Los Angeles-based artists jackbenny brings to the table a unique musical style that blends traditional elements of Broadway musicals with indie pop, an uncommon blend certainly but upon seeing them play live once, even the harshest critic would be hard-pressed to find evidence to the contrary. The group is charming certainly, but what sets jackbenny apart is their unique influences and sheer musical proficiency. Sincerely, jackbenny is rewriting the book on how to make infectiously positive pop music without sacrificing musicality in the process. The boys agreed to talk to me about their influences, creative process and what they have in store for the upcoming year. With the first single off the highly anticipated debut album being released by the band later this year, it’s been a long journey for jackbenny but it’s made for a fantastic story thus far.
As if raw talent and positive energy weren’t already major selling points, frontmen Jack and Benny Lipson just happen to be identical twins. Shortly after the twins were born, a local radio station ran a story about their arrival. At the time, the twin’s mother was on the second national tour of the Broadway musical Evita. Using a play on the title of the show’s grand musical number, the story was titled Don’t Cry For Me, My New Baby Twins. Jack and Benny’s father, also an accomplished Broadway actor, performed in A Chorus Line, Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar. “I don’t think it’s unique of us to like a wide variety of styles”, Jack explains to me “but we sort of came to this point where the genre didn’t have to be the unifier. In order to succeed in that, it helps that we have a background in theater.” Jack studied music composition at UCLA while Benny opted to study jazz voice and bass at University of Miami. College was the first and longest time the twins had ever been apart, but Jack was quick to assure me that the separation strengthened the creative process by expanding the knowledge base to draw inspiration from and provided different musical perspectives. “Benny doesn’t know anything about classical” Jack tells me amicably with his twin just barely out of earshot. Not that Benny would disagree; although they’re identical in appearance, they’re remarkably and refreshingly different in the ways they approach music composition.
After enlisting the support of a few talented multi-instrumentalists, jackbenny is a 4 person ensemble that includes Nicole Marcus on drums and guitarist Chili Corder. “Every song is a different genre so we thought an LP was the way to go,” says Nicole, who moved to LA from Fort Lauderdale to pursue music. Nicole herself plays drums, keys, bass and even dabbles in electronic music production. Still, the side hustle consists of freelance gigs and as a woman in a very male dominated sphere, earning respect can be an uphill battle. “It’s such a boy’s club” says Jack of the indie music scene, but having Nicole as a part of jackbenny is about her talent and not her gender identity. “It has it’s ups and downs,” Nicole contends, “I will never paint this as a perfect picture until it actually is.” Chili Corder was recruited by Jack and Benny during a time when the group was looking for musical talent. Jack and Chili were introduced through mutual connections at UCLA and he became the obvious choice for a guitarist because of his adaptability to all different styles. “Chili believes there’s work to do in this world that can be done through music.” says Benny. “You have to read the lyrics of the songs and make sure it’s something you stand for and that was something that Chili could get behind.” That message they’re referring to is addressed the jackbenny Facebook page stating the lyricism is designed to be inclusive and the group feels that given the current political climate, defending visibility of the queer community is imperative. “When you have this platform and you choose not to say anything, you’re just being complacent” says Jack, who openly identifies as queer. Alternately, the references to love in jackbenny songs isn’t always of the romantic variety. “Everyone always talks about love in a romantic way but I love my friends and I love my family too.” Fundamentally, the group believes that the message should center around equality and inclusiveness.
Around this time last year, the group befriended fellow theatrically inspired entertainer Reggie Watts with whom they have been collaborating with on a number of projects for 2017. The twins originally met Watts during his residency at El Cid, where Jack and Benny would go to study Watts and his band. “When we formed jackbenny, it was a no-brainer to play the opening slot,” says Benny of the budding friendship. Their first show with Reggie was in around this time last year and from there, more opportunities began to align based on jackbenny’s reliability as an act and ambitious nature. As always, there have been minor setbacks like Spotify accidentially placing jackbenny’s music on the page of comedian Jack Benny, who died in the 1970’s. This made the 2016 release titled The Tremor Trembling Through that was available in the Spotify library difficult to locate and this mistake has since been amended after many an arduous exchange. The band’s premier single titled It’s Not Cool (To Be Cool Anymore) was posted to SoundCloud as a demo but has since been removed and soon to be replaced with a sparkling new reboot since it had recently been announced as the long-awaited debut single off their upcoming LP that can be expected in late 2017 and will be aptly titled Happiness is Trending. The Satellite in Silver Lake, Los Angeles will host the single release party on Tuesday, March 21st with special guests Bad Wave and Willis Avenue.