From hazy house parties on Cook Street to the breathtaking panoramas of Tall Tree Music Festival, Victoria band Illvis Freshly has been bringing their kinetic brand of funky hip hop all over the Island since forming just over a year ago.
The group — consisting of MCs Dan Howse and Jesus Estevez (AKA Danimal House and Doc Zoo respectively), guitarist Phil Lyons, and DJ Kyle Waddington — blends the grooves of electro-funk with gritty guitars and rapid fire raps reminiscent of the best 90s hip hop.
This eclectic flavor comes from past individual musical pursuits. Howse and Estevez played together in hip hop duo Extended Adolescence prior to forming Illvis. Additionally, Howse continues to front local funk and soul stalwarts The New Groovement. Waddington has been spinning heavy beats spanning every imaginable genre as The Funkee Wadd for a half decade and rocked the Ghetto Funk’s Shindig Weekender in England this summer. Lyons has long been a guitarist in bands around the South Island and got into the Illvis fray while jamming with Waddington in Tofino. This melting pot of influences is what defines Illvis Freshly.
May 14 of this year saw the release of their debut LP What Chu Know About Illvis?; an event celebrated by a massive blowout in the pale red glow of Lucky Bar alongside local favourites Neon Steve, Something Giraffe Titties, and DJ Smoothie. It was a swirl of sweat, smiles, and funk; a love-in for long-term fans and new arrivals alike.
This triumph came on the heels of a massive setback. “A laptop was stolen containing a large chunk of the album earlier this year,” says Waddington, “It was a painful experience, but we learned some crucial lessons.” The band still managed to complete the album in one year; an accomplishment even in the absence of adversity.
Illvis’ success is primarily a result of the members’ relentless DIY ethos towards their music. “We made the decision when we started we were going to do the record ourselves,” says Waddington, “We recorded it at our house and at PK Sound studios in Victoria. Features were recorded by collaborators at their own places.” MC Doc Zoo handled all the production and funded the album primarily on the back of their live sets across the Island and, increasingly, mainland BC.
While this attitude has been a major catalyst, one cannot ignore the role of Victoria’s music scene — a supportive creative incubator envied by many BC scenes — in Illvis’ success. “The local Victoria music scene has been one of the main reasons that Illvis Freshly has been able to flourish,” says Waddington, “We have been so lucky to have the support of so many artists we look up to, Canadian promoters, family members, friends and fans.” The raucous crowds consistently present at their shows demonstrate the dedication of a scene that protects and promotes its own.
Their increased profile has seen a flood of bookings for this summer season. Already they have taken the stage at Reliable Entertainment’s 15th Anniversary party in Mill Bay, the Tree Planter’s Ball in Merritt, and Tall Tree Music Festival in Port Renfrew. The band holds this booking close to their hearts as it was a result of a vote from the Tall Tree community — a testament to the impact they have made on the local scene. One of the most exciting gigs this summer saw Illvis share the stage with international Ghetto-funk superstars Shaka Loves You, Busta!, and Sammy Senior along with Vic legend Mt. Doyle at Distrikt.
The next big project the trio put out was a remix album for What Chu Know About Illvis?.
This saw the group working with a variety of artists across numerous genres with the aim of creating a DJ-friendly re-interpretation of their tracks.
July 22 saw the release of volume one, with three further waves of releases culminating with What Chu Know About Illvis? Remixed Vol.4: The Brothers in Funk Edition featuring G-Funk superstars Sammy Senior and Busta. This allows the group’s music to transcend live gigs and make its way into DJ sets. “No matter what you’re into, there will always be an Illvis track to throw in the mix,” says Waddington, “We are so happy to see this side project coming to fruition.”
The group remains grounded despite their hot streak. “We are genuinely thankful for anyone who has ever pressed play on our music videos or attended a show,” says Waddington, “We have so much love for our friends, family and fans, and cannot wait to continue bringing our funky vibes to the masses!”
With this positivity on full display at every gig, fans can rest assured that the boys in Illvis will never forget where they came from as their name spreads across BC. Whether they end up under the shimmering lights of the Commodore or continue living it up in Vic’s scene, they’ll never forget the hazy house parties that made them what they are today.
Words by Mike Westwick
Published in analogue magazine’s Oct/Nov 2015 issue