It is not unknown that there are ones who arrive into dance music industry, driven by reasons of exterior, duty or any other, but one to create due to an artistic urge. That urge, that takes over a creative person, which Mario Vargas Llosa, a writer and a Nobel Prize Laureate in Literature, describes as “demons” that are “exorcized” by telling the stories. The experiences which influence the fictional reconstruction of reality. Possibly that is what separates the duo of Benoit & Sergio out of the many.
Their story, as described in Pitchfork, started few years ago, when Benjamin “Sergio” Myers decided to make some changes in his life. After his father was diagnosed with cancer, the Washington, D.C., prep school teacher quit his job, changed continents and started making music, all right at the time of recession. “If I went to a financial advisor with that plan,” as he said with slight disbelief, “he probably would’ve been like, ‘This isn’t the best strategy for your life.”
Since their early days releasing music on DFA Records, Benoit & Sergio had a tremendous ability to merge lyrical content with music synthesis, mixing happy with sad at the same time, which has set them apart from the rest. This time it shone through and resulted in a track constructed for autumnal melancholy.
‘Dancing Shoes’ (Clarion Dub) is the latest addition to our premiere series. The track is part of their latest EP ‘Old Streets’, which they described as being “informed by a sense of loss detected in very small moments. [..] The first impulse for ‘Old Streets’ came from a moment walking home one night with friends from a bar in Berlin as summer was ending and the weather was becoming more autumnal and sad.”.
This premiere, probably couldn’t get better that it is, starting with sharing probably one of the best gems of this autumn, followed by the real story of how the two met could and a great conversation. Which, just like the track, insinuates like a seed of ink in the mind and quietly leaks, continuing the stories on its own, drawing from the moments from the past summers, lived and imagined. Thus listen & enjoy.
“…we don’t know why some stories have us meeting in Berlin. Maybe it’s more romantic to imagine Berlin than DC.”
I read your heart-breaking post about, due to Sergio’s illness having to cancel on so many gigs this month, including Closure on ADE. How is he feeling right now? With such packed schedules, how do you find the time to create?
I’m ok — much better than when I was in a wheelchair at LAX — but definitely not feeling like I could go for a run up hills in the park. I’m more, like, walking very slowly without a cane for half a block to get milk.
Working together, touring, creating you probably know each other so well. Let’s play a little game, could you each introduce one another?
This is Benoit, from Paris, former engineering wizard and track star turned dance music producer—but more than that a man of great humor and heart.
This is Sergio — shameless clown.
I’ve read somewhere that you two met at an after party in Berlin. What was the after party? And what really got you thinking, “I want to work with this guy”?
Like many elements of a band’s history and lore, this bit is apocryphal. We met in Washington, DC, at a weird little dance club/bar in Adams Morgan which is a very drunkardly area on weekends. Benoit walked by it the other day. It’s a samba bar? No clue why we were there — we were drunk and young and in DC. And we don’t know why some stories have us meeting in Berlin. Maybe it’s more romantic to imagine Berlin than DC. At any rate, to answer your second question, we didn’t think much about wanting to work together for like a year after meeting. We were busy in our normal lives.
“Old Streets” is indeed like an Arthur Russel’s experiment. Why the dreamy 70s, 80s with Talking Heads, Roxy Music had such an influence on you?
Not really a massive fan of Roxy Music — have always liked Brian Eno much more (so the very first Roxy Music and then Eno’s solo stuff is more amenable). And then a lot of the albums Eno produced, including the Talking Heads, are wonderful. I even love “Joshua Tree” which he produced for U2 — Benoit disagrees deeply on this point. But I would say what’s attractive about the Talking Heads is their energy — that elusive magical supplement — that some bands and songs have. So trying to capture that energy, not so much dreaminess, is attractive. But I wouldn’t say the Talking Heads are an influence because that would imply some proximity to them, whereas they are more like on Mt Rushmore, iconic and very far away and hewn in the stone of pop history.
Who is writing the lyrics for the tracks? And how do they come in creation?
I write the lyrics usually after Benoit and I work on music. Or maybe I’ve written something down on a winter morning, and we are working on a loop that beckons that morning back and those lines. The rare, good lines usually start from something that seems poignant in every day life, from something that seems to glow from a fragile absolute. Those are rare lines and times.
Most other times, lines just come from being a clown: “My House is Bigger than your house.” A primate could write that. But still it’s fun to say.
The EP was inspired by a “sense of loss detected in very small moments”. Who of the two owns this story? What exactly was that moment mourning for?
Some details are better shrouded in privacy and/or mystery. But, in general, the origin of “Old Streets” came about 5 years ago in Berlin on one of the first cold nights at the end of a long summer, walking home with some friends, thinking about someone who wasn’t going to be around much longer.
The artwork of the release is beautiful. Could you tell us, how did it come to be and what do you like about it?
I was with a friend in Berlin at this very nice, small shop that had very nicely curated objects and art. She bought this print of a favourite street in Berlin — August Strasse in Mitte. The honesty and playfulness of its lines and angles just felt like the right vibe for the EP. We took a pic of the print and sent it to Soul Clap for the EP’s art.
The two last releases, “House With 500 Rooms” and “Old Streets” are of two completely different moods. What is the reason of this duality? Being Benoit versus Sergio, working with different labels or just musical stories describing different situations?
The latter — “musical stories describing different situations” — seems closest to this duality in our productions. Also thinking about music for different contexts. At the end of the day, we play dance clubs—not rock clubs — at 2am or 3am on weekends and we play a live set — we don’t DJ so we think about dance floors a lot and we need to make music that nominally fits there. “House With 500 Rooms” is thinking more about a dance floor. But even when we are thinking about dance floors, we aren’t thinking of pounding and abusing it with punishing kicks and frantic, jacking, manic percussion. Anyhow. That’s how something like “House With 500 Rooms” comes about around the same time as “Old Streets” which is obviously more pensive.
You mentioned once you are thinking of creating movies. Have you ever thought of what would the movie would be about?
Did we mention that before? Haha. It’s funny because I was watching “The Passion of Joan of Arc” from 1928 the other night. It was the greatest silent film of all time, according to fancy critics who supposedly know. The woman who plays Joan of Arc is so mesmerizing. I was thinking that someone should make a modernised silent movie of just a remarkable face driving to see someone — a friend or old love — with flashbacks to scenes of their relationship. But no words. Just sounds from the street, the car, and a soundtrack, and emotion.
In one interview, you named Clarian as your favourite artist right now. What is there about his approach you like so much?
He is super musical. His voice is tragic and his vocal melodies are especially poignant. And he has a really dreamy sound that is still melancholic without being dark and dreary. We’ve really been trumpeting this anti-dark thing of late—trying in our own stuff, at least, to find melancholy without being gloomy and oppressive. Clarian’s stuff operates in this kind of twilight space that we admire. We were really happy to have him remix. And his remix is fantastic.
After two straight hours of listening Benoit & Sergio tracks, I have a question to you how often do you fall in love?
First of all, thanks for such a great set of questions. And thanks for listening. And thanks for this last question. It’s really interesting. I think it’s possible to fall in love with things quite easily — a song, a passage from a novel, a scene from a movie, a new city — and to develop a relationship with these things. Each city I’ve lived in is as much an ex-girlfriend as an ex-girlfriend. A city fascinates you at first—say, on a vacation. And then maybe you move there, which is like moving in together. Then you get comfortable and then overly familiar and then you move somewhere new. A relationship to a song follows the same pattern. So a lot of the songs we write, honestly, are songs about other songs or places or things that masquerade as songs about people. “Dancing Shoes” might be thought about as a good example of this. So yeah, maybe falling in love often, but in a weird way.
“Old Streets” is available 13 Novemeber on Soul Clap Records