Volume 95, Issue 78

Wednesday, February 20, 2002
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Exotic and tasty eats at the Village Cafe

Plethora of influences creates distinct Blend

An ode to metal-heads

Willie one lonely Manchu at the Forever Cafe

Musicians against suicide

Plethora of influences creates distinct Blend

By Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

Blend's bassist, a guy that goes by the name Paudy, is looking forward to the band's return gig in London.

Along with his bandmates – lead singer Jessica Damen, guitarist Mike McKyes and drummer Rob Carvell, all Fanshawe College grads – Paudy has travelled across Canada over the last few months in support of Blend's debut album Symbiotic.

Yet, before they became full-time touring rock stars, the band members held the usual thankless twenty-something jobs.

Gazette File Photo
"I worked at RW & Co. at Masonville, Mike was at Sunrise Records, Jessica was at Scotiabank and our drummer – well, I don't know, he was meditating," Paudy says.

The band finally threw those occupations out the window to focus solely on their music and concoct the perfect "blend" – a funk, pop and rock hybrid that meshes together without compromising the members' individual musical tastes.

"We've got such an extreme range of styles: Billie Holiday jazz vocals for Jessica, Mike and Rob like a lot of the 80s rock and I like a lot of the groove stuff, going back to James Brown and Parliament-Funkadelic – it all gets mixed in there," Paudy explains.

Their collaborative approach to songwriting is also apparent in the varying moods on Symbiotic. "Marianne" is a contemplative pop song, "Angel Who Got Away" is reminiscent of a blistering Holly McNarland number, but then there's the bouncy "Play the Victim," which Paudy describes as "a soundtrack to your love life."

Relationships make up a large part of Damen's lyrics – the tracks about ex-lovers are especially catchy. In the opening line of "Fire," Damen proclaims her desire to set her previous partners ablaze.

"That was a little bit of the anger going towards those people," Paudy says. "But some of the newer songs on the album like 'Love for Free' and 'Just the Way' are about some of the more positive relationships."

Still, the first single "Without You" continues the trend of hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned. The track is proving to be quite successful, especially on 94 XFM in Prince George, British Columbia, where the song is currently experiencing medium rotation.

This is the same place where Blend first heard their song on the air.

"It was a rush," Paudy recalls. "We were actually coming out of the mountains into Prince George and had the radio down low. We were just talking in the van at a stoplight and all of a sudden we're like, 'Man, that's our song!'"

The industry also seems to be tuning into Blend – Symbiotic has been nominated for Rock Album of the Year at the Canadian Independent Music Awards, which will take place during Canadian Music Week at the end of the month in Toronto.

"We're pretty proud of it because we did it all ourselves," Paudy says. "We didn't get any funding and we were able to release a pretty good product."

Although the album has allowed the band to transcend the usual music genres, Blend must still deal with the contentious "female-fronted band" label. On one hand, this can emphasize the rarity of the female voice on rock radio, but on the other, it can be just as marginalizing as simply describing the band as "pop," "punk" or "alternative."

"Right now there are a lot of folky, female-fronted bands. Basically, all you can compare us to is Bif Naked, Joydrop and No Doubt. It's a hard market, but at the same time it's unique and I find that a lot of people are receptive to it 'cause there are a lot of male-fronted bands and after a while they all sound the same. Having a female is refreshing."

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