“There’s a high energy dance party vibe going on at our shows,” keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Marco Benevento told Salt Lake magazine in an interview last week.
“A lot of our songs feature ’80s drum machines as well as ’80s synthesizers and whatnot. Then there’s the element of sometimes we’ll get into some heavy jamming and we really do some stretching and some improvisation—there’s big piano solos and big drum solos and a distorted fuzz-based feature on some songs,” he says. “So, it’s piano and drums, but in no way is it traditional in a rock sense or jazz sense. There’s other elements.” And he repeats, “It’s a dance party.”
But, Benevento says, it wasn’t always that way. “We’ve been on the road for seven years, playing shows and growing in size,” he explains. “It was a natural evolution of sound for us. When we played smaller rooms people were sitting down, so we played moody instrumental music. But now we’re playing big rooms where people are dancing and standing up, so our music evolved as a result of touring and the sizes of the rooms.”
Benevento is no stranger to the music scene, now recording his seventh album with the band he will appear with at Salt Lake’s The State Room next week, his list of side projects is a vast list of mostly experimental music (Royal Potato Family, Benevento Russo Duo and Garage A Trois. Plus, tribute bands Bustle in Your Hedgerow and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead—and he has toured with bands like The Arcs.)
Benevento says he was drawn to the experimental genre because of the improv that takes place. “That’s always been a big part of my musical life,” he says. “Sitting in a room with musicians and saying ‘Okay, Go! There’s no wrong note, there’s no plan, just play whatever you want.’ Before you know it, you have an hour and half of new song ideas.” And, he says, that’s where most of his music comes from. “It’s a part of who I am and it’s a part of most musicians—you have this moment where you’re in front of a blank canvas you just have to throw notes at it. Then you have to start editing what you’ve made and then it turns into a song and then you play the song and then you write another song,” he says. “I need those sorts of of moments to be productive. It’s the fun part of the music process when you’re sitting behind your instrument and someone says ‘Go!’ ”
Often that experimentation extends to his live shows, “We’re constantly trying out new songs on the road and we definitely use the live platform for experimentation,” Benevento says. “Sometimes we’ll be playing a new song and an audience member will go like, ‘Hey!’ And we’re like, ‘Wow. The audience basically wrote a new part.’ ”
Marco Benevento plays The State Room Tuesday, April 4 and TSR favorite Jackie Greene opens (“We’ll probably jam some stuff together,” Benevento told me.) Tickets are available here.