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Benevento/Russo Duo: Hero Rock, Mind-Reading and Constant Movement

By Published: November 27, 2006
AAJ: There also aren't any guest musicians on this one—no Skerik, no Mike Dillon, no Smokey Hormel, all of whom played on Best Reason to Buy the Sun.

MB: Right. We wanted to make our own album. We felt pretty solid just being the Duo. The other reason we had those guys on Best Reason was that they would play that stuff with us every time we would do a show together. We were around them a lot at that time, so we thought, "It's not complete without them. We should fly them in and record them.

JR: On the first one, we were still so new, and maybe not as confident in what we were doing, so it was kind of a safety net to have other people with us. But after the last year of us touring a lot and maturing as musicians and people, and just really getting into what we were doing, we just felt more confident. This has developed into a band. Best Reason was kind of the crossing point of us becoming a band, of developing our own sound. So on this one we were just confident and ready to say, "Okay, this is us. We don't need any guests to make this one happen.

AAJ: Well, this one does give more of an accurate impression of what the listener's going to get if he buys a ticket to see the band play.

JR: Definitely. And like Marco says, we were playing with Skerik and Mike a lot at that time, and a lot of those songs were written during that time we were playing with those guys, so it did seem natural to have them on it. This time, we'd been doing such an amount of just duo that we'd covered all the bases on our own.

AAJ: Well, I love their contributions to that record, but I do enjoy that everything on this newer one is just you two.

MB: Yeah. We spent the majority of January right before we recorded this album—which was in February—just down in my basement working on arrangements of tunes and finishing unfinished tunes. So a lot of the songs were really fresh and we went into the studio really excited to see how they were going to turn out.

AAJ: So if you had worked out the arrangements ahead of time, then all you had to do in the studio was just track it?

MB: Well, I have ProTools at my house, so we'd put a couple of mikes in the room and recorded, just to hear, before we went into the studio, how the arrangements were working out. We messed with that, and it was good; we don't get to do that so much because we're on the road so much. So just doing that was a great experience. We had five tunes that were tested on the road that we had played for a while, and then there were four or five that we hadn't really finished or tested. So it was half tunes that people had heard, and half new tunes.

AAJ: There's really an anthemic quality to a lot of the songs on Play Pause Stop. The title track and, in its way, "Soba are really rock anthems. There's a tongue-in-cheek quality, but they're sonic movies with a real anthemic heft.

JR: Yeah, there are definitely some anthems in there. And I don't know where that's coming from. There definitely is a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing about it. I think we gave up on worrying about anything like that—worrying about overdoing it. But when we were writing this stuff, we would hit these sections and kind of giggle a little bit: "Oh my god, this is some kind of hero rock. But we just ended up saying, "Fuck it, man, it's awesome. We love it. We just went with it. I think it's a guilty pleasure from our Jersey roots, to just have that obvious hook and the big rock anthem. It's kind of fun, and you might as well embrace it. We have a lot of other interesting things going on to balance that, so I think it's fun to throw that in sometimes.

AAJ: By today's CD standards, this album is nice and short—like an LP. Was this something you wanted to do?

JR: Yeah, for sure. We only went in with so much material, and once we realized it was only 50 minutes or so, we thought that was fine. So many good records are short. If they're really long, it's hard to ingest some of the stuff. So I thought it was a good move to make a shorter disc. Less is more.

AAJ: Well, the last couple tunes on a really long record might be the greatest songs ever recorded, but you never even find out how they go.

JR: Right. You never even get to that point. I like the way the record came out. I feel like it tells a nice little story and all flows together. I'd rather have a shorter album that does that. Like you said, even if there are really good tunes at the end of a longer one, it's hard to ingest it all. We like the length of it; we're definitely not trying to fit anyone's mold, not listening to anyone saying we need to have a 70-minute CD. Fuck that. We have 50 minutes of music, and we'll just put that out.

AAJ: So was the record recorded mostly live?

MB: Totally. [Co-producer and sole engineer and mixer] Tom Biller was really good at knowing when it wasn't happening and when it was. We played live in this little, little studio, and we didn't take too many takes of each tune. So yeah, for the most part it's all live. We did some keyboard overdubs, some guitar stuff, but for the most part all that stuff is live.

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