Suited in matching marching band uniforms — complete with sequins, feathers and fingerless gloves— electronic rock duo BK & Mr. E’s sound and energy is as loud, funky and classic as their attire.
It is no-brainer that from the look and sound of Jason Blanchette and Brandon Hegar, BK & Mr. E respecitively, the pair are influenced from their days of marching band. It is also only appropriate that the best friends met in high school band.
Even with premade synthetic beats playing from their laptops, the pair’s training in classical and jazz repetoires from high school and college (Blanchette at UT and Hegar at Baylor) is front and center. Driven by percussion, harmony and hooks, BK & Mr. E is the perfect fusion of the old and new.
BK & Mr. E will be playing at Frank’s tonight and on Thursday, Sept. 15; the duo is taking the stage at the Parish for the venue’s Free ACL Kickoff Party.
The Daily Texan interviewed Jason Blanchette and Brandon Hegar during Basement Tapes about their marching band days, name and costume.
The Daily Texan: Let’s start with the beginning. You guys met in band in high school?
Jason Blanchette: Yep. The short of it is we were both in band together.
Brandon Hegar: Both played trombone and then graduated, kind of went our separate ways, went to college and stuff, then came back and worked at a recording studio together. Then a music store together and then just started doing music from there.
DT: So back when you were in both high school, did you guys compete with each other? Like battling out for first chair?
JB: Well, he’s a couple of years older than I am. Even though I have all the grey hair, he’s a couple years older. We did when [he was] still there, I’ll say.
BH: I think it was more of a big brother thing.
JB: Mainly it was a friendly competition, but he always had his place and the whole seniority thing. I wasn’t going to subplant him by any means.
DT: Do you guys share any crazy band stories? I know you have at least one to share. Those bus rides...
JB: The bus rides, yeah, definitely.
BH: Hand checks.
JB: Yeah, [the directors] did hand checks. It is exactly what it sounds like.
BH: Where they turn the lights on the bus...
JB: Turn on the lights and they need to see everyone’s hands. Cause those bus rides are dark and take a couple of hours sometimes and you know [laughs].
BH: Everybody thinks the football players and stuff are the people that...
DT: Nope, it’s the band kids.
JB: Band. Choir people too. Glee. That’s where your really crazy people are.
DT: Jason, for you, how was UT marching band?
JB: It was good. It was a lot of fun. When you talk about crazy, that was crazy. [It was] a lot of fun getting to go travel to all the different places...like Nebraska or go to St. Louis or go to the NCAA basketball tournament. You get to know a lot of the athletes and a lot of the band guys are really intense when they’re playing music on the fields, but are hanging out and having a good time when they aren’t. I got to tell you this, those freaking uniforms that have been around for like 40 years are the hottest thang. You think what we are wearing now are hot, those are like eight-ply polyester, flame retardent suits. And I know they look awesome with the fringe swaying back and forth, but I’ll be happy if I never had to wear anything like that again.
DT: So how did the both of you go from being classically trained to playing modern music?
BH: So like I said before, we worked in a music store together. The people that ran the company said we’re going to start carrying this kind of equipment where you can record it and keyboards and all sort of stuff. So Jason and I had the responsibility of learning all the equipments. We didn’t really know anything, so the best thing to do was just to write songs. We had all these influences from outside of classical music, so one day I said ‘Hey, let’s write a song that sounds like the Cars.’ And Jason is a big Prince fan, so I would say ‘Let’s write a song like Prince or the Police’ or whoever we liked. And that’s really how we started writing a lot of tunes that weren’t classical. I don’t think either of us really wanted to do classical music as a career. I certainly didn’t.
DT: Do you get a lot of questions about your outfits?
BH: I think what’s really cool, and Jason made a comment about this a couple of days ago, is that wearing the band uniforms has made us a lot more approachable to a lot of people.
JB: After our show, people come up to us and is like ‘Hey, I was in band too and I play this and you guys were awesome.’
BH: It’s like an affirmation for them, for a lot of people who were in band. They see two guys wearing band uniforms and they’re like ‘Oh, these guys really get it, because they must get it, because they were in band.’ In Texas, band is huge, it’s just like football.
JB: I think that’s kind of why we decided to do it. It’s the juxtaposition. Classical music, performance majors and choir are so serious, but no, not really. We like to joke around and have fun just like everybody else.
DT: How did you guys come up with the name?
BH: So Jason, when we worked in the recording studio, not the music store, we would have some very long hours and I guess I would complain a lot [laughs], so Jason would call me BK, which stands for bitch kitty. [laughs] And it’s a silly name that just stucked. And then when we started recording at the music store, I think one of our first songs was like a hip-hop tune and it was bad.
JB: And I don’t rap and I rapped in this song.
BH: We both rapped. It was like a bad Ice T. So we kind of came up with BK and Mr. E, because it had a certain cadence to it and it just fit with one of the songs, cause the song was called ‘BK & Mr. E Hardcore For The Twentyfirst Century.’ [laughs]