The Sum of Pocket Dwellers' Parts

The Sum of <b>Pocket Dwellers</b>' Parts
Take one fiery MC, a secret-weapon DJ, electrified guitar, killer bass lines, explosive drums, two sensuous saxes, and shake well till sweaty. That right there is a recipe for heat — otherwise known as the Pocket Dwellers: Nigel Williams, Sheldon Moore, Christian McKibbin, Gordon Shields, Marco Raposo, Dennis Passley, Jr., and Johnny Griffith. This seven-man-strong outfit has been making music and spreading the funk far beyond their Southern Ontario base for nearly a decade, and like many of life's fineries, they are only getting better with age. As one of Canada's most prolific live bands, and one of the most difficult to categorise, they're poised to make 2005 the year of the Pocket — starting with the release of a fresh album, PD-atrics and another round of massive cross-continental tours.

"There's nothing new under the sun, but I feel that we are, that we're doin' it," says MC Nigel Williams. "We've been all through Canada and the States, and there's nothing like us." In the past, music critics and fans alike have tried applying a number of genres to the band — a hip-hop-jazzy thing, an urban-funk-jam band. But, say the Pockets, they are much more than the sum of their collective influences and musical pieces.

Guitarist Christian McKibbin nods. "We have the energy of a rock band, we have the MCing and DJing of a hip hop band," he says. "There are a lot of different elements you can attach to it. It doesn't matter what kind of festival or show we play — if someone hates rap music, they'll love the interaction between the drummer, the bass player and the guitar player." Nigel cuts in: "Normally," he says slyly, "if they come to the show and they hate rap music, they love it by the time they leave."

PD-atrics is the band's first studio album in nearly five years, and is entirely self-produced. The lengthy wait came mostly as a result of label difficulties; the band's former label went under shortly after the release of their last record, and they were homeless for a time before signing on with URBnet. In the long stretch leading up to the completion of PD-atrics, the Pockets have focused on doing two things: fine-tuning their sound and vision, and touring, touring, touring. They've scoured Europe, played the Montrose Jazz Festival, and made a career out of rocking every town, large and small, in North America. The Pockets have crossed the continent so many times, they've barely been able to keep a tally of their coast-to-coast travels.

"It's probably in the double digits by now," laughs Dennis Passley, Jr., the tenor sax Pocket. "Yeah," Nigel cuts in, "we know Canada."

What the Pockets have discovered about Canada is that, unlike our counterparts to the South (or in Nigel's words: "those genre nazis!"), Canadians are very open to listening to a lot of different music. "It just seems as like the landscape of the music scene in Canada is set up for us," says Dennis. "Canada is a cultural mosaic, so the fact that I grew up on jazz, funk, soul and hip-hop just speaks volumes for what's going on in Canada. When we go out to Canmore [Alberta], people flip. When we go out to Nelson [BC], people flip. That's really what's happening — everyone's just listening to everything."

"I know what our genre is — good music," says Nigel. "We represent what's in your CD changer, but all in one band."