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Published: 2012/10/31
by Sam Davis

Marco Benevento Reveals His Inner Tigerface

Photo by Brian Stollery

For his latest album, Tigerface, experimental keyboardist Marco Benevento uprooted himself from his comfort zone and embarked on a path that assured very little. Leaving behind his Brooklyn home and typical recording spots, Benevento headed for Los Angeles’ famed EastWest studio—the iconic recording studio which gave birth to albums like The Beach Boys’ groundbreaking 1966 album Pet Sounds —and began work on what would become Tigerface. This, coupled with the addition of Rubblebucket vocalist Kalmia Travers on two tracks, spelled, for many, Benevento’s decision to head in a more mainstream direction. But after toying with the tracks for nearly two years and relocating himself once again to the woodlands of Saugerties, NY, Benevento wound up producing his most audacious effort to date. Just before hitting the road for a series of East Coast dates, Benevento spoke with about the new album, his development as an artist as well as the future of The Duo, Surprise Me Mr. Davis and more.

What were some of the biggest factors that led to your development as an artist during the period between the release of your previous album Between the Needles and Nightfall and your new album Tigerface ?

Well I moved from Brooklyn to Saugerties, NY. I live now in Saugerties—closer to Woodstock—about three miles from Levon Helm’s barn. I’ve been here about a year and a half, and [the move] happened in the middle of making this record. I think that shift helped a bit. Although, I recorded all the basic tracks for Tigerface in November and December of 2010, but the record just came out now, so I’ve been sitting with the record for two years—I’ve never sat with a record for two years. I normally sit with a record for six months or eight months then I do all the overdubbing and mixing and the record comes out. So I took my sweet time with this one because of the move—that took some time away from editing it.

I actually made a bunch of notes on every take of every song and listened to everything and got really got into the sound of the takes or the sound of every drum part I liked or bass line, or piano part. Just the fact that I was able to take my time with this one was a huge factor. I actually added the vocals to “This Is How It Goes” a year-and-a-half later. At first, it was just a fun idea and it just turned into a real pop tune by adding [Rubblebucket vocalist] Kalmia [Travers] and the lyrics.

I’d say those are the two big factors—the move and sitting with it for that long.

In a way, there’s a bridge between your last two albums in the sense that they share some conceptual ideas and seem to have propelled you toward a distinct sound of your own. Was there a conscious effort to build on some of the ideas that were created during the Between the Needles sessions while working on Tigerface ?

I guess it was a similar approach in that on Between the Needles and Nightfall we did a lot of writing in the studio. We did writing where I had an ‘A’ section, and then we’d all get together in the studio and attempt to write a bridge together or write the bridge on the spot. There was a lot of studio writing on Tigerface, which basically means writing very fast because you’re recording. There was a bit of a similar approach to writing between the two records, like that.

I’d say that the way Tigerface is made is super unique compared to the other record, maybe because I sat with it for so long and tried different arrangements of songs. For example, the one that has [Phish bassist] Mike Gordon playing bass on it, we had an arrangement of a song but it was the reverse to what it is on the record. So, we recorded the track and then when I went home I was like, “Wait, let’s put the ending first, the intro second…” and I just rearranged the parts on a laptop and I was like “that’s how the song should go.” I did a lot of “frankensteining” with this record, but it doesn’t necessarily sound like it.

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