One of the first things Fredy V noticed when moved from his native Washington, DC to Montreal was a street in Little Burgundy named “Rufus Rockhead.”
“I thought: ‘Who was this man, and can I use that for my next band name?’” he recalls. “I read up and learned that [Rockhead] was the jazz club owner and promoter in Montreal who was bringing in Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald and all these jazz greats who jammed along with Oliver Jones and Oscar Peterson.”
At 18, young singer/composer/multi-instrumentalist and all around boogie-man Fredy V (last name, Varre) took no time shake things up in his new hometown. Having moved here in 2000 to enter into a music studies program at McGill, Varre quickly connected with kindred spirits and co-founded Kalmunity. Then he went in the opposite direction and took a gig as frontman of world-renowned funk/disco revival outfit Boogie Wonder Band.
He explains the benefits of this duality: “Kalmunity is about understanding what it means to share a vibe, to have moments that mean something, that move someone, and lyrics that can act a voice for the voiceless, and about being entrenched in a community in a way that is poignant and significant.
“Boogie Wonder Band is a bit more about the glitter,” Varre describes. “I came out of Boogie Wonder Band as a bona fide entertainer. They gave me the opportunity to flex that muscle, and learn what it means to be a master of ceremonies, and what it means to look out into a festival and speak to people and sing to people and to touch people.”
In 2014, on the eve of releasing his first solo endeavour, Varre’s world nearly fell apart. “I had two brain surgeries and this huge health scare,” Varre recalls. “I would go out to Voyage Funktastique with Dr. MaD and Walla P. I’d be in the [DJ] booth with them, like, in my cast and whatnot.” This is when music, especially the funk he grew up on, spoke to him. “This is my voice. With all the tension and the climate of things in the world going on right now, people are relating to the funk. People see a lot of similarities between now and the 60s and 70s, and the Civil Rights Movement, when funk had its heyday.”
He’s toured Africa, Europe and South America, always finding the community as a common core value. “I see these villages and the hospitality that comes into it, and how everybody gets together to go get the water. From Lanaudière in Quebec to towns in Senegal, there’s some similar aspects, and that’s what I try to tap into in being a sort of international, global person, but with a village mentality.”
Montreal has always played a formative role in Varre’s musical journey: “Let’s be real about Montreal and music that is rooted in black culture, be it funk, jazz, hip hop, soul or whatever label you wanna put on it. A great analogy for Montreal’s music scene is that it’s a great kitchen, but a terrible restaurant. We have all the ingredients here, and I think it’s a blessing I came here and not New York because I was able to take in the global flavor of all the different cultures in Montreal. This plays a huge part in my multi-culturalism, and the concept of #ItTakesAVillage: having all these diverse elements that make a village.”
The man has seen a thing or two, and like the funk he makes, Fredy V is here to stay. “The mix between electro and that deep funk, applied funk, with real drums and real performances and raw vocals, that mix between organic and synthesized, is really balanced,” Varre says of the stellar #ItTakesAVillage. The EP was co-produced with Anomalie and Borza Gomeshi, and features a range of live instruments, a combination that hits all the right booty-shaking nerves.
For this Friday’s big release party, Fredy V will perform #ItTakesAVillage with his seven-piece band The Foundation, and will be joined on stage by Anomalie on keyboards.
Fredy V launches #ItTakesAVillage at Phi Centre (407 St. Pierre) on Friday, April 28, 8 p.m., $19.16