As they continue to offer up the sultriest of sultry house business, we speak to dance-pop act Benoit & Sergio ahead of the release of their scorching cover of Daft Punk’s ‘Around the World'
It’s fair to say that tempos have been getting slower and slower across all of electronic music – from house to techno via dubstep and garage. It’s also fair to say that vocals are still growing in popularity across all scenes – some sampled, some original, some unnecessary. Whilst (Washington DC) duo Benoit & Sergio are not alone in their languorous mission, then, there are few producers (in this case musicians may be more apt) out there doing it with quite such pleasing and idiosyncratic results.
Having initially stormed the scene back in January with their anthemic ‘Walk & talk’ release on Visionquest, the emotionally adroit pair have continued to ride a crest their own wave with releases on DFA, Double Standard and Spectral Sound in the ensuing months. With much talked about appearances at WMC, DEMF and Fabric since then, their live skills are just as revered. Often referred to as the Simon and Garfunkel of dance music, the Benoit & Sergio style is to combine proper lyrics with proper melodies into proper arrangements: how else to describe them, then, but as proper talents…
Dazed Digital: How has life changed for you in the last six months odd since the release of ‘Walk & Talk’?
Benoit & Sergio: Quite a lot has changed since "Walk & Talk," touring being the main new ingredient in the mix. The overall pace of things has accelerated quite a bit and we have had to get used to making music on the go. It has been harder to make music recently but not so much because we think that more people are listening; more because of the difficulty of finding proper studio time.
DD: You don’t DJ; you don’t make tracks but instead write proper story-telling songs... I wonder how you’re in the dance scene at all really and not just a touring band instead…? How do you think you fit in?
Benoit & Sergio: Haha. We do sometimes wonder the same things. We love the electronic music scene and feel we belong to it, but we also love the rock and indie scene. Some of our songs aspire more to a “band formation” and concert audience. This is a tricky exercise. When we’re in a dance club, we feel like playing a very soft pop track won’t really fly. But then people come up and ask us: “Can you play 'What I’ve Lost'?”… So maybe times are changing: people are open to hear different styles in a set, or at least take a breather with a softer poppier side of music.
DD: Do you have set goals when writing music? Certain things you want to achieve with each record? What inspires/influences those things most?
Benoit & Sergio: We don’t really have any set goals before starting a track. In the earlier days, sometimes we would try to work in a certain genre of music. But we always ended up with something totally different, so we gave up on that. “Principles” and “Let Me Count The Ways” are good examples of that: they came along in a very weird, awkward way - through long detours and corridors of uncertainty and experimentation. “Everybody" is more clear and in your face. It’s a simple fun track because there is nothing wrong with having a basic good time.
DD: How did the re-release of ‘Full Grown Man’ come about on DFA? Did they not want new stuff from you?
Benoit & Sergio: Bruno Pronsato, who put out the "What I've Lost" EP on his label, thesongsays, had sent it to DFA when it came out. They loved it very much and expressed interest in releasing it even back then. When we finished “Boy Trouble,” DFA wanted to put it out. We had other unfinished tracks, but somebody suggested releasing the "What I've Lost" EP on the B-Side. We think it’s great that this EP was able to reach a slightly different audience. This is our most indie / pop EP, a good fit for the DFA audience.
DD: Do you find the more you play out the more dancey your music is becoming? Are club experiences feeding back into your writing process? Are you OK with that?
Benoit & Sergio: Definitely. We would have to be blind to say the opposite, and we often mention this ourselves, jokingly. Playing in clubs is great for different reasons. First, you learn what works and what doesn’t. It helps deciding which tracks make the cut or not. Second, playing out helps with the sound: fixing up individual elements, EQing and levels. Overall, our approach has been very club driven because we’ve been exposed to this environment from behind the decks, and you want to make sure people are happy. We’re definitely conscious it has been a direction we’ve taken lately. But we think it also coincides with the mood of summer, festivals, party times… It’s a phase. The next wave of releases should show a more fragile side of our sound. More low key, ready for an end-of-summer / fall setting.
DD: What brought about the decision to cover ‘Around the World’ and how much time went into it? Were you ever worried about tackling such a well known tune? How did you approach it?
Benoit & Sergio: We were having one of our deep studio times, letting the synths warm up for hours and playing around with them. This was in December. Maybe because of the winter, we were feeling more slow motion, and we ended up with this deep electro funk soundtrack. The bass had the same quality as the Daft Punk bassline, so we thought that the “Around the World” vocals on it would be great. We laid them down. And the track was done. At the end of the day, we sent it to Soul Clap and Gadi, who were in Miami together in the studio. Gadi loved it and wanted to put it out. We absolutely respect Daft Punk and we would never try to redo or “compete" with a track like “Around the World.” Our cover is so far away. This is a fragile electrofunk take on a really happy dance track. Really, this cover is about playing around and giving homage to one of the best electronic bands in history.
DD: What else are you working on?
Benoit & Sergio: We are always working on our live set. We’ve just finished a remix for Metronomy. And we are currently focusing on a set of more tranquil tracks to listen to in your den in the fall.