guitar, a little bit of trumpet. A little bit of everything.

LL: How did you find yourself as a producer?

JF: I grew up listening to a whole bunch of different tunes, mostly 90s music, went through one classic rock phase, and as producer I get that sense of creativity that I get the opportunity to put the track together. There’s definitely a big difference between musicianship and producing. Producing is more about curating things. You get a kind of groove like Funk Schwey has here, and then you just keep it moving in a certain direction and have fun with it.

MD: We only go in One Direction.

LL: When I heard the track “Levi’s House”, what came to mind immediately was the Doors. Any influence from them?

MD: Oh yeah, absolutely. I try to embody Jim Morrison as much as I can, mostly by taking off my clothes onstage. But yeah, I totally think we’re lot like the Doors because we have the keys and the guitar kinda trading melodies.

ID: But the Doors didn’t have a bass, did they?

MD: But you could also say a lot of the stuff we write about is like the Doors because it’s just super out there.

ZH: Like Hyperspeed.

ID: Wait, where did you hear “Levi’s House”?

LL: I hear a lot of things.

ID: Man, you’re awesome.

LL: So, what other bands are inspirations for you guys?

JS: Freaking Nardwuar.

LL: Really?

JS: No, I’m saying you’re like Nardwuar. But I LOVE NARDWUAR!

ZH: Nardwuar, if you can hear this, we all love you.

JS: I would seriously love to play with Nardwuar. As for influences, on one side there’s like Robert Glasper, on the other there’s Nardwuar.

ID: Like I said, a lot of Danny, shout out to him. A lot of Marvin Gaye and De La Soul for sure.

ZH: MC Cartney too.

ID: Definitely a lot of McCartney.

MD: I just think we’re all trying to be the Bruno Mars backup band.

JS: What are they called, the Rascals?

ID: No, they’re like the Hooligans or something.

ZH: If there are any choreographers out there that’ll turn us into them, hit us up.

MD: We wanna work on our dance moves. It’s our next scheme.

LL: You guys are known for really confident stage presence. Do any of you have a performance background?

JS: I used to be in some videos. Some tapes. Some uh, stuff I don’t wanna talk about these days. Next question?

LL: Isaiah, on the song “Summertime”, you actually start rapping during the verses, and you mentioned a Tribe Called Quest as being an influence. Where does the rapping come into play here?

ID: It just happened really.

JS: We talked about it once. We love rap as a band, but we’re just not into it as a full-time genre. But we really dig the rhythm of it.

ID: It’s kinda more a 90s De La Soul thing.

JS: It’s not like rap for the rap, it’s rap for the music. For the children.

ID: Also, back in the day before we were Funk Schwey we were Iguana Heatwave Classic and we wanted to include my brother a lot because he was boring and didn’t have many friends. And he can’t play or write music so I just said, “do you wanna rap?” And now he’s the face of Funk Schwey when he’s onstage.

ZH: But he couldn’t be part of the band because he would steal our thunder.

MD: Too cool.

ID: Dude, he talks to girls at school and had a freaking girlfriend.

JS: I watched him dance- actually let’s not get into this.

ID: But yeah, a bunch of times we wrote raps for my brother, but now I rap here and there. I’ve never thought of myself as a rapper.

JS: Isaiah’s brother is like Will Smith’s son, basically.

LL: What is “intergalactic egg-foo young”, and why isn’t it for everyone?

ID: Shit, that’s just scary.

JS: Intergalactic egg-foo young rhymes with some stuff and…yeah.

MD: Wait, is that lyric to our songs?

Everyone (except MD): Intergalactic, egg-foo young, I guess it’s not for everyone.

JS: I was writing this song about space this summer and this song idea came to me in my sleep. I woke up this morning and was like “whoooaaa”. Then I needed some more lyrics. And I love Asian food, but I bet Asian food in space wouldn’t be very good. And space is kinda a hostile place. Whoa. That rhymes.

ID: I remember when Jacob brought that song to me at a party and played for me, and I just fell in love with it.

LL: Zak, as a fellow Zak who spells his name like that, can you relate the pain of being a Zak?

ZH: Okay so last night, I was hanging out with this girl. And I stressed so many times “Sophia, it’s spelt with a K.”

ID: SOPHIA! It’s spelt with a K!

ZH: And then she took a selfie of me and her, and tagged it on Instagram, and she spelt it with a C. And I was like “Ok, I see how it is.”

LL: Do you guys have any recording- either an album or an EP- in the works??

J: Totally. We have the tracklist for the EP, it’s getting mixed and everything. Most of the songs will be on the album, and we’re planning to start working on that one next week, getting some drums and bass recorded. It’s gonna be a sweet album. You can never go wrong with some good funk rock.

LL: Do you guys see yourselves entering the Peak Performance Project later on?

ID: What’s that again?

ZH: The Peak’s music contest, winner gets 102 grand.

MD: Oh yeah, let’s win that.

ZH: We have to all be 19 though, so we have a while to go.

MD: You have to be 19?

JS: So it’s like, not for the children?

ZH: Yeah, I know G for G had to wait a few years because one of their members wasn’t old enough. I just call Good for Grapes G for G. Shout out to Good for Grapes.

LL: Most bands go through a bunch of names before settling on one. What was the worse names you guys had or thought about before becoming Funk Schwey?

JS: Cartavious and the Negroesons.

ID: Definitely that one.

JS: We really wanted that one too.

LL: What, you wanted to be called what?

JS: Cartavious and the Negroesons.

ID: We even like said “We’re Cartavious and the Negroesons” at our first show.

MD: That was a close one.

JS: Do you wanna know where our name comes from?

LL: It’s alright, I’m still in shock from Cartavious. You wanna keep the mystique of the name to yourselves, right?

ID: That’s true. Just no one out there watch Batman Begins.

LL: Do you guys have anything to say to the fans out there?

ID: No wait, it was Batman Beyond…

ZH: We actually call our fans “Shwey-Lords.”

JS: And just know that if you come to one of our shows and you don’t have any money, we will settle for drawing a penis on your face and you’ll get in for free.

MD: One kid did it.

ID: Shout out to that kid.

LL: And that’s a wrap. Thanks guys!

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