Blind Benny is Something Worth Following
October/06/2012 03:09 PM
Blind Benny is Something Worth Following
Rock Star Music News
Rock Star Album Review
“No Honor” EP Released September 4, 2012
by Nicole Hanratty
Via Telephone September 24, 2012
Jade<3 and Jonathan Carmelli are “all about a vibe and an emotion.” Their band, Blind Benny is doing something different and that something is worth following.
Jade<3, songwriter and vocalist was born and raised in New York. She sang in her father’s church and attended La Guardia School of Performing Arts. When this Puerto Rican songstress met up with Jonathan Carmelli, guitarist & producer, they formed a band called Blind Benny. Their music is shaking up the genre of world rock crisscrossing through the pop rock and soul.
Blind Benny’s first EP titled “No Honor,” reflects Jade<3’s obsession with “human behavior.” Each song is soulful and with purpose, an inside look at how love and life collide.
"Our goal is to make the kind of ‘headphone music' that moves you; the music you listen to when you want to feel something. We are less concerned with the flavor of the month. When you come and see us live, we throw you the hardest most intense live roller coaster of emotions you can handle. It's nothing personal...excuse us, it's all personal.” (BlindBenny.com)
I was excited to talk to the creative minds behind the “No Honor” project and after a bit of a shuffle was able to get both Jonathan and Jade<3 on line at the same time. Doing the interview any other way would have been an incomplete picture. Blind Benny is a definite duo with an ebb and flow, and a busy one at that. They are promoting their new EP and performed most recently at The Bowery. “It’s been a really awesome summer and a really good year so far. A lot of hustle, a lot of good feedback, a lot of creativity. It’s been really good,” Jade<3 tells me.
When asked about their plans to go on tour, says Jade<3, “We’re working towards that. Right now we’re sort of looking at how far we can go with this EP before we start working on a tour. We’ve got quite a few musicians. We’ve got a five-piece [band]. We’ve got a percussionist, a drummer, a bass player, John on guitar, and myself, so going on tour could be a little more difficult for a band of our size. Yeah, when the opportunity comes, we’re definitely all aboard.”
The band behind Jade<3 and Jonathan brings out the big band sound when they are recording, but the EP is largely an acoustic sound at heart full of beautiful songs like “Goodness,” for which Blind Benny stands apart. Jade<3 explains, “Sometimes we write songs during rehearsal. We bring it to the band, and they bring it alive and make sure that everything that we play is just as dope sonically on headphones as it is live. Yeah, they do their own thing, but we really give them the vision. We give them what we want, and like we said before, we work together from there.
Jon adds, “We usually end up creating a rough demo of 80 percent, sort of this is what it’s going to sound like. Then we use our band’s ability to take it to the next level, especially live. We did the EP, it’s a very organic-sounding EP. It almost has an acoustic vibe. …We didn’t have our drummer that we have now, and we weren’t really sure what our band setup was going to be coming into 2012. We really wanted to work it from a position of if it’s just going to be myself and Jade<3 playing music, then let’s build it from the ground up. If we have to do shows, just the two of us acoustically or whatever, then it’ll sound like the record. Then if we have a big band, we can make it sound like the record. …The EP is all about a vibe, all about a vibe and an emotion, and the live show is about an emotional roller-coaster of everything, very high and intense to very low and emotional. That’s what we’re working on right now, capturing and moving on to the next projects that we’re doing. We’re trying to capture the energy of the live show and turn that into the recordings, as well.”
Jon was headed off in a different direction when he met Jade<3. Meeting her changed his life’s course. Jade<3’s voice is stunning so his motivation is certainly understandable based on her talent alone but I asked Jon anyway what it was that drew him to Jade<3. Jonathan replied, “Actually, yeah, two things. I was ready to go to Berkley, and I auditioned in November, and then I started writing with Jade<3. I met Jade<3, and we went in and we finished a song that she had been working on for a little while. We finished it in an hour or less than that; we just sat down and wrote a song. The song was really good and ended up being that song, “Drown Me Out” on our first EP that we did. We wrote that within almost a few minutes of meeting each other or working together. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s sort of unusual. That doesn’t happen all the time.’ The more we worked together, we were just able to crank out song after song.”
He went on, “I was just telling her the other day, the one thing that we do--sometimes we get a little bogged down with all of it, setting up shows and promoting for shows and rehearsing and all this stuff--but the things that we actually are good at, at the end of the day, and the thing that we like to do is, if you lock us in a room, we can just write song after song after song after song after song. That kind of thing doesn’t really happen every day, that sort of connection doesn’t really happen. It’s unusual. I think when you see something like that, that’s something worth following.”
It certainly is something worth following as is Blind Benny. Hearing them talk about one another while the other was listening was like being inside two minds that click and work on the same track but also make the one’s thoughts stronger and more powerful.
I still had to ask Jade<3 the same question. Why did she ask him to work with her? What was her motivation? Jade<3 tells me, “I think it was like as Jon was saying, we had this really awesome connection. I’m a really personal writer. I can’t write with anyone; I can’t with everyone. For me, it’s a lot about who you are and what you’re about and how we vibe together. I can be a well-oiled machine when I have a good team around me, and that’s something that Jonathan and I have. We not only could write really good songs together and he not only could take my idea and facilitate it in the direction that we wanted to go, but we could chill together every day. Our families are close. We run our business together. It’s just a very, I would say, ordained relationship where it just makes sense, it just has shown us how relationships can be. It’s why we’re still together after these years, just writing and dogging it out and working together, because really we have the same goals. We’re still inspired by one another. I think that’s very special. I think that’s something that’s really hard to come by. It takes a long time for us to lock in our sound, for us to polish what we want, to have a concise idea, a concise project. Jon and I get that from each other. We work on that together. When I first saw him in the stump band I was hired to play in, I saw him playing guitar in the corner, and the drummer is trying to give direction. If you know Jon, oh my God, it’s so funny, because he’s so ADD, always in his own mind. I remember the drummer being irritated with him, like, ‘Jon, can you stop playing scales now.’ I was like, ‘Man, I really want to play with this guy; he’s so funny.’”
The two of them laugh at and with one another and tell me about things that influence the, for Jade<3 it’s books and for Jon it’s listening to vastly different kinds of music that includes everything from Skrillex and Hendrix to Radiohead amongst others. He says, “I listen to everything. I know that sounds crazy but I do.” Jade<3 is inspired by novels and writers and likes to write songs about history. “My songs are inspired by current events. ‘No Honor’ is a great example of that. ‘No Honor’ is about the lack of integrity in the world today and in the music industry. We are living in the wild, wild, wild, west.”
Jon concurs. “Jade<3 doesn’t like to clog her mind with being overly influenced by a variety of music. She will find something she likes and sort of stick with it.” Jade<3 says, “I’ll sit down with a producer I’m working with and listen to Sound Cloud and instrumental beats and just see what about that inspires me.” She lists Billy Holiday and Sade as two of the many artists she admires and listens.
They verify one another’s answers and bring me into their emotions. Talking to them feels like I’m entering a behind the scenes look at an attraction that moves you through life lyrically challenging you to face your truths.
And in the middle of the whole conversation we are just three regular people. Jon has a repairman at his door, Jade<3 is giggling at how it flusters him, and my phone is ringing nonstop with various important messages coming through. None of it matters. The power of Jade<3 is magnetic, we are all drawn back into what she is saying and no one veers off course.
“I went to church every Sunday. I still go to church every Sunday.” Jade<3 continues our conversation as she explains how she tries to incorporate the principals of what she learned into her lyrics and the stories she conveys through her music. That she has accomplished this goal seems evident.
I couldn’t help but ask about the electronic music remixes of Blind Benny. Jonathan says, ”I love it! We work with DJs and producers to create remixes. I’m a huge Skrillex fan and Jade<3’s voice fits beautifully in the remixes.”
So why is the band called Blind Benny? It’s an interesting name, no doubt. Jade<3’s dad is a pastor with life guidance rules that circulate around the theme of morality. Jade<3 said when they were trying to form the band many of the so-called “Benny Rules” were applied. Blind Benny stemmed from the application of these rules and their logo is a creative application of the name. “We love our name and we love our logo,” Jade<3 says.
Blind Benny began as just Jade<3, so I asked her why she made the change from just being a solo artist (she does still work on solo projects) to a band. “I wasn’t comfortable with all the focus being on me and not on the music. Like what is Jade<3 wearing today? I want the focus to be on the music. And there was some confusion with an old band named Jade.” (Jade<3 is an R&B group from the early 90’s.) She says, “Jade<3 was once hired to play a show…and the people who hired us actually thought they hired the old band Jade and they loved us but they were wondering why we weren’t three black women.” We all laughed. “We re-branded and became Blind Benny.” Because Jon worked with Jade<3 on the previous EPs, they credit all the music to Blind Benny.
I tell them that I personally connect the most with the “Chewjitsu” song on the “No Honor” EP which is a lyrical power house.
“Chewjitsu” song lyrics:
“How is everything I say slowly
pushing you away when in
my mind I’m saying it right”
I ask Jade<3 if there is a song on “No Honor” with which she connects most? It’s a hard question to ask a songwriter and she pauses for a moment. Then she says, “‘Chewjitsu,’ also.” “These songs were like our little gems that we were waiting to release. Not necessarily because they were going to be popular but because we are so connected to them.” “Chewjitsu” is one of her favorites she explains because it blends a happy melody with a serious commentary. “It’s one of our most upbeat songs,” she tells me and admits they write very deep songs. Jade<3 tells me that “Chewjitsu” is closest to her heart then adds, “I had a friend email me and ask me what is that you’re saying at the end in the lyric of ‘Chewjitsu?’ I told her, ‘I wish that we had something better in common than we both do, but it’s nice to have something to lose.’ And she was like ‘Yeah.’ Yeah, it is nice to have something to lose.”
Jon gets the same question. He says, “I love ‘Chewjitsu’ but I look at things from a producer’s standpoint. I think I did my best work on “Fantastic” and “Faith is Looking Good.” Jade<3 interjects to agree and tells Jon, “I think you did your best work on ‘Faith,’” and he thanks her. It’s obvious as they banter back and forth that they have a true affinity towards one another. Jade<3 tells me their families have known each other a long time and credits this with what makes them a cohesive team.
Spending time on the phone chatting with Jade<3, it is obvious she is very connected to all of her music and her lyrics. She tells me, “I hope people will pay attention to the lyrics and the melodies and the stories we’re telling.”
I think they will...
As always, I asked Jade<3 and Jonathan if there is a charity to which they donate time or support. They shared lots of ways with me that they help their community by getting involved with book drives, etc. but wished to highlight their fundraising efforts and the volunteer time they put into sending help to Lily of the Valley Orphanage in Tijuana. You can visit http://lotvorphanages.com/ to get involved and donate to Lily of the Valley Orphanage.
Watch Blind Benny “No Honor” on YouTube music videos
Released: Sep 04, 2012
℗ 2012 Blind Benny
“No Honor” EP on iTunes and Blind Benny on Amazon Music
Purchase “No Honor” at BlindBenny.com: http://blindbenny.com/wordpress/music/
You can also listen to Blind Benny music free at BlindBenny.com
SONG OF THE WEEK:
Song of the Week: Matchbox Twenty "I Will" New Music for Your Love Songs Playlist
October 4, 2012
Download Matchbox Twenty "I Will" on iTunes
Purchase Matchbox Twenty "I Will" on Amazon Music
Alternative rock band Matchbox Twenty's new album "North" is on the Billboard 200 at No. 29 this week, it's been on the chart for four weeks and peaked at No. 1. As music downloads go, the entire album is a must for your playlist, but as love songs go Rob Thomas singing "I Will" is a show stopper. Read More: Song of the Week: Matchbox Twenty “I Will”