The Benjees Are on “The Scene”


The Benjees from left to right: Aimee Cucchiaro, Joe Visconti, Ben Roberts, and Andy Swerdlow. (Courtesy of Joe Visconti)

Published: January 29, 2009

Despite only being around a couple of years, local band The Benjees have quickly proven that they’re here to stay. With their music consisting of a mix of rock, pop and blues, The Benjees truly stand out among the thousands of indie bands in New York. Their lyrics reflect personal issues that people can relate to as well as music they can dance to. After recently playing in the Emergenza Festival, the group is looking toward the future with confidence and the hope of recording a first E.P. Guitarist Ben Roberts, drummer Andy Swerdlow and bassist Joe Visconti, FCLC ’09, answered a few questions about their band:

Observer: When and how did The Benjees get started?

Ben Roberts: The Benjees got started with Aimee [Cucchiaro, vocals] and me playing more of a temporary acoustic act until we found the rest of the band. We went to acting school together at Syracuse [University]. I wrote about eight songs, and they involved switching between mandolin, guitar and piano. It was fun, very different though. We then found the drummer, Andy Swerdlow, through a mutual friend whom I went to Syracuse with. Andy moved to the city recently, and we met right away and started playing music. We found Joe after a couple months of searching… then we were formed.

Observer: How would you guys describe your music?

Joe Visconti: I would call our music rock, but we’ve got a lot of varied sounds going on. There’s a bit of everything in the set right now, some pop stuff, a little funk. And of course Aimee.

BR: I can never answer that question well. It depends on the song I guess. I would say, in general, we are rock-soul-pop.

Andy Swerdlow: We are pulling from a few different directions, and our sound is in flux; so it’s hard to say. I’ve been calling it funky pop rock recently, and that seems to be the direction our newer songs are heading in.

Observer: What are your biggest influences as a band and as individual musicians?

BR: Influences personally range from Biggie to Hendrix to Dylan, Flaming Lips, Rage [Against The Machine], Billie Holiday…

JV: I’m all over the place. I have a deep love for garage rock, but the thing I really like about what we’re playing is that it’s got some funk to it. And a little dance-y vibe.

Observer: What subjects are you drawn to for your lyrics?

BR: I’m usually drawn to real life for my lyrics. Not necessarily my own life either, but people—their stories and relationships. Everyone will be able to relate to some part of some song at one point or another hopefully.

Observer: What are you up to right now?

JV: Well, we’re recording a new version of the song “Shadows” for a video. Some friends of the band who go to School of Visual Arts (SVA) want to build a video around the song. We’re also going to be playing Emergenza again.

BR: We’re in the second round of a battle of the bands festival hosted by Emergenza. We play March 20, at the Bitter End at 10 p.m. The whole thing starts at 8 p.m. We have cut back on shows and are focusing on recording. We want to get a few new tracks down before the month is up.

Observer: What was that experience of playing at Emergenza like?

BR: Emergenza was fun; hopefully it goes as well as it did the first night.

JV: The whole thing was solid from a performance point. We were rather rushed through with a 25-minute set, but it may have helped us keep our focus up.

Observer: What are some of your favorite venues to play at?

JV: Of shows with the Benjees, the Trash Bar in Brooklyn was awesome. Just a great show and cheap drinks. It had a good vibe, even on a weeknight.

AS: The show at Trash Bar in Brooklyn was my favorite so far as well; that kind of kicked off our current direction.

Observer: What are your plans for 2009?

BR: I would love to have a solid EP, six songs or so, a growing fan base and to start to think about touring in the near future to neighboring cities like Boston and Philadelphia.

JV: More shows and a well-recorded EP would be great.

Observer: Why do you think people should listen to your music?

JV: Because if you play it at parties, people will start dancing.