Interview: Andrea Bennett of Sexual Chocolate and the White Boys

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With a name like Sexual Chocolate and the White Boys, you better bring the goods.

And this band does, stewing up a funky blend of R&B and rock since their solid 2003 debut Sexual Chocolate and the White Boys. They’ve steadily been throwing down tough—but, for one reason or another, seem to keep going through personnel changes. Original vocalist Marcus Upton had to be replaced before they even made the first album. He was followed by DeRaye Miller who, on the second disc (Pure Poison), gave way to current front lady Kashimana “Kash” Ahua. After that, founding member and guitarist Lyle “Alien” Anderson left to pursue the bliss of married life. Right around that time they added backup singer Andrea Bennett.

You keeping track? So, now the lineup is Ahua, Bennett, drummer Mark Baker, bass player and founder Steve Duder, and brand new guitarist Jeff Perry. Or at least it was when Andrea Bennett gave this interview. You can catch SCWB on at 9 PM on January 19 at Dunn Brothers on Grand in St. Paul.

Exactly when did you join the band? How have things gone?
I joined in February, I think, of this year and things have been interesting, challenging, exciting, new, and fun. I am ecstatic about where the band is headed and love that there is a family feel to it. We have lots of fun ‘cause that’s what it’s all about for me: enjoying the music and pulling others into our love for it. I love this chick and these guys and wonder what took me so dang long to go out and do something different than what I’ve already done! So, it’s time and I’m glad that things are going well.

How was it being the new kid on the block?
Since I know a little bit about small group dynamics, I was excited to be in the new edition and hoped that I wouldn’t let anybody down. I’m always looking for ways to improve, asking for feedback and searching for ways to expand my horizons either by listening to other performers, trying something new, taking risks, watching other performances—either past or present—as well as listening to my intuition and creative abilities.

Now there’s a still newer kid on the block. When did he join?
Jeff Perry, our guitarist. He joined us in late summer and we have been super thrilled about it. We love this guy.

When you were thinking about joining, did the band’s name throw you?
Not really. I am one for uniqueness and it was catchy. I also knew that the name was comedic, inspired by one of my favorite Eddie Murphy movies, Coming to America. Also, since Kash is now our “Sexual Chocolate” and the White Boys are, well, the white boys, I thought, hmmm, how will that work since I’m somewhere in between chocolate and white? And we couldn’t really add my flavor to the mix since the band name would be too long. I just have a couple nicknames on the side like Cocoa Butter or Cinnamon Spice, Caramel, etc.

Just what do you do in the band?
Vocals, mostly background.

Do you do any leads? Writing?
I do some lead vocals and we are in the process of figuring out some more cool leads. Yes, I do write songs and I am very excited to be adding to the band’s future original material.

What’s next for the band?
Plenty of surprises are in store. We’ve been working on new original material for our next CD, so we’ll see what we come up with. Also, we are looking into expanding into new areas, including new venues or having presence in places the band has played in the past. Among those this year were Stella’s Fish Cafe, O’Gara’s, and Bunkers. And of course we’re evolving and growing closer together as a team. I’m looking forward to all of it and hope that when the weather gets warm that more people will get out to join in the contagious fun. In fact, we need some new audience members to randomly get up and do the Moon Walk when we sing “Billie Jean”!

What’s your singing background?
In terms of genres I was classically trained through high school. I also sang in several choirs growing up—including gospel in the Lutheran Church, as well as other denominations. In college I sang with a small ladies’ a cappella group called Ladies Night Out. There are a lot of singers in my family so there is a huge part of my singing that is self-taught with R&B influences, soul, disco, funk, country, and gospel—from the 80s to now.

What made you decide to sing professionally?
I have always had an inner drive to sing, and have wanted to be a professional singer since I was young, but didn’t really crave the spotlight, so that was a little odd. In my teen years I could see that it was possible, but over the years often reminded myself that a lot of young women want to be professional singers, so I shied away from it. Since the desire never went away, I decided to give it another shot after a friend told me about the band. And here we are!

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the TC Daily Planet.

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