Unbuttoned, an electric soul (or, “stuff that sounds good”, according to their Facebook page) band from Toronto has begun to gain recognition in the music world. Their unique blend of electric sounds with emotional vocals has led to growing popularity both here and abroad, from the US, to Europe, and even in Japan. They’ve also opened for the likes of Lupe Fiasco and even The Weekend. One of our fellow writers even had the opportunity last month to interview one of the members. Since then, the band has released their first full-length album, Planes. They held their album release party at the Drake Hotel in Toronto on July 11th, and I had the chance to see them perform.
The album features twelve songs, written by Casey, Alexei, and Kamilah. Songs co-written by Kamilah featured more of a conversation between the vocals, while songs co-written by Alexei featured prominent and clean guitar sound. Having more input from the band undoubtedly lead to a more diverse album and more opportunity for the members to showcase their talents. Their songs seem to go through the decades, with some songs, like “Berlin”, feeling like soul from the 70s, with psychedelic guitar hooks, while others, like “Suitcases” feel like today’s R&B with a heavy driving beat. It’s as if the entire album spanned the history of soul.
When Unbuttoned took the stage, Casey simply said “Hi,” and the band immediately went into “Angry Boys”, one of the songs from the album. The one hour concert was comprised of the songs from “Planes”, but also mixed in songs from their EP, “Electric Kingdom”. Listening to the studio tracks (recorded in Casey’s basement, as noted on the album) and watching the band perform live are two different experiences. The tracks are clean but very soulful, with layer upon layer of vocals, instrumentals, and electronic sounds. Everything is precise, but it all still feels very raw and emotional. Watching them play live, however, brings their music to another level.
It’s mesmerizing to see them perform. All five members are in perfect sync, even in the way they move to the music. It’s almost as if every beat hits them as they play their songs. Each song is a conversation between the members, giving them a chance to showcase their talent. Their interaction with the electronic equipment is seamless in the way they recreate the sounds they have on their recorded tracks. Each song uses such different instrumentations and sound effects on their mics, sometimes changing in the middle of the song, but they change without breaking flow. Miles moves to play on a drum pad right beside his drum set, stopping his sticks just before hitting the machine to create varying effects. Kamilah and Casey hit the keys, with different sounds coming out each time. Casey switches the mic to alter his voice for the hooks in songs like “Dream Old Dreamer” while Kamilah has psychedelic echoes added to hers. Jonathan and Alexei are constantly switching from acoustic sounds to gritty electric ones. Some of these changes happen so abruptly, it’s amazing to see them replicated. For example, “My Dealer” is heavy on electronic sounds for the chorus, but backs off at the bridge, and finally ends with just Casey on piano. After finishing their set, the band was called back for an encore, performing “Something Wicked”, mixed with “Ms. Jackson” by OutKast, and finally One In a Million by Aaliyah.
It was nice to see the support from the band members’ friends and families. It’s evident that everyone appreciates them and the music they play. After the concert hugs were given and laughs were heard as the audience were able to mingle with their loved ones. While they’re larger than life onstage, Unbuttoned is a very down-to-earth group offstage.
I had a very nice conversation with the band after the concert. It was supposed to be a sit down interview after the concert but fans would always come up to them to congratulate and wish them luck! To me, that just solidifies them as a band that speaks, through their music, to the audience. Make sure you check back later for an updated version of the article which will include the exclusive interview conducted after their CD release party!