Interview Exclusive | Benoit & Sergio
by Joshua P. Ferguson
Rising to popularity for their colorful songwriting and lyrical storytelling of clubland love affairs and propulsive live sets, D.C. duo Benoit & Sergio quickly cemented its place in the contemporary underground dance lexicon as a pair producers who knows its way around making music as fit for the dance floor as it is on a legitimate, well-written artist album. Not content to dwell on any one style, the music of Benoit Simon and Benjamin Myers—or Sergio, if you will—displays a keen and equal opportunity love affair for minimal techno, lush disco, epic club tracks, and electronic pop. Sometimes taken on one at a time, or often combined, the results have led to chart toppers like the pleasingly progressive "Everybody" and pop-house gem "Principles" for DFA—the latter of which landed as Dialogue's No. 1 track of 2011—and more recently the moody deep house of "Bridge So Far" on Hot Creations and last year's never-too-late-for-summer jam "New Ships" on Visionquest.
As care free and quick to fits of giggles as their music implies, Sergio and Myers spoke with Dialogue Inc earlier this year for XLR8R's Trainwreck series, and stuck around after telling us about hilariously disastrous tour debut in Russia involving bad weather, empty dance floors, and an oddly placed swing, to share more about the pair's past lives as ordinary civilians, how they craft their songs, and if any of their ex-girlfriends are pissed about they're appearances on more than one Benoit & Sergio song. Here's what the two had to say.
So from what we've read, your career as Benoit & Sergio is a far cry from your former lives.
Benjamin Myers: In the D.C. studio you can actually see the campus where I taught school from the window, up the hill a bit. I’m looking at it, and it just seems like that was lifetimes ago. At the time, I was teaching high school kids. I was coaching baseball and teaching literature. I would drive down the hill everyday after school and Benoit and I would just work on music. Benoit was doing a start-up, so he was at home everyday just waiting to do studio work. That was our second job, really, was the studio. We would basically work all day at our normal jobs and then work all night on music. Then we just caught a few lucky breaks with some of those tracks.
What was the initial common ground you guys bonded over?
Benoit Simon: At first it was minimal, I didn’t know minimal so much. Ben introduced me to that and we were trying to do those sounds at the beginning for sure.
BM: When we first started, I was into the Perlon sound, so Benoit and I sort of messed around with that, but very quickly we just started doing our thing. The funny thing was, we just started doing vocals within a month or so, not even knowing we really could do them—I’m still not sure that we can do them—and that really changed everything. It just became more about our music than anything else.
One of the best and unique qualities about you guys are the lyrics, these stories you tell and these characters—the girl on the couch, and whatnot. Where does that come from?
BM: I feel like if we’re going to use words, they might as well tell a story. There needs to be some hook to the words, the same way there’s a hook to the music. Part of the hook to the words, is a story or some sort of narrative to the words. I think that’s where the narrative comes in, it comes in sort of naturally. The album is full on, straight-up lyrics. The stuff we’ve done so far is simplified and dance-y because you can’t really tell these long stories on a dance track. The stuff now is much more lyrical for the album.
Do you guys have past girlfriends somewhere fuming because you’ve been writing songs about them?
BM: You know, yes. There’s one girl that likes that I did that. It’s a good line, I’m never going to say anything bad really.
Can you tell us more about the writing process in general on your recent singles like “Bridge So Far” and the “New Ships” EP?
BS: To me, where I recognize ourselves is in the diversity of sound between the tracks. We have these deeper tracks, then the more nudisco, deep groove, then the orchestral, weird, epic, heroic tracks like “New Ships.” Sound wise, I think the studio dictates a little bit. To be honest, I don’t know how we want to define ourselves, I know why we sound like that from a technical standpoint, but we have a diversity of things that are always at play.
BM: For me, I wanted at least the “New Ships” EP to be up and happy, and have this bouncy quality. I think we accomplished that. I love that up, good sound, whereas “Bridge So Far” has more melancholy to it. They’re just moods. It’s like the seasons, “Bridge So Far” was started in the fall, but the others were more spring and summer jams.
Do you guys have defined roles as to how you divvy up composing and producing in the studio?
BS: If we’re not on the road, it’s usually just a big jamming session. We jam for hours, select the loops, and then the voice comes in, then we fine-tune the sound.
BM: Yeah, the best tracks we’ve done and the ones we’re the happiest with, we just hit record and jam. We might start with a kick drum and then go for a couple of hours.
How’s the album coming? I know there’s some anticipation for it.
BS: We split the year between D.C. and Berlin, but we’re taking some time off [in D.C.] right now to work on it.
BM: It’s super hard to work on music when you’re touring. Hopefully we’ll have it done by the summer. Fall would be ideal for getting it out this year. But you know how those album’s go. “This year” really means a year and a half, but we’re inching towards it every day.
Having recently celebrated your two-year live anniversary, what has it been like finding yourself a part of this interlocking global scene with labels like Crosstown Rebels, Visionquest, and Wolf + Lamb?
BM: We knew Wolf + Lamb and all the Visionquest guys before, and it’s nice that before we had a little bit of success we knew them, because then it’s a true friend sort of thing. But since then, we’ve met a lot of amazing people—from fans to producers to promoters—and that’s inspiring.
Now that you’re able to reflect on your awkward second live show to now, are you feeling like you’ve made the right career shift?
BM: We feel that way, but at the same time there’s always that feeling that any show could be that show. That might be a good thing to never get too comfortable.