High energy 10-piece funk band West End Blend embarks on an extensive tour that stretches across the Northeast with 7 stops throughout New York State in Syracuse, Canton, Saratoga Springs, Saranac Lake (during Winter Carnival), Brooklyn, Rochester and Buffalo. The funk/soul machine recently released a new music video for “Smile,” and vocalist Erica Bryan sat down with NYS Music to discuss the band’s influences, songwriting and expectations for fans over the next 3 months.
Pete Mason: A distinct 70s funk and soul sound can be heard in “Say Hey”. What influences do you collectively draw upon to form your ‘blend’?
Erica Bryan: Every member of the band has their own set of influences, from Led Zeppelin to Earth, Wind, and Fire to Erykah Badu, that comes together through the funk and soul we all adore. How do we put it all together for one cohesive album? Great question. Each album gets us closer to figuring that out.
PM: As a 10 piece, how does songwriting come together between so many players? Are there 1 or 2 who take the lead for the collective?
EB: Initially, the band was focused on covers, and essentially delivering a crazy funk/hip-hop party to our audiences. Gradually, a few of us, myself included, started to bring in originals, some fully-arranged, others arranged with the group. Now just about everyone is bringing in tunes, or pieces of tunes that just need the West End Blend touch. As we’ve grown together, our collective writing and arranging has become more refined; we’re learning about one another through the music we write.
PM: When did West End Blend first form and what have been the most notable shows for the group thus far?
EB: In late 2012, our drummer, Sam Horan, and one of our guitar players, Jesse Combs, conceptualized the collective that was essentially meant to be an all-inclusive, funk-driven, party. Our first show was a basement party in the house that would later be our musical home in the West End, then we went on to a weekly residency at a hot dog joint in Hartford, CT. I could never have imagined we’d go on to play shows like Funksgiving at Toad’s Place in New Haven with Deep Banana Blackout, or a summer spot at Catskill Chill opening for artists like George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, and of course New Year’s Eve with our good friends in Turkuaz and Kung Fu at Fete Music Hall, three of my personal favorite gigs recently. Those and so many others were essentially masterclasses for us, experiencing such talent in front of us.
PM: WEB’s winter tour blankets the Northeast – what can fans expect at shows over the next few months?
EB: Our winter tour schedule is blowing me away. We’ll be with artists we’ve worked with before, and some we haven’t. No matter what, fans can look forward to some fresh tracks, fresh style, and a damn good time.
PM: With the recent release of WEB’s Say Hey EP, is the band planning to return to the studio for a full length album in the near future?
EB: That’s always the plan, and we’ve been working. We have so much to share, including the recent release of our music video “Smile,” a collaboration with the incredible Spencer Pond and the dancers of his The Now Unboxing Project.
Winter Tour Dates
1/19 – Syracuse, NY – Funk n Waffles
1/20 – Canton, NY – Java Barn
1/21 – Stratton, VT – Grizzly’s
2/2 – Somerville, MA – Thunder Road Music Club
2/3 – Burlington, VT – Nectar’s
2/4 – Bromley, VT – Bromley Ski Resort
2/9 – Nashua, NH – The Riverwalk
2/10 – Saratoga Springs, NY – Putnam Den w/ Gang of Thieves
2/11 – Saranac Lake, NY – The Waterhole w/ Bella’s Bartok
2/15 – Philadelphia, PA – Silk City
2/16 – Washington DC – Gypsy Sally’s w/ Big Mean Sound Machine
2/17 – Wilkes-Barre, PA – River Street Jazz Cafe
2/23 – Baltimore, MD – The 8×10 w/ John Ginty Band
2/24 – Brooklyn, NY – The Hall w/ Vinegar Mother
2/25 – Stratton, VT – Grizzly’s
3/3 – Greenfield, MA – The Root Cellar
3/4 – New Market, NH – The Stone Church w/ Broca’s Area
3/10 – New Haven, CT – Pacific Standard Tavern w/ Root Shock
3/16 – Rochester, NY – Flour City Station w/ Upward Groove
3/17 – Buffalo, NY – Nietzsche’s
3/18 – Pittsburgh, PA – James Street Ballroom
3/24 – Harrisburg, PA – River City Blues Club