Our 2015 United Arts Campaign is underway, which means it’s time to support the arts and cultural sector that makes Greater Hartford a great place to live. This year we’re excited to announce Hartford-based band West End Blend as our featured musician (meet our 2015 visual artist). With their unique blend of soul and hip-hop, West End Blend captures the vibe of the Hartford area. You can catch West End Blend at various events around the city but for now read our q&a with one of the members, Jesse Combs.
1. West End Blend has 13 members! How did you all come together?
We all went to school together and knew each other well from classes or social circles. When we started the band, we sat down and tried to think of everyone we knew that could play each instrument we wanted. There were a lot of phone calls and hallway meetings at school until we found the beginning group. It ended up working out that we could all meet in the West End of Hartford every Wednesday night. Naturally, Wednesdays became known as “Wednesday Blendsday”. The most people we must have ever had at a rehearsal was fifteen people in the early months of the band.
2. Your sound is very much a throwback to ‘60s and ‘70s music. What musicians have inspired you and the group?
We are heavily inspired by bands like Sly and The Family Stone, James Brown, Aretha Franklin and classic funk/soul bands of that time. However, we also all grew up in the 90’s and feel a strong connection to the music of that decade. Of course we are always checking out bands that are doing great things in the present- it’s inspiring to watch other bands succeed and do great things playing music. If you asked each individual band member for their favorite groups, you’d probably get a wide range of answers. It ends up being a real silver lining for the group, having 11 different sets of influences brought to the music.
3. What is your favorite track and why?
The title track to our debut EP is called “What It’s All About”. The song sums up a lot of our feelings about the band and the friendship we’ve made having played together for about two years now. We made a music video for the song that was featured on WNPR’s “Where We Live” and shows some of our favorite spots in our neighborhood.
4. As a local band, how has the Greater Hartford influenced your sound?
The Greater Hartford area was were we started and we definitely feel at home here. It’s been great for us location-wise and definitely inspired the conception of the band.
5. Finally, how did you all decide on your unique hip-hop, soul-funk sound and what influenced it?
We had a residency at a club in downtown Hartford for the first year of the band. We played late into the night and had to fill a lot of time onstage. We had to learn a large number of cover songs that we thought would work best for the band’s instrumentation which eventually that dictated the way we saw our band sound. We’re still developing our sound now more than ever but that first year definitely let us have a first idea of what worked for the band. It’s all about trying to figure out how to play to our strengths and get better at our craft.
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