Blended 328 might remind you of an iconic ad campaign by an international brand of clothing — different ethnicities, different races, smiling at you in union. Recently visiting and performing for packed audiences in Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad, a closer look at this country music band from Nashville reveals that these are musicians on a mission, with a huge message as resonant as their music.
Gabe Jordan, band creator and guitarist, born and raised in Baltimore explained the band’s ideology. “Our mission is to make the world an even smaller place than it has become. With technology we are much more connected than we were some years ago. The more we know and understand each other, the more we appreciate that there are more commonalities than differences. If you interviewed the common person on the street here or in America, you would realise that people become happy and sad with the same kind of things.”
Their sound was described by the The Nashville Scene in their 2011 Best of Nashville Issue as “Country music for the world”. “And it is just that,” says Gabe. “As a genre, country music is the expression of the average person. It is about the tragedies and triumphs of the human soul. It’s the simplest things in life regarding love, friends, family, children, having opportunities for them, feelings about your country that make people happy or sad whether it’s Pakistan, America or anywhere in the world.”
Blended 328 has created a fusion of country music that is truly distinctive and enticing. Go People captures the magical ’70s vibe while Ladies get your flirt on and Good ol’ country people have enthralled huge audiences in embassies, concert halls, colleges, outdoor festivals, tailgate parties and backyard barbecues in over 50 countries.
“There are upbeat songs about friendship, romance and happiness that people listen to in celebrations. But through our songs, and we do a lot of our own lyrics, we are trying to say that people should get to know each other, be more open to each other, respect each other’s values so that there is more peace and more understanding and only that way this world can become a better place.”
So what sets them apart from other country music bands in America. “All eight of us wanted to be solo artists and moved from different parts of America to Nashville which is like one of the music headquarters,” says Gabe. “But we realised that we all loved the camaraderie of being a band together even though none of us planned to make the band look this way. People trickled in and kept adding and a chemistry was built. What we have now is an integration of white and black people, a Latina and a Korean girl. So there is an amalgamation going on here of a lot of different cultural and ethnic diversities, as well as different musical tastes. I like a lot of heavy metal, Thomas likes jazz, Kimberley likes show tunes and Broadway stuff,” he chuckled, adding, “so together we makes different kinds of music.”
Perhaps, the band’s mission stems from the challenges they confronted in America. “Country music in America has traditionally been dominated by white Americans. First it was male singers, then women. Being a multi-ethnic band is in itself a challenge in the industry. It was an eye-opener for people that this is country music too and it works. A lot of the time, it remains unspoken but there may have been some prejudice from the music industry, not from fans though.”
Blended 328 arrived on the Nashville music scene in December of 2011, quickly becoming a local favourite, performing sold-out shows at venues like The Hard Rock Cafe, MTSU, The Bluebird Cafe and 12th & Porter. A month later, it was chosen “What’s Hot for 2012” by Campus Activities magazine and began touring the college circuit.
The band members are as lively as their music and their multicultural experiences add richness to the band. Kimberley, an Asian believes that she joined the band by ‘a twist of fate’ and her exposure from choir to karaoke is in contrast with the drummer Thomas’s love for jazz. Fran, one of the creators of the band, faced a lot of racism in her life as a child and wants to build bridges around the different people in the world. Seth, the percussionist, mastered the piano, bass and singing as a child, and enjoys playing the tabla. Dallas, petite and pretty has vocals to match Olivia Newton John’s, and happily tells you how she played Sandy in her high school production of Grease. Gabe enjoys Pakistani singer Noman Lashari’s music very much.
“Last year was a good year and we produced around 25 songs,” he says. “Right now we are in a creative mode, so more songs are on their way. After this trip, who knows there will be a song about Pakistan because I’m sure I’ll be inspired to do lots of songwriting.”