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INTERVIEW: Bencoolen

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hey VENTS!  Doing great, glad to get to talk to you! – Paul

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “In Color”?

“In Color” is the lead single off of our latest album with the same name.  If you listened to our last EP, it was very grounded in Alternative Rock.  Between the release of that album and now, we have been exploring different genres in our songwriting while still keeping rock and the core.  In Color is an exploration into reggae and ska, and I think it succeeds at that exploration and fusion of genres.  At the time, we were listening to a lot of reggae rock, like SOJA and early OAR, and we tried to accomplish a similar kind of vibe as those bands in that song.  In the record as a whole, you really see the exploration and creative leaps that we’ve taken in the 2 years between releases. – Paul

Did any event in particular inspired you to write this song?

This song is about my fear of succumbing to the repetition expected of us as adults. It is really hard to come out of a suburban environment, engineering school, and a practically minded household with any creativity or dreams left. I don’t think that it is really any individual’s fault. I think it is the mindset we’re convinced to buy in to by the collection of our surroundings.

We owe more to ourselves than contributing to our retirements and getting promotions at work. Things like art, music, love, travel are not tangible, but they are an important part of being humans. We’re not robots.  Maybe you’re not chasing music, but maybe you should be saving up for the backpacking trip, maybe you should do that start up with your friend from college, maybe you should save up to buy a restaurant.

The story of that song is about a white collar man who has done everything “right,” but is miserable. He is drinking alone at a bar with an old bartender who has led a simpler, but happier life. The white collar guy sees the bartender’s pictures scattered around the bar. He sees that the bartender has traveled, he’s met interesting people, and he didn’t take the safe road every time. I doubt there’s many parents in New England that hopes their kid will be a bartender when they grow up. This song questions if that is really the right way to look at someone’s life. – Teddy

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We’ve been brainstorming ideas for a music video for a long time now.  It’s something that we would love to do, but only if we come up with a really great idea and put the time in to make it perfect.  A video should enhance the experience of the song by illustrating the themes and ideas in the music, so it isn’t something that we are going to rush out just to say that we have a video.  In Color might be the song we choose, but we are flexible.  If a great idea comes up that suits one of the other songs better, we would be very open to that. – Paul

Why naming the record after this track in particular?

We were planning on naming the record after one of the tracks, and “In Color” came out on top mostly because we thought it could inspire a great design.  We had our good friend Nick Malloy and his design company, Slice of Life, do the artwork for the album, and he came up with a great interpretation of the name.  – Paul

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing for this record started immediately after we released our EP in 2014.  We knew that we would be playing longer sets soon, and we knew that we would eventually want to record again, so we cranked out song after song in order to have a variety and quality.  We were focused more on writing a group of songs that stand well on their own, especially since that’s the way people consume music these days.

In terms of recording, we spent countless hours at BIAS Studios in Springfield, Virginia laying down each track for the songs.  By then, the songs were pretty much completely written, but our producer Lyell Roeder helped us make small changes here and there to perfect them.  We even made some significant changes to Spice, which took some time but ended up improving the song a lot. – Paul

What role does DC plays in your music?

DC is home right now. We love playing for familiar faces here and in northern Virginia particularly among college students and recent grads. There are plenty of small venues that are supportive and fairly pay emerging artists like the Bayou and Tropicalia. We are very fortunate to make money toward our next records and never have to face pay-to-play models even from our earliest days.

On the actual music side of music business, we have had a fortunate journey. Because of this town we’ve been able to find new band members within weeks of guys exiting our band, find guest performers, and find some cool opening acts. We also have access to some legendary venues like 9:30 Club and legendary studios like BIAS and soon Inner Ear. – Teddy

Known for diving into different genres – does one tends to come to surface depending on the lyrics’ theme?

I’m not sure that a genre really defines our lyrics. I think, more than anything, it’s our ability to write lyrics that relate to our personal experiences or beliefs. The Beatles started to kick down that door decades ago, but I would not consider them a significant influence of ours musically. – Teddy

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

As I alluded before, lyrics really come from our personal experiences and beliefs. I can’t speak for Paul, but I do tend to look at lyrics from other artists for relevant metaphors and phrasing ideas as well. Inspiration for the actual songs comes from sharing music with each other. We’ve been very good with inviting each other to see favorite acts live and sharing the DJ reins on tour. Getting everyone’s voice and influences into the song is critical for us. For the songwriting process, my looper pedal is the most important tool. Testing that riff with minor or major chords behind it, before introducing it to the band, really helps me to shape the song and ease the transition to the guys. – Teddy

Any plans to hit the road?

With a few of our members still in college and the others with full time jobs, it is difficult to hit the road for long stretches of time.  However, in the past few months we’ve partnered with a platform called BeatGig to get into the Greek life music scene around the region and follow in the footsteps of bands like Dave Matthews.  They’ve brought us to play everywhere from Bucknell, PA to Clemson, SC.  We plan to continue in that direction this fall, going on small weekend tours to college towns up and down the east coast while we grow our audience.  We’re also set to play some festivals this summer and fall, including Pink Moon in September and Shadefest in August.  – Paul

Going along with Paul’s point about the difficulty in hitting the road for long stretches – I’m not sure that it makes much sense for us to do it anyway until we can consistently make money on weekdays. Why play a Wednesday night for 3 people and spend more than we make to get there? It’s not good business. I’d rather schedule us play it on a Saturday for 150 and get a rehearsal in mid-week so we’re ready. I hope that there will be an obvious jumping off point, maybe as opening act, or maybe just after years of grinding when we get to make the decision to chase this as day jobs. – Teddy

What else is happening next in Bencoolen’s world?

We have a few big ticket shows early in the summer that we’re really excited for.  First, we’re playing at the 9:30 Club in DC June 16th with two great bands, Atlas Road Crew and Southern Belles.  We’ve been seeing all of our favorite bands at 9:30 Club for years, so we are really pumped to get to play at one of our favorite venues and have by far our biggest show yet.  A few weeks later, we’ll be playing with our good friends, Big Mama Shakes, and The Broadberry in Richmond.  Besides these big shows and festivals, we’re taking it easy for the summer compared to our spring, but we are really excited for these shows in particular. – Paul

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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