Friday, August 27, 2004

Balfour has 2 worlds

The actor is the lead singer
in the heavy funk band Fredalba


With local opening band Neken

Where: Wave Waikiki, 1877 Kalakaua Ave.

When: 10 p.m. tomorrow

Admission: $12, 21 and up

Call: 941-0424

The obvious question for actor-singer Eric Balfour is, isn't he busy enough co-starring in a network television series than continuing as lead singer in a heavy funk band?

Balfour clears his voice like a Shakespearian actor ready to deliver a soliloquy. "An artist that knows no boundaries or borders is free to create and expand a genre," he said, dissolving into laughter.

While the 27-year-old's day job is acting in the NBC police drama "Hawaii," he and his band Fredalba will be making its Hawaii debut tomorrow night at the Wave. The band, including Tiffin "Rooster" Roley (guitar), Blair Shotts (drums), Charmian Callon (flute and keyboards), Paul Trutner (bass) and Grady Reinagle (turntables), is also filming a music video around Oahu.

The widely circulated story how Fredalba got its name has become a sort of urban myth. Yes, the band did meet a prostitute in Paris named Fredalba.

"We were in Paris and ran out of French francs and all we had was U.S. dollars," Balfour said. "No cab would take our money. ... So we're hanging out in a sort of red light district and we started talking to this girl on the corner, who turns out to be a prostitute. ... Someone asks, 'Hey, do you have francs on you? How do you feel about us giving you U.S. money for francs, and we'll give you an extra 20 bucks?' ... We gave her 100 U.S. dollars for 100 francs, and the exchange rate was five-to-one at that time, so we got took for about 80 bucks."

But there's also a street by the same name in Big Bear, Calif., near where Balfour and Roley snowboard. "We were positive the street name was same as her name, but who knows," Balfour says.

What is certain is what Fredalba sounds like: an eclectic mix of funk, hip-hop/rap, rock and jazz, and an ethereal flute. The music is intimate, bold, angry, confused and revealing.

The band was born in Los Angeles in late 1997 when Balfour and then-bassist Ryan Posner got together for an informal back-porch jam. Fredalba's debut was at the Opium Den in March of 1998, and a weekly stand at Goldfingers followed.

Fredalba wound up in the studio recording their debut EP "real low underneath" for Val Jean Records, and the band's first album, "Uptown Music for Downtown Kids" on Piller Records, was released last year.

Balfour's musical interests started as a preteen.

"When I was a kid, my mom bought me 'The Making of Thriller' video and I mimicked everything Michael Jackson did and, oh, could I moon walk," Balfour said. "Then Prince's 'Purple Rain' became my mantra."

As for having too many irons in the creative hearth, Balfour says his musical sideline is not unlike the days when actors were expected to be all-around entertainers.

"Remember when actors had to know how to sing and dance?" Balfour says. "Liza Minnelli, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Frank Sinatra -- they did films; they would go and do concerts; they would play and write music. That's being creative."

BALFOUR LOVES his music but concedes its acting that pays his bills for now.

"Don't know which I love more," he says. "As much as I love acting, I wonder if I would be happier as a musician long-term; it is hard to do both."

"I'm very fortunate to have a band that will put up with it and be patient and let me go through this journey," he said. "They're committed to the project. I love them for it."

The band includes the Hollywood-born and raised Roley, who first picked up a guitar at age 15, and Shotts, from Mobile, Ala., who started playing drums at 12.

Callon, the lone woman in the group, grew up in Los Angeles and on Maui. Her father musician sang and played guitar in The Glass Family and worked with Parliament/Funkadelic as a recording engineer and mixer. Callon started on guitar but began playing flute because of her obsession with wind instruments, jazz and Latin music.

Bassist Trutner, another native Californian, studied jazz, classical, theory, and rock. Ohio-born Reinagle grew up in Arizona and California -- hip-hop was his first love and he's the turntablist of the band.

Fredalba's message is "Possibility through positivity," Balfour says.

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