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Published: 2012/10/31
by Sam Davis

Marco Benevento Reveals His Inner Tigerface

You worked with a vocalist on this record, which is something you had not done in the past. What inspired you to put words to two of your songs on this album? Who wrote the lyrics?

I wrote the words for “This Is How It Goes” with my wife way before we even decided to use Kal. I wrote those words and then Kal wrote the words for “Limbs of a Pine.” I was sitting with the instrumental version of “This Is How It Goes” since December 2010 and I just thought that the melody could really lend itself to some words. So my wife and I sat down and really surprised ourselves with how the song instantly went from a jazz song to almost a radio song.

It was inspired by curiosity just to hear what it would sound like. We did it rather quickly and I don’t know how much sense [the words] actually make. I’m sure I’ll do it again and maybe even use Kal again. I do like it. It’s kind of cool to hear. I could have sung on it, but I felt it sounded like a female vocalist.

Is that something you might do in the future, sing on one of your own tunes?

I could, potentially. I don’t know. I hope not…no I’m kidding. I just haven’t gotten the complete urge to do it yet.

Is the song title “Soma” a Brave New World reference?

Oh, that’s just the name of the studio we recorded it at.

*Have you read the book Brave New World by Aldous Huxley?

Yeah, but it’s been so long. What was that?

Soma is the drug they hand out in their dystopian future world to keep the society regulated and happy. It’s also a muscle relaxant in the real world.

Oh, wow! Maybe that’s it. That’s the track that has John McEntire on it, the drummer from Tortoise and The Sea and Cake, and he has this studio in Chicago called Soma. So that’s probably how he got the name for his studio.

Were there any guests that you were particularly excited about working with on this album?

Stuart Bogie, the saxophonist that’s in Antibalas and that tours with Iron & Wine and is on the new David Byrne and St. Vincent record and has his own band Superhuman Happiness. Superhuman Happiness is one of my favorite bands. Matt Chamberlain and Andrew Barr, Reed Mathis…and Dave Driewitz is on a couple of tracks—he’s been my bassist and the bass player in Ween. It’s cool to have Dave on the record because he’s the guy I go on the road with and he was the bass player for frickin’ Ween and it’s just badass. I did something with a violin player from L.A., Ali Helnwein (Traction Avenue Chamber Orchestra); he plays some violin lines that I wrote on “Eagle Rock.”

Many of the songs on the album meld both classic elements with newer, more experimental or electronic sounds. Is that something that you try to attain intentionally or is it more just a result of your personal style?

I think a lot of the songs and the style of music that I’m writing is kind of like me working shit out in my head. You know, unintentionally, maybe some Italian roots might come through or a very traditional sounding melody might come through. I played the song “Fireworks” for my friend and he said, “It sounds very Italian.” My dad is from Italy and he came to the country when he was 15, so I was raised playing a lot of Italian Neapolitan songs and traditional songs.

I also like classic rock. I’ve been into Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and The Who…I have my roots in very melodic music, like rock and traditional Italian music. Then I got into jazz and other experimental music along the way and then I kind of did a 360 and came back to playing rock after playing jazz for a while. Now there’s an influence of jazz and some electronic stuff. I think it’s just a thing that’s built in to the person that’s making the music.

Baptiste Ibar of the band BiziGara designed the cover art for Tigerface ashe did on your debut studio album Invisible Baby. What is it about Ibar’s work that you are drawn to and how did you discover him?

I’ve always been drawn to his art since I’ve known him and I’ve known him since 1995 or ’96…I’ve known him for a long time. We have mutual friends like The Barr Brothers and some other folks. I’ve always had his art hanging in my house and his sister also makes art. They’re just a really nice family, good people. I bought one of the tiger face stencils, maybe he gave it to me, but I have that huge tiger face stencil in a frame and I’ve always wanted to use it as an album cover. At some point, I knew I would do that. It came time and I decided to call it Tigerface because of the stencil, and also the name “Tigerface.” I had that in my mind for a long time too. I wanted to call one of my albums Tigerface but I didn’t want to do it because there’s a band called Tigerface. So I was like, “I need to wait until they’re not playing any shows” or “I can’t use a band’s name for an album.” I totally could have, Idon’t think it was any big deal. So I finally decided to do it.

What’s in the works for Surprise Me Mr. Davis or, perhaps, The Duo?

Joe [Russo] and I get together once in a while, we actually played just recently at Levon’s place. Joe is one of the drummers that they have been using since Levon passed away. Joe and I play here and there and we also play in Bustle in Your Hedgerow and every time we play we dream about getting The Duo back together and recording—especially now that I have this studio out here in the country. So we plan on making a record at some point, we just don’t know when. But we will as soon as we get some time. Joe’s been super busy with Furthur too, not to mention. So it’s been hard, but we want to do it.

Davis will get on with it soon enough. We have some things that we recorded a year and half back or maybe two years back that we want to release. So we’re figuring out what to do with that.

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