Vanguard band BlakDenim combines brass instruments with hip-hop beats to create wildly experimental harmonies.
The Ottawa-based, eight-piece hip-hop/rock/funk band formed in 2012 . They didn’t start as the full ensemble, but gradually added members as the years progressed.
BlakDenim consists of emcee Precise Kenny Creole, vocalist Erin Tomkins, bassist Karl Acelin, drummer Sacha Nagy, keyboardist Mark Onderwater, flutist, trombonist and vocalist Vick Bernard, tubist and cellist Sebastien Christopher and Ed Lister playing the trumpet.
“We played our first show in December of 2012,” Tomkins told the Journalvia email. “While most of us did not really know each other before the band, we gelled musically very quickly.”
The fact that there’s eight members can be a lot to deal with, and it makes things both more challenging and rewarding for the band.
“A band as big as ours is definitely a lot to handle, particularly when it comes to organizing schedules,” Tomkins said. “It also makes touring more interesting — but while it presents many challenges, our size is our strength.”
In terms of song writing, the band feeds off each other’s ideas and energy, the vocalist added.
“On stage, there really is nothing like the sound and energy of a big band,” Tomkins said. “Our shows get crazy.”
BlakDenim’s music is distinctly diverse — they pride themselves on having origins in hip-hop, with an infusion of rock and more classic rap.
“Our music is firmly rooted in hip-hop — we infuse rock elements with grimy classic hip-hop,” Tomkins said. “This doesn’t seem like a natural fit with a horns section and a flute, but it really works.”
The singer added that the band loves emotive music with strong social messages, but their repertoire also includes party songs with strong elements of funk and soul.
The band aren’t unfamiliar with studio recording, having already released an EP, entitled Vanguard(en).
“We have already recorded a couple of songs for the next project, however we’re taking our time and being very thoughtful about the follow up [album],” Tomkins said. “We’re also not done with Vanguard(en) yet — we really love that EP and think it deserves some more promotion.”
The band plans to branch out their musical fan base to cities outside of Ottawa this year.
“Ottawa has been really great to us — we’ve built a solid fan base that we’re very lucky to have,” Tomkins said. “Since last summer we’ve begun focusing on building fan bases outside of Ottawa.”
This is BlakDenim’s first time performing in Kingston, and they’re looking forward to the city’s vibrant atmosphere.
“Kingston has such a cool vibe and university crowds are so hype,” Tomkins said.
BlakDenim performs at The Mansion on Feb. 11.
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