Exclusive Interview with Benoit & Sergio
Benoit & Sergio hardly need any introduction. The French/US duo has numerous musical delights on their repertoire, released on prominent labels and is remarkable in their sound as their music is infused with intelligence that is often conspicuously absent from electronic music. Prior to their performance at the BPM festival in Playa Del Carmen in Mexico, we caught them for a few questions on strange rituals, embarrassing stories, marketing tactics and the BPM Festival.
We heard that you guys met at a birthday party of a common friend several years ago. In what way were you involved in electronic music during that time? Only listeners? Occasional DJs or producers?
We’ve never DJ’d, except perhaps on iPhones or Youtube at an afterparty, but both of us were involved with producing dance music in our own quiet ways. Benoit would make crazy, haunting synth excursions up in Boston – bedroom producer style. We were hanging out in Berlin at my apartment last summer for a mini after party and he busted out this synth line he’d recorded years ago. It sounded like something off the “Drive” soundtrack but he had done it years before. I had released a few things on Wolf+Lamb as Sergio Giorgini–very sporadic, rudimentary things.
How long did it consequently take before ‘What I’ve Lost’ saw the light of day (or.. strobes at night)?
“What I’ve Lost” was one of the first tracks we ever made and, in some ways, it’s still the best. We started working on music in March of 2009 and we finished that one in mid-June–so it took three months to spawn it. But it actually only took maybe a couple weeks to make. We had the bassline and then the lyrics just sort of came out of nowhere and we got a great take on them. I remember we went out that night in DC to a bar and we were really happy because we felt like we’d made something good.
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How do you typically work? Do you go into the studio with a full pre-set idea for a track or do you play around until you find the right vibe and develop an idea around it on the spot?
It varies. Sometimes we just jam and an idea emerges or a hook. Sometimes it will start with a hook that was recorded separately, say, late at night on the couch when you can’t sleep. Then that late night hook is brought to the studio and around that little idea something grows, or maybe nothing grows. Or maybe you think you had a day of total studio garbage, but then you go back to the session three weeks later and you hear all this great stuff that you didn’t like before. Too often being tired or in a lousy mood warps your perception of what you’re doing in a studio. We had this track, “Not In Your Nature”, which came out on Visionquest, just sitting around for a year in some obscure folder. Then we opened it one day, randomly, with fresh ears and we were, like: “this has some magic to it.”
You have been asked to perform at one of the closing parties of the BPM Festival in Mexico next to Guy Gerber, Dennis Ferrer and Lauren Lane. An impressive line up and it looks like a great way to start the New Year!
What new material have you got in store for us during your set? Any new tracks or new equipment for the live show perhaps?
We have a lot of new stuff that we want to try out and some stuff that is relatively new that we want to keep trying out. It’s a bit scary, though, playing stuff that no one knows and ignoring the material that people do know and want to hear. It’s something we struggle with: new material or old or a mix-up of the two? There’s a great conversation amongst the comedians Chris Rock, Louis CK, Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais about this same thing: Seinfeld likes to keep playing his hits/jokes and slowly adding new ones every now and then. Louis CK, in contrast, throws everything away at the end of each year and starts fresh. There’s something quite courageous about that.
It’s the second time you guys are part of this massive line up at BPM. What do you recall from last year?
We played the Paradise party with the Hot Natured crew and “Reverse Skydiving” had all this magic around it at the time–but we’d never heard it until soundcheck. Anabel Englund, the girl who sings on the track, was there singing it and we went “Whoa!”. And then that whole party/night /morning was super electric. And then we just relaxed with friends on the beach. It was beautiful and memorable. Over time those afternoons become a nice texture in the vast brocade of memory that starts to build up after a while with a busy touring schedule.
Which other parties do you want to check during the festival?
Well, the problem is that we’re literally getting into Playa two hours before our set, which is for the closing party, so we’re missing the whole festival, sadly. We have shows in Mexico City and Juarez right before BPM. And after our set the festival is nearly over, so there isn’t much left to see.
Can you give us a head start of your upcoming (and running) projects that we can expect from you the coming year?
We want to put out some free stuff–a version of “Revolution 909,” for example. We have an anthem-like Chicago house track that riffs on the house music fetish (we think we are going to put it out). And we are finishing an album that is somewhere between club dancing and slow dancing. More info is coming out soon, so keep an eye out!
We see Beyoncé releasing an album without any announcement, Daft Punk doing the complete opposite by creating a global hype around the release. Do you guys have specific marketing tactics when releasing a record?
Beyoncé can release a record unannounced because she is Beyoncé. Daft Punk could’ve done the same thing. “Get Lucky” was a massive track and it would’ve been huge regardless. Once you’re at that level, and you’re putting out big jams, it seems any tactic works. When you’re small, like we are, you’re just trying to make something that you respect and that others might respect. There aren’t really any tactics at our level. Maybe there should be. Maybe that’s why Daft Punk is Daft Punk. And Beyoncé is Beyoncé…
How do you guys prepare for a gig? What kind of rituals do you share before going on stage? A secret handshake maybe?
We look at each other and one of us says “This is It,” invoking the creepy spirit of Michael Jackson.
Is there any artist you would like to tip us to keep an eye on for the coming year?
Bob Moses.. But also Clarian, he really makes beautiful music.
What struck you the most in the dance industry last year?
Maybe it never went away, but the return of dark, brooding, boring music. The sunny summer vibe was over, even in the summer dark thunderclouds gathered. Too bad.
Do you have embarrassing stories about each other?
Benoit loves telling one about me: We were on our way to Croatia and we had a lay-over in Milan. There was a big storm and I was sick. Really sick. Feverish. Ear infection, the whole lot. And I was in a horrible mood, not wanting to socialize with our crew. So I absconded to some corner of the airport only to return to inform everyone that “You can really hear the rain over there” before wandering back to my weird hermit perch. Everyone just sort of looked at each other as I walked away, not knowing why I had needed to pronounce that, like some oracle.
We’ll take it for now. But in a next interview you have to come up with something more embarrassing than this guys!