DIRECTIONS with DJ JOHN KONG at Revival (783 College), Friday (September 21). $8, with CD $15. www.directionsmusic.com.
Toronto has always been known for rootsy music in many genres, so it makes sense that we'd take the same approach to DJ culture.
There are now more than half a dozen bands in Toronto playing live music influenced by the jazzier side of house, something few other cities can boast.
And Directions have emerged as one of the most promising local outfits. Their debut full-length, Have You Felt This Way Before, has been getting major play on university radio all summer and will finally be officially released this Friday.
Chilling out on the patio of La Hacienda, four of the seven-piece are talking about the difference between playing dance music in a band and spinning it as a DJ, and all of them have something to say.
"In a band with seven people onstage you put out a vibe in a different way than a DJ. It can be more interactive," guitarist Wayne Ogilvie explains. "We use the repetition, but there's more room to feed off of each other."
"We let the songs steep for a while -- we can wait a long time before dropping a kick drum," trumpet player and arranger Benji Perosin adds.
"There's more soloing and improvisation than in house," says bassist Kevin McBride.
"It's not a fixed show," offers vocalist Chantal Thompson. "We're watching the audience as much as they're watching us."
Don't confuse them with a jam band, though. This is song-based dance music, not vacuous synth noodling over riffs.
"We're more influenced by musicians than DJs," says Ogilvie. "It comes from being part of the club scene and listening to the music as a musician."
"It's more creative to try to write songs," agrees McBride.
"And more fulfilling at the end of the day," says Perosin.
As at home in a sweaty dance club as in a jazz bar, Directions have played jazz festivals in Toronto, Montreal and Halifax as well as T.O. clubs over the past few years.
"The response in Montreal was great -- 1,500 people both nights going crazy," says Perosin. "It's been all positive so far, but I'm sure there are some purists who dislike it like they hated fusion."
"The response in dance clubs has been really enthusiastic, too, which is nice coming from people who don't see many bands," adds Ogilvie.
Says Thompson, "The only people who want things changed are the major labels, but they have a lot of catching up to do."BENJAMIN BOLES