Some people are meant to play music together. Coincidence and luck brought the
five eclectic members of The Front together in a tiny, downtown Vancouver rehearsal space
in the spring of 2002. Vocalists Benjamin Arce and Jarrett Martineau had been rocking shows
together for several years as part of the Lost Tribes of the Sun hip-hop collective,
but they were growing tired of the conventional 'two turntables and a mic' format. That spring
they decided to recruit a live band that could move beyond hip-hop.
They asked longtime friend and bass player Chris von Szombathy (Jazz for
Robots), DJ/drummer Jess Conn-Potegal (live improvised house/electronica band Q),
and virtuosic keyboard player Allan Ollivierre to get together for a jam. In the first
minutes of playing together they knew they had something special - with their incendiary combination
of slamming rhythms, melodies, and hyperkinetic lyrics, an intense, creative chemistry
was instant between them. The Front was born.
What followed was an intense period of songwriting, rehearsing, and live
shows at clubs and events including the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Under the Volcano Festival,
Rock For Choice, Nucleus at Element Sound Lounge, Sonar , The Pic Pub, Backstage
Lounge, and Ms.T's. During this time, the band built a powerful presence in the city's music
scene by playing energetic and original live shows. Known for their dance-floor filling grooves
and mind-bending vocal complexity, The Front has developed a strong, local following and
played alongside such luminaries as Michael Franti, K-OS, Kia Kadiri, and Warsawpack.
The Front's powerful sound is created by, combining a stripped-down rhythm
section with two rapid-fire MC's. Jazz-soul trained bassist Chris von Szombathy's fluid
phrasing perfectly complements Jess Conn-Potegal's syncopated and electronic-influenced
drumming style, and Allan Ollivierre's complex harmonic and melodic playing draws
from his extensive knowledge of soul, gospel, and the blues. The heartfelt and soulful words
of Peruvian-born Benjamin Arce and First Nations vocalist Jarrett Martineau weave in and
out of this potent mixture to the create the band's highly textured music.
Their debut album Signs of Life, co-produced by the band and engineer Ben
Brown (Blue Wave Studios), will be independently released on February 9th 2004. Drawing inspiration
from artists like Outkast, Stevie Wonder, early Talking Heads, The Roots, Can and A Certain
Ratio, the album is rooted in hip-hop and soul music but incorporates the band's unique
combination of individual musical influences. Their songs describe the joys and pressures
found living in a climate of political change, accelerated culture, and media-made dreamscapes.
From the gospel-infused Behind the Mask to the rocking, digi-funk of Power Theme
the band explores a musical and lyrical terrain rarely found in hip-hop. Written collaboratively
and recorded during the summer of 2003, Signs of Life is a bold artistic statement from a band
coming into its own.