Local Tunes: Give funk music your Token of approval

I met up with Evan Gammage, the singer, songwriter, and lead guitarist of The Token Players, over some drinks at The Only. He filled me in on the conception of the band, how it all came together, and what they’ve been up to since their formation. They will be playing in Peterborough December 14 with Dub Trinity at The Red Dog, and on January 24 with Charming Ruins.

token players

Tell me about the foundations of the Token Players and how you guys first came together!

Well, the band started probably four or five months ago … with Mike, Louise, and I, just the three of us. We kind of worked on some stuff, songs that I’d written in the past. So, we decided to come together and jam off of those songs. Like, we knew Mike played drums, Louise plays a whole bunch of instruments, so he jumped on bass. There were two other people in the band, but that didn’t last too long. I think it was three months ago that we got our horn players, Braydan and John. We have a total of about eight originals that we’ve written in about eight months.

I should probably tell you the story of how we found our two horn players. So, we did some recording while it was just the three of us. We were in our friends’ living room, recording a session, and John, walking down the street, came up to the house and knocked on the window while we were recording, holding up a saxophone, and said, “Can I come in and play?” And ever since then, he’s been in the band. Ever since John joined the band, we jammed every week, and we kept saying we wish we had a trumpet player. A few days later, I was at a bar with a friend and we ran into Brayden and she knew him, and he’s been in the band ever since. It’s been a very spontaneous process.

How did you come up with the name, The Token Players?

It kind of just happened. It was originally The Token Boys. I don’t know, that name’s a little cute for us. We still haven’t really decided on a permanent name. We just kind of fell into The Token Players because Johnny’s roommates would call the band The Token Players every time we came to jam.

What was it like playing with Friendlyness and the Human Rights?

Oh, it was an amazing show. It went way better than I could have expected it to. There were around two hundred people that came through the door throughout the night. It was our first show, and the first Colour Upwards show. It was our first show as a full band.

token players 2Is there a specific genre or sound that you categorize yourselves in?

We’re definitely in the funk direction. We’ve got funk music rhythms with, like, jazzy chords and a kind of pop and rock song structure. So, it’s kind of got a variety of things in it, which makes a really cool mix of sounds. It’s a lot of different influences coming from everyone in the band, and a lot of my songwriting style comes from a pop/rock/blues kind of perspective. Mike and I were both in metal bands before, so Mike definitely adds the energy. He plays with a lot of polyrhythms, which I think is derived from his metal days.

Who are the band’s main influences?

Jamiroquai, Snarky Puppy, which is an amazing jazz-fusion band, Herby Hancock, stuff like that. Stevie Wonder. Earlier stuff mingled with some modern stuff. Brayden and John and I are really into the jazz. We both studied post-secondary music and focused on jazz. Snarky Puppy has such a wide range of genres in their music, and just the way … they’re just a perfect band, I can’t even explain.

I’m going to have to look them up now! What are some of your favourite venues?

The Spill was just mind-blowing. We’ve played at the Garnet, and Sadleir House. We’d love to play at the Sound Academy in Toronto someday, it’s such a beautiful venue.

Which band would you love to share the stage with?

Personally, if I could share the stage with anybody from Snarky Puppy, that would be amazing because their musicianship is unbelievable. Locally, I’m really excited to play with Dub Trinity, also Bo Dickson with Slips and the High Fives. Casey Roberts and the Live Revolution from Toronto. Herby Hancock is an amazing piano player, and we’re lacking in keys. We’re looking for an experienced keyboard-organ player.

So, when you’re writing, do you have a thematic vision?

Usually, it’s very subjective. My songwriting style is derived from the music itself, so when I’m writing, I’ll work with the music first, and then I use whatever emotion is stirred in me out of that music, and the words that come out randomly. I’ll start with whatever comes out first and hum, and then, I guess subconsciously, it comes together. I establish chord progression first. So yeah, lyrics mainly come after chord progression, and then that’s where the melody comes from, and then I just improvise singing. Every once in a while, I’ll have themes in mind, like existentialism, but the words aren’t there yet. Whatever kind of stirs inside me, I’ll go from there.

What is the writing process like?

For the lyrical songs,we do have some instrumental. I usually present a chord progression, and my idea of some lyrics. I present that to the band and then Brayden is really good with chord progression, and help me rearrange some of the more interesting progressions. I usually get more general barebones, and then he’ll help me make it better, and then we’ll bring it to the rest of the band. {Then] Mike will help with the rhythms. We build from a foundation of a song structure.

Are you guys thinking of recording an album?

We’ve talked about doing some recordings, but I don’t know if we’ll do an album any time soon. We’re focusing on doing live shows for a while. We’ve been thinking about doing live recordings and filming them. We want to record in a nice space with good quality. That’s actually an idea that comes from Snarky Puppy.

What is your vision? Where do you hope to see yourselves, say, two years from now?

South America, ha-ha. Touring would be nice! Having fun playing music.

Is there anything you’d like to mention to you fans and the readers?

Come out to our shows!

About Yumna Leghari 59 Articles
I am currently co-editor along with the fabulous Zara Syed. I'm a Peterborough hobbit, and often find myself writing too much poetry and struggling to be a proper adult. Just kidding, there is no such thing as too much poetry. I spent two years as a reporter before being lucky enough to become co-editor of Arthur. I love journalism of all sorts, but generally focus on music journalism and politics. As a History and English major, I tend to over-analyze everything. Luckily, the journalism world is the one place where that is accepted-one would hope. You can probably find me tucked away in a corner of Peterborough somewhere, scribbling in a notebook frantically over my fourth cup of coffee.