There is perhaps no better testament to the burgeoning regional success of six-piece hip hop/jazz/soul outfit the BoomBachs than the fact that the band has had a beer named after it (the Boom Bach, natch) in its hometown Denton, Tex. Though that’s hardly the only marker of the band’s ascent; the ‘bachs have also garnered a slew of regional awards and recognitions since their inception in 2011, and have graduated from playing ill-attended coffee house shows to drawing SRO crowds at big venues.
Keyboardist Matt Westmoreland tells that the band’s origin goes back to Denton’s University of North Texas in 2011, when horn and keyboard player Marcus Wheat, a music major, was assigned a class project to form an ensemble and play an original composition. “He was the only one in class who said, ‘I want to do a hip hop band,'” Westmoreland says with a laugh.
Wheat assembled seven other North Texas musicians, including singer/rapper Adonias “A.D.” Wondwessen, and the resulting unit ended up taking wing, lasting well beyond Wheat’s project presentation at the end of the semester.
Musical hybrids can be dicey, but the ‘bachs’ mixing of rap, rock, soul, jazz and R&B is both deft and seamless. Frontman Wondwessen is the key to their fluid blend; taking his cues from the Native Tongues collective of 1990s-era hip hop — De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, et al — Wondwessen can shift from the spoken word to a smooth soul croon in a way that makes the transition seem as natural as breathing. Wherever the ‘bachs’ music chooses to go, from jazzy interludes to sparse funk to biting rock, Wondwessen’s versatile vocals always make the journey make sense.
But Westmoreland says the band’s genre-blending success owes something to Wheat, as well, both in the canny choices he made in assembling the ‘bachs, and in the even-handed mix of laissez-faire and structure with which he governs their interaction.
“There were a lot of different influences coming to the table with the members of this band, yet it all came together in a very organic way,” Westmoreland says. “Marcus had a good idea of the kind of players he wanted, the instrumentation he wanted. When it comes to songwriting, Marcus will come up with a basic structure, but it’s never, ‘You have to do this and this at this time.’ He gives us lots of freedom to come up with our own ideas and melodies.
“When people ask us what kind of music we play, we don’t want to say, ‘Well, it’s this and this and this.’ So we tend to put it all under the label of Space Gospel. It’s one huge collection of styles that’s always evolving. Hip hop just happens to be where we draw our base from.”
The BoomBachs will play Preservation Pub Thursday, April 19 at 10 p.m.