While most artists are happy to create simple pop tunes that are catchy but have little to no emotional impact, NYC electro artist Benta does the exact opposite.
His music is gritty, mournfully melodic and in his own words, his songs are "about the things we keep inside." Truly set to make his mark on the music world with his new track "Lover In Dark", he kindly agreed to this interview to talk inspiration, Madison Square Garden and social media.
PW: How would you sum yourself up in five words?
Benta: Eternally optimistic lover in dark.
PW: Which bands and artists did you grow up listening to and how did they influence you? Have such influences changed over the years?
B: In the house as a little kid, I grew up on Billy Joel, Queen and Rod Stewart because it's what my mom had on the stereo throughout the house. We always had music playing throughout the house and some of my most permanent influences come from the melodies of those legends and others like them. When music became the most important aspect of my life in my teenage years, it was pop punk and rock that became the center of my world: Blink 182, New Found Glory and then as I got older, I got into Glassjaw, Finch and others. Growing up within that scene got me playing in bands and obsessed with writing and performing. When I was around 18, my musical tastes began to mature and diversify a bit and I got into Coldplay, John Mayer and The Killers. Now it's just a jangled mix of everything. It's this mashup of influences that really fuels the music that you'll hear going forward from Benta.
PW: When did you first realise you wanted to be a performer? Was there an album you listened to or concert you attended that made you think 'yeah, I want to do that'?
B: There are two moments I remember vividly. I wanted to be in a rock band when I first heard and saw the video for Blink 182’s, "What's My Age Again?” I wanted to go crazy, write catchy melodies and bring energy to the people. The second huge moment was the first time I saw Coldplay live at Madison Square Garden. They were touring ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’. It was an hour and a half of euphoria - an arena, a sea of people, all brought together by four ordinary guys who wrote tunes out of a flat in London and who were having this moment together. What's more epic and beautiful than that?
PW: Tell me a little about your new single "Lover In Dark." Is there a story behind it?
B: “Lover In Dark” came together really quickly. It started with that synth stab motif that intros the track and goes throughout. It had a certain punch to it. I think I wrote the entire melody and lyrical content over that synth line without ever changing chords. I then built and produced the track around it. Musically, it came together with this blend of darkness and sense of longing, but had a kind of nice, vibey feel in the chorus, so lyrically, I tried to capture this sense of urgency and distress in the verses and bridge and make it sound a bit fun in the chorus. But the lyrical content is really very dark, sexual and manic. Fun stuff.
PW: How easy/hard do you find the song-writing process and who/what most inspires you?
B: I try to write very, very quickly. Typically a melody idea or lyrical concept will come to me at random - while I'm walking down the street or in the shower. Other times, it'll start with a hard sounding beat that I start to vibe off of and a track just pours out. I generally feel that if I start on something and the concept for the track doesn't come pouring out within an hour, it's probably too complex and not pleasing enough. The inspiration is simply wanting to outdo myself with each track and each production. I want it to sound more compelling than the last and want to feel like I'm consistently stepping up my game, writing better sounding tracks and doing stronger productions.
PW: Which song, in your opinion, is the greatest ever written and why?
B: It might be unexpected, but there's a John Mayer track called "Slow Dancing In A Burning Room" that is so beautifully simple and immediate that it sits atop as my favorite individual written song I've heard. I love simplicity in writing that sounds complex and dense, and he accomplishes it on this one. There are so many amazing songs from incredible artists, but this one stands out to me as sheer brilliance in melody and simplicity.
PW: Is there an album or EP in the works?
B: There is so much Benta music in the rafters, it's incredible. The team's currently working on our end to determine which tracks are released first and when. We're actually debating whether our initial release is an EP or a full length record. It appears we may go the latter route because I'm just too excited about getting these out there and playing them live!
PW: If you could play one venue anywhere in the world, which would it be and why?
B: It'd be a venue that was probably never played before by an artist - like maybe an historic art museum or piece of land around the world that we could really bring our own set design and artistic aesthetic to "transform" the experience. We're being so deliberate about the visual aspect of Benta in addition to the music, really focused on creating this beautiful black and white world and experience. If I had to pick something a bit more conventional, it'd have to be the Garden. Here in NYC, there's just nothing that better signifies having accomplished the dream than headlining the Garden.
PW: If you could share a stage with three other bands or artists, who can be living or dead, who would they be and why?
B: Wow. I'd have to play with The Beatles, just to see that camaraderie on stage first-hand and to be able to write music that transcended genre like they did together, it'd be such an experience to be in the midst of it live. I'd love to play with Coldplay, because that'd probably mean we were playing to like 25,000 people at a minimum, and they are a significant reason that music is at the center of my life today. I also would've loved to have shared the stage with Prince. He was such an amazingly talented player and musician - a true superstar with an elusive persona. In today's age of social media, we've lost a bit of the ability Prince and others had to maintain this stage presence and star power that was so compelling.
PW: What does the rest of the year have in store for you?
B: Writing and producing as much music as possible, releasing music to the public and hopefully starting to play live more and more. Playing live is the most important part of this - there's nothing like it.
PW: Finally then, what's your ultimate ambition as an artist? What advice would you give to anyone looking to follow you into the profession?
B: The ultimate ambition is to inspire and create for others those moments of euphoria through music, art and performance that I live for as a fan myself. The biggest piece of advice I can impart on others is to write and create from the deepest, most delicate and real places within yourself. Let the guard down and you'll be amazed at what comes out if you're truly willing to go there.