NYC afrobeat dance band staple EMEFE, founded by beast of a drummer and vocalist Miles Arntzen (who keeps the beat for Antibalas and Will Butler of Arcade Fire), will have you hooked after one live show. (Start with them funking up a van with their song “Release.”) The band’s current roster is composed of musicians all skilled in their own right, including Doug Berns (guitar), Javier Ramos (additional percussion), Jake Pinto (keyboards), Michael Harlen (guitar) and Jas Walton (saxophone)—who previously set Alan Watts’ musings to music. Today, EMEFE premieres their newest track “Time” on CH and, unusual for the band, there’s a hint of darkness streaking through the overall funky, upbeat mood.
“The process of finishing our last self-titled record was enlightening for all of us, and I would not trade it in for anything else, but it took a long time and it got dramatic at times. Our patience was tested, we were at a fork in the road—musically and emotionally—and that’s when I wrote the song ‘Time,'” Arntzen tells CH. “It’s a letter of warning to myself or a friend, that if you live such a fast life, things won’t always line up how you want them to. It’s a reminder that time passes by at the same rate for all of us, but some of us get swept up in it and lose touch.” Performing the song at shows became cathartic and rejuvenating for the band. “The rest of the songs on the Time EP shortly followed, riding that same wave of fresh energy,” he finishes. The band is still strongest at its pure instrumental moments—lyrics, at this point, seem to exist in order to differentiate each of these tight jams and keep the audience engaged—but what sets EMEFE apart from other afrobeat-influenced bands, aside from their youth, is their drive to stay relevant.
EMEFE performs at NYC’s Out to See Festival tonight at 11PM and will be touring throughout April. The self-released EP Time is out 13 May 2016.
Portrait courtesy of Sasha Arutyunova, live image courtesy of Luis Ruiz