Photo by Nathalie Benshmuel
Dynamic songwriter & multi-instrumentalist bennytheghost recently released his new EP 29 Palms; a 6 song collection of indie-pop that is a return to self for benny and his music. Originally from Arlington, VA and now located in Los Angeles, bennytheghost was raised on indie rock and aims to make “contemporary, guitar-driven indie pop with anthemic choruses designed for singing along and raging face at live shows.”
Hi Benny – first off – congratulations on your EP 29 Palms! The EP is described as a return to self for you and your music, as your first EP Supersonic was more of an experimentation with genres, and 29 Palms focuses more on the genres of indie rock and indie pop.
Can you tell us what brought about this change in genre, and basically how you found your voice as an artist?
Hello! The Supersonic EP, for me, was the result of a time when I had just moved to LA and was just beginning to make friends and meet producers and collaborators. It was deeply exciting meeting so many talented producers who could really transform any sort of song idea into a sick, fully fleshed-out track. It really made me want to explore my creativity as a songwriter and question the boundaries of where I was comfortable writing and of what could sound good. I ended up making six songs that, in my opinion, couldn’t sound more different from each other. I feel like my songs “Papercut” and “Red” are about as opposite as two pop songs could get, and what was really beautiful to see was that both of those songs found their audiences. People with all different tastes in music liked all of my songs for different reasons and I think that is what gave me to confidence to simply go and make whatever I truly wanted to in 29 Palms, without the need to feel pressured to make something that I think others will like. In a return-to-form type way, I just went back to making the kind of music that I always liked; that I had grown up listening to. Riff heavy guitar music inspired by artists like the Killers, The Strokes, and Two Door Cinema Club.
Lets delve into your EP a bit more track by track.
Which song was your favorite to write and why?
My favorite song to write off of the EP was probably the title track, “29 Palms”. I try to end every EP that I make with a song that I made purely for myself and for the fun of making it. No thought towards radio value or any of that. There was a period of a few weeks where the only music I listened to was every version of “La Vie En Rose” ever made and I remember thinking that it was the most sentimental and nostalgic sounding song I’d ever heard. I was truly obsessed with its beautiful melodies, simple yet jazzy chord progressions, and the sonic soundscape of ‘old’ songs. I then became fully gripped by the idea that I had to make a song that sounded just like La Vie En Rose; like an old French jazz song. I called up my friend Mykey, who I knew could absolutely nail production like that and then the writing of the song itself was fairly simple.
What is the song you’re most proud of?
I think I’m most proud of the song “Tightrope.” My friend Cooper and I started and finished the entire song probably within 2-4 hours. The whole process was just so immediately smooth and organic. Cooper would just lay down the production so quickly and we’d collaborate on melodies while I also did the lyrics and pretty much every part of the song was a first idea of ours, with no need for revision. I remember writing out the lyrics “and bring you all the starburst and gatorade” and thinking that it was so dumb and that I would replace it later, along with all the rest of the lyrics, but then Cooper convinced me otherwise and they really grew on me. That is kind of how it went with the whole song. We would throw something down so fast that it seemed like we would have to come back and polish and edit to make it good, but out of all the other versions and attempts at this song that we made, we ended up keeping our very first version of everything and the version of the song that is out now is the very same one we made in those first few hours. Seeing it connect with so many people so quickly has been such a dream as well as so validating. It’s great to know that good music can just flow.
My favorite tracks on the EP have to be “Tightrope” and “Cecelia.” When writing, was there a general story you wanted the EP to tell, or general feel you wanted listeners to take away?
For me, the EP has more of a sentiment than a tangible story that it tells. In a hilariously sad way, most of the themes are born out of the loneliness I had been feeling when it comes to love. The EP is filled with a lot of desperation for a person that you just can’t pin down. Some of the themes in the individual songs are hypothetical whereas some are based off of true stories and events but I don’t think I can tell you which are which because I might get in a lot of trouble if some people find out I’ve been writing songs about them. The loneliness is paired with such an upbeat, taking-it-on-the-chin attitude that I think is just the way that I am. Thats why the songs are so hooky, bright, and dancey while the lyrics are so sad. Everyone loves a good cathartic jam for simultaneous dancing and crying.
Do you ever have writers block? Or are you just a constant flow of ideas.
It’s funny, when it comes to the musical aspect of writing songs, the chords, rhythms, and notes parts of it all, it comes so easily and so immediately to me. The music is so innate and so purely emotional. The truly hard part comes when trying to put words to it all because then you are taking this whole space, a whole sonic world that you’ve just created, and now have to condense down its infinite possibility for emotion into a single story. I usually take a demo that I’ve made in a session home and sit on it for a while and let the lyrics and story slowly percolate through my head before going back in to the studio to record the singing.
Now that you’ve found your sound, what is next for bennytheghost?
I wouldn’t say that I’d found a sound per se. 29 Palms was a brand of indie that I’d always wanted to make but that is done for me now. There are new inspirations and whole new chapters of life that have happened since writing those songs. All those new emotions and new stories will have their own sound now. A third EP is actually in the works, and true to form, it sounds much different than 29 Palms. It is my favorite music that I have made by far though and I can’t wait to show you guys. It still has the same riff and hook driven ethos, something I’ll probably never get rid of, but much broodier and even more alt than ever.