Catch up with Benyaro's Ben Musser and watch the video for their single, "Too Many Men", out now.
What got you interested in music and in starting Benyaro?
Ben: I grew up around a father who played music at home and in a band and he had lots of music on in the house: classic rock, oldies but goodies. And then I had an older sister who was very interested in music as well, singing and playing piano, and I was the youngest, so I absorbed all of that and just did it for fun all my life, I didn't really think too far ahead ever about how I'm going to do this to make a living. I started Benyaro probably about 10 years ago in New York City after I had lived in Nashville and Austin and I'm a drummer, that was my first instrument and I had always been playing drums with people and then I picked up guitar in my teens and so, once I got to New York City, I decided to basically step up and start my own thing and be a lead vocalist and play guitar and now it's evolved to where I play drums, play guitar, and sing simultaneously, so I'm doing some of the various things that I know how to do. I just kept making decisions that kept music on the forefront of my life and then I always imagined that I would get a day job, but I met my wife and she fell in love with me for what I was doing and wanted me to keep doing it, so here I am [laughs].
Which musicians have you been influenced by?
I'll give you some band names: Steely Dan, The Eagles, The Doobie Brothers, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin. And then, oldies but goodies, and there was a crossover between oldies but goodies and black soul music, like Ray Charles and Wilson Pickett. My dad was into that and I was very much into that, as well. A lot of the doo-wop groups who were predominantly African American, The Coasters.
How would you describe your sound?
I would say that it's indie. But it's progressed. Where it is now and where it is on the new album that we'll be releasing, hopefully, this Spring, is in the roots and soul rock and blues.
What were your inspirations behind your single and the video for "Too Many Men"?
The Summer of 2014 is when I wrote the lyrics and the music had come before, just as something that just kind of came out. The lyrics came - I recently looked this up and looked back at what was going on to try and recall the specific frustration I had with men [laughs] ruling the world - and Israel and Hamas were engaged in rocket fire back and forth at one another and every day you'd wake up and hear, 'oh, X amount of civilians killed,' and I felt very frustrated and I felt like it was a recurring thing for them and around the world: conflict and nothing ever gets resolved. So, I took that idea and was like, okay, men are in charge, have been in charge for over 200 hundred years, and look where it's gotten us; nothing's been resolved, nothing's been fixed, it's just constantly chest pounding and that type of stuff. I was like, 'gosh, there's too many men' - that's where the idea came from - and, as I do in a lot of my writing, I just took that idea and expanded upon it and wrote a whole song about it and chuckled to myself as I was writing it, I was like, 'oh, this would be perfect for a Hillary Clinton campaign'. This was before she or any of the presidential folks had declared that they were running. It was like current events and the song merged together here in the last year and if there's any time to release this, it is now. And, I wanted to do the tour so that could be basically the song that we release behind the idea of registering people to vote.
Can you tell our readers more about the Get Out The Vote tour?
Basically we had hoped to be releasing our new album about this time, but once it became clear that it was Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton [laughs] this July, I just had this moment where it just all fell down on me. I was like, 'oh my gosh, this is it,' particularly, for me, because of the Supreme Court vacancy. I thought there's a lot more important things going on than just going out and just promoting our album and our music; it seemed like a shallow or selfish thing to do and there were a lot bigger things happening and I wanted to capitalize on the fact that we would be traveling the country and playing music and I thought to myself, 'how can we help [laughs] guide this and try and encourage people to vote and to actually contribute something'? How can we contribute? I had gotten in touch with Rock the Vote and Headcount and they were both interested in having us be a partner and we were able to register some voters on the tour; now it's basically just Get Out The Vote rallying, because registration's closed. Just trying to make a difference instead of just sitting on social media and ranting like many people do, we're actually out here doing it.
Is that single indicative of what we can expect to hear on your upcoming album?
Subject matter-wise no, there's nothing that's going to be nearly as political. Sonically yes, it's all part of the same recording session with the same co-producer and the same musicians. So, yeah, some of the sounds and the vibe, musically, will be similar, but it's ["Too Many Men"] definitely the darkest, most negative, in my opinion [laughs], song of the batch. I think with the rest of the album, there's plenty more that will be lighthearted and the subject matter will be a little bit more about love and my relationship with my wife and son. And then there's a little bit of sarcastic stuff [laughs] but, yeah, nothing quite as heavy.
Is there a track off that record you're most excited to share with fans?
It changes every day. Maybe I'd have to say, we're looking forward to sharing it all, but there's a song called "Pimp Life" that I think people who are married and younger married folks will really appreciate and get a chuckle out of.
In one sentence, how would you sum up your upcoming album in one sentence?
Quirky, indie soul love songs and rants.
What do you hope listeners are able to take away from your music?
I just hope that it brings people joy in whatever way. Whether it's through thought or whether it's through body movement and dancing, I hope it makes them feel good and provokes something in them.
Is there anything you want to add?
My bass player, Leif Routman, he's been a big part in helping make all this happen and being able to get out and tour, which is important.