The latest incarnation of Brian Rosen & the WhatNow consists of Ness Popoff

Funksmith, Lamb, Mooves, Rosen

Kootenay quartet make up latest incarnation of Brian Rosen & the Whatnow, playing at Spiritbar on July 3.

When the four members of Kootenay singer Brian Rosen’s musical family assemble on the Spiritbar stage this Friday evening, their collective decades of local music experience will be funnelled into four distinct acts—Mooves, James Lamb, Rafferty Funksmith as well as the headlining Brian Rosen & the WhatNow.

Paul Hinrichs over at Spiritbar gave us this chance. To do a full night there is a rare thing, but when we were looking for an opener the idea came that we should do it ourselves, because we’re more than capable,” said Rosen.

“This night is about this collection of people stretching their abilities.”

To fit with the reggae theme of the evening, Mooves will bring vinyl from his collection, Funksmith will play a DJ set and Lamb will show off some solo pieces. The event, which starts a 9 p.m., will feature the band in a two-hour concert from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

And this may be one of your last chances to see them together this summer.

“We’re coming into festival season so we really wanted this chance to get us all together, in one place, because the next few months are going to be busy,” said Rosen.

The quartet—Rosen, Lamb, Jesse Lee and Ness Popoff—who have been together for just over a year now, are currently working on their first album together.

“At this point we have a skeleton for an album, and we’re waiting on a recording session to make it a reality. We’re coming into the summer months, though, so it’s not going to happen right away, because Jesse’s heading off on a tour with Shane Koyczan and the rest of us are going to be performing like crazy.”

But according to Lee, that’s what you have to do to get by—not that he’s complaining.

“It’s been going surprisingly well,” said Lee, who was recently named artist of the year at the Kootenay Music Awards. “I feel tons of gratitude that I’m able to do this in this little town, and I’m working constantly. I haven’t actually left town overnight in months, but that’s what you have to do in the Kootenays.”

And Popoff said there are some interesting hurdles—such as finding out one of his tracks was being sampled on morning radio, only to find out they were only using 27 seconds, meaning he’s not entitled to any royalties.

But Rosen said that’s the life they’ve chosen.

“Being a musician in this town, so far from the rest of the world, sometimes I feel like I wish I could take this out to the world. But we’re pretty lucky to be able to be playing this much for this many years. If we play one good gig and it goes over well, it feels like success. I don’t have the urge to go to L.A. and live that dream musician life, I just want my music to have an impact.”

Which means, as always, that his output will have an environmentalist bent.

“That tends to come out in most of the things I write about these days. They’re either climate-based or human behaviour-based lyrics. I wrote one new song called I’m Not Going Fishing…and basically I use not going fishing as a metaphor about climate change, social disruption,” he said.

“It’s another song about action. And it’s not about waiting for action but succeeding in action.”

Lamb said he’s thrilled to have joined the WhatNow after seeing them perform for years.

“I’ve seen Brian and these guys play a lot…I saw Brian, Jesse and Rob playing at the pipeline protest thing at the Capitol and I sent him a message, said ‘if you’re ever looking for another person for your band, let me know,” he said.

And he’s glad to be part of a socially conscious act.

“I still drive a car, I still like my air conditioning and I also like my stuff being shipped to the mountains, but I’m interested in new ideas and change.”

Popoff said playing drums with the WhatNow satisfies him creatively in a way distinct from his DJ work as Mooves. He appreciates the activist element of their music, but that’s not the reason he wanted to get involved.

“I’m in it for the music itself. I think they’re well-written songs, and regardless of the lyrical content they’re just fun to play. Brian writes good reggae songs, Jesse plays a good reggae bass and James brings the decoration.”

And according to Rosen, it’s Popoff who was the driving force behind their move towards reggae.

“Ness has really brought the attitude of ‘let’s play some reggae’. I mean we do Paul Simon covers, Neil Young, Bruce Cockburn. We’re like Canadiana folk mixed with the vibe and laid-backness of reggae. But we’ll sound way more reggae than we have in the past.”

Advance tickets are $8 and $10 at the door, and are available from the Hume Hotel.

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