The East West Quintet may be Brooklyn-based, but three of the band’s five members are from San Diego and migrated east, hence the band name.
“My parents are both members of the San Diego Symphony,” says bassist Benjamin Campbell, who spent August 2009 at the La Jolla Playhouse playing with the onstage band in B.D. Wong’s Herringbone. Campbell graduated from San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts in 1999 and has music-making in his DNA: his father Glen plays cello and his mother Rebekah plays viola in the San Diego Symphony.
Keyboardist Mike Cassedy - whose pianist father is a professor at UCSD - grew up in Del Mar and graduated from the Bishop’s School in La Jolla in 1998. He acknowledges his dad as “my first piano teacher, and I still take classical lessons from him when we’re both in the same city.”
Guitarist Simon Kafka grew up in San Diego and is a 2001 graduate of the San Diego School of Creative and Performing Arts and a former Mission Hills resident.
“Our music falls between genres, somewhere between jazz and indie rock,” says Benjamin Campbell. “We started as twentysomething jazz musicians who were burnt out on jazz and felt more like rocking. So we quit being dogmatic and started incorporating all the other musical influences we’ve had, all the way back to San Diego.”
Simon Kafka describes the band’s music as “instrumental rock music with improvisation.” Mike Cassedy says, “Think Art Blakey meets Radiohead.”
“Being in Brooklyn has influenced our music a great deal,” according to Cassedy. “We all moved to New York to be a part of an East Coast creative music scene but still have strong roots in California.”
They recorded their 2009 album Vast in San Clemente and released it on the SoCal label Native Language. “Ben and I were both in ska bands in high school for the very brief period of time that ska was popular in the ’90s,” says Cassedy. “We knew each other but did not become friends until USC [where the three of them went to college]. Ben and Simon were friends in high school and played in the school jazz band together…[so] we all knew each other before moving to New York.”