In a town full of unique bands, genre-transcending ensemble Who’da Funk It manages to stand apart from the pack. Plenty of things make them a more diverse band than most, none of which define their image, musical style or lyrical content.
Who’da Funk It began when bassist Nina Kent, vocalist Deja Carr and guitarist Bess Hepner met almost four years ago at the Institute for Musical Arts, a non-profit program geared towards women and girls founded by June Millington of the 1970s all-female rock band Fanny.
The band featured an all-female lineup until last fall, but the departures of sax player Tess Domb-Sadof and drummer Emma Sevene heralded the addition of the band’s first male members, keyboardist Alex Kogut and drummer Gabe Camarano. Katie Ronan also joined in on saxophone.
“We had to find new members and keep it going,” said Carr.
“We wanted to make it into an orchestra,” Hepner added.
The current lineup features saxophonist Ryan Mihaly and Sierra Brimhall on trumpet, bringing its total to eight members. Domb-Sadof and trombonist Parker Ziegler join in when they can over the summer.
In addition to having a predominantly female lineup, Who’da Funk It is also unique in its age range – vocalist Carr is a junior in high school, while saxophonist Ronan is a senior at the University of Massachusetts.
The band describes its writing process as “even more communal” now than with its original five-piece lineup. Songs often “start with a skeleton,” Camarano said, or simple backbone of a song written by one member, while Ronan adds that others “(evolve) out of a jam.”
Each member helps with the development of certain riffs or the structure of a song, and “… everyone’s satisfied in the end,” Hepner said. The band’s sound is influenced by artists such as tUnE-yArDs and Parliament Funkadelic, as well as plenty of local bands like Bellas Bartok and Hot Dirt. They are also inspired by musical genres like Latin music, Afrobeat and jazz, which Ronan studies at UMass.
While the majority of the members are female, the band tries to focus on a different message in its music than just girl power.
“(We strive for) a message of love … for everyone that’s in the room with you,” Hepner said. “We didn’t lose the female empowerment message.”
“We’re just people playing music,” Kogut said.
Camarano said that while the band’s female majority sets them apart from other bands, “… the challenge is trying to get over the status quo barrier … that most bands are comprised mostly of males.”
Hepner said that “… at a lot of shows we play, someone will make a comment.”
She explains that most people don’t realize they are being offensive when they say things like “You were better than I thought you’d be” – the comment she said she hears most often.
The younger ages of its members has also presented a challenge to the band.
“We’ve been cheated out of getting paid more (for being younger)” Carr said. “Getting kicked out of places because (we’re) not 21 …” is another challenge she explained.
But the members of Who’da Funk It face their adversities the best way they know how: by rocking.
“We don’t confront the challenges physically,” Camarano said “We just confront it with the music.”
The band is known for its high-energy live performances. When writing songs or putting together a set list, the first question they ask themselves is: “What are (people) gonna want to dance to?” Ronan said.
“(The music is) a lot about having fun,” Carr said. “We try not to detract from the audience.”
Her favorite part about performing?
“Sweat,” she said.
The band’s second EP, “We Take It We Leave It We Love It,” is available at whodafunkit.bandcamp.com. They will be promoting it with a few local shows and a possible tour with other local act Huckleberry Binge.
Tickets for their headlining show March 29 at the Iron Horse are $8 online or $10 at the door. The show will begin at 10 p.m. with a set from opening act Wishbone Zoe.
Jake Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.