London trio Benin City (Theo Buckingham, Tom Leaper, and Joshua Idehen) are fusing together spoken-word, electronica, and blues to create a special sound of their own. The band’s debut album Fires In The Park is out now, and we caught up with the members before their headline show on October 30th at Electrowerkz (tickets). Want to know about their debut record, thoughts on poetry, favourite pastimes, and bucket list? Look below:
AMBY: Hello Benin City, what’s the band been up to lately?
TOM: We’ve had a great summer playing UK festivals and we-
THEO: We have been recording a live Ep of some of the tracks of our Album!
TOM: I’d always wanted to arrange so Benin City tunes for strings and finally decided to go for it.
JOSH: We’ve also been getting older. Yes, that has happened. And planning for our headline show October 30th.
AMBY: How would you describe your sound to those unfamiliar with Benin City?
THEO: We are a mixture of electro and brass!
JOSH: NOT JAZZ
AMBY: Your debut record Fires In The Park is great. What is the significance behind the album’s title?
TOM: For me it captures nostalgia, youth, rebelliousness-
JOSH: It was taken out of Wha Gwan, so I guess nostalgia pretty much captures it. My childhood is fat with happy memories of dumb things I did.
AMBY: Your song Faithless is quite dance-evoking. Is it an intentional part of your songwriting to make the tracks feel dancy?
THEO: We had worked mostly on melodic ideas to begin with but later realised the track had potential for getting people moving!
TOM: We were a gigging live band before we started recording so we used to playing nights where we had to make people dance. Although our sound matured when writing the record, we wanted to keep that element alive on some tracks.
JOSH: Yeah, at the start we were pretty light hearted/good time-ish band. I guess at some point remaking our sound/writing this album we kind of went ‘We can’t not have at least one four to the floor in there.’ Funnily enough, nothing we had written previous has ever had a reaction close to faithless.
AMBY: How did spoken-word and poetry become such a quintessential part of your sound?
THEO: It was what we started out doing-
JOSH: I was a spoken-word artist to begin with: the original point of the band was to explore poetry and music. Obviously it has evolved since then, I think/hope/pray.
AMBY: Who inspires your music and where do you usually gather songwriting inspiration?
TOM: I grew up listening to my Dad’s old soul records and later in my teens I got really in to jazz music. These days I consume electronic music like there’s no tomorrow. Ninja Tune, Warp…all f those guys basically. And I’m still really into soul. New and old.
THEO: Lots of people, Radiohead.
JOSH: Back in Nigeria I used to record John Barry soundtracks to James Bond films off my TV speaker with a cassette player, back when everyone was discovering Tupac and BET. I think that’s why my tastes are so weird. I could have been normal; it’s all John Barry’s fault.
AMBY: What’s the story behind your latest single Wha Gwan?
JOSH: Pretty self explanatory, I guess: looking back on your life, any long standing feud always seems petty and wasteful. At least in theory, you see: all the people I am no longer speaking because we are in a long standing feuds to are actually, in fact, dickheads. :-) ALSO: I am always the right one. ;-)
AMBY: Josh is the one that rhymes, Theo is on the drums, and Tom is on the sax. Aside from making music, what are some of the band’s favourite pastimes?
TOM: A couple of years ago I decided to try and be a bit healthier so I go to the gym but it’s not one of my favourite pastimes by any means! Apart from that I just love making music. Either with the guys, playing small gigs with friends or writing at home by myself. There isn’t much time for anything else.
JOSH: I can blow an entire day(s) watching movies/playing games/reading comics/sleeping whilst listening to music. My dad owned a video store, I spent my childhood indoors. I’m pretty much all about flashing lights and pretty pictures.
THEO: Resting and eating.
AMBY: What are the top five things to do on your bucket list?
TOM: This is tough. I’m such a wimp so jumping out of planes or any of that shit is NOT on the list. I think it’s probably for this reason that I don’t really have a bucket list but I have said jokingly that it’s my life’s ambition that Beyoncé steal my intellectual property. If that happens, in my eyes, I’ve made it.
JOSH: I have actually crossed out most of the things on my bucket list (make an album, perform at Reading, stand naked in a Parisian hotel balcony having not paid for the trip. Jumping out of planes -you should try it Tom, its a lot) All that’s left is to finish a novel. Oh, and ride a helicopter… and make an album/song/feature on a song with Son Lux… get a gig in Brazil… and shoot a 50 calibre rifle at a gun range.
AMBY: What’s the best release of the year?
TOM: It was a slow start to the year but I’m loving Janelle Monae’s record at the moment. Prince. Prince is on that record. And Badu. And Janelle and the band slay every tune.
JOSH: Jon Hopkins.
AMBY: And lastly, what’s something about Benin City that nobody knows yet?
TOM: Josh is made from 90% sugar. Seriously, he’s the only man I know who adds 6 sugars to hot chocolate. The other 10% of Josh is words. He’s just sugar and words.
JOSH: Tom can’t play So You Say without swallow a ginger haired dolphin. That shit is hard to find, yo.
Thank you Benin City, for giving us your answers!
Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout