October 10, 2019
Since topping various streaming platforms and radio charts with their hit singles “Kathang Isip,” “Ride Home,” and “Maybe The Night,” Ben&Ben has been a vital force in the local music scene, charting their own path with anthemic, folk-infused pop that brims with elegance.
Without releasing a proper full-length album, the nine-piece act has amassed more than 300 million streams on Spotify and YouTube combined, and headlined concerts and festivals here and abroad. Formerly known as The Benjamins then Ben&Ben, the group was formed by twin brothers Paolo Benjamin and Miguel Benjamin Guico (also the lead vocalists of the band) thus their name. In less than three years, the indie-folk outfit has achieved critical and commercial success — proof that they’re in this for the long run.
This year, the band is ready to take their journey to the next level with the release of their debut album, “Limasawa Street” under their new label Sony Music Philippines.
Most of the songs in the album were written in a relatively narrow time frame. Despite their hectic schedules, Paolo and Miguel spent significant hours in the studio writing songs for the album. The rest of the band, on the other hand, had to record their parts individually for all 13 songs. It took Ben&Ben three months to finish the recording on top of juggling live shows and concerts in between.
Hard work eventually paid off, resulting into an eclectic collection of anthems that challenged their creative process.
“Limasawa Street really stretched and explored our limits, in terms of both songwriting and arranging,” Paolo Guico said in their bio.
This level of commitment manages to break sonic and lyrical barriers, exploring various music styles from world music to ‘60s soul, jazz to choral music, and employing afro-latin breaks, indigenous stylings, rock arrangements, and other eclectic elements to their brand of radio-friendly folk-pop tunes.
With “Limasawa Street” out, Ben&Ben takes control of their destiny with an album that stretches music-making to exciting, entirely new places.
Music Geek had an email interview with Ben&Ben via the twins Paolo and Miguel. Special thanks to the efforts of Chen Cornelio of Sony Music Philippines for the exchange below.
Why did you call your album “Limasawa Street?”
PAOLO: Limasawa Street is a conceptual place wherein people’s darkness are quelled or at least slowly healed. The word “Limasawa” comes from “masawa,” a Butuanon word for light. We wanted the album to reflect people’s “better place,” a place of light. But the origin of the title is a childhood street wherein most of the songs in the album were inspired by.
How does it feel to be signed by Sony Music? What differences have you seen between this crossroads and being indie artists whose music was distributed by Warner before?
MIGUEL: Both families, Sony and Warner, are equally awesome. We’re grateful for who we’ve been with and we’re more than excited to face the future with our current friends in this journey. Our disposition remains the same. The main idea is really to develop this very close relationship with the fans, who have been our constants since day one.
Can you tell us more about the singles: “Mitsa”, “Pagtingin” and “Araw-Araw”?
PAOLO: “Mitsa” is a sad song. But it’s different because in sadness it still finds gratefulness, which we think needs to be heard more often. “Pagtingin” and “Araw-Araw” are two sides of the same coin, representing uncertainty and certainty in love, respectively. They sing about long-present sides of love that people usually don’t dwell on, but are huge arcs in the cycle of love and life.
How different is this album from the previous singles you released?
MIGUEL: So different, but familiar. That has always been our style. We like to do something else always from previous releases. This time, the album is sonically so diverse, with a wide range of influences based on the stuff we listened to in the past two years. There’s U2, Bowie, Eraserheads, Donny Hathaway, Bon Iver, and crazier stuff you can think of.
You experienced success digitally with your phenomenal singles “Kathang Isip” and “Maybe The Night.” Do you think you can equal that success with your new album and songs?
PAOLO: We never aim to equal successes of each release, but rather hit a different tickle spot for each work that we put out.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
MIGUEL: Fans sending us messages about how the music saved their lives or took them to a better place (graduation, stopping suicide, healing families). That is the point of all this.
Who are your musical influences?
PAOLO and MIGUEL: Matt Corby, John Mayer, U2, 3D, Stevie Wonder, Bon Iver, Simon and Garfunkel, so many, many more.
How does it feel to have met John Mayer in his Hong Kong concert?
MIGUEL: Phenomenal. He is tall, wise and pogi. He also gave Poch (our guitarist) his guitar pick! We gave him an album.
What can you say about the changes in the music industry where CDs are now replaced by streaming? Do you think it is good for you as an artist?
PAOLO: We recognize this as a transformation of experience, and CDs cease to become distribution platforms, but pockets of experience. So, we elevated our physical album to become an entire visual experience for the listener to take home. It’s an era for more creativity and zest in album packaging.
What can you say about the resurgence of OPM nowadays and with your band being a part of it with your hits?
MIGUEL: We are just happy to be here and connect with people’s feelings and dreams.
How would you like to be remembered?
PAOLO: We’d like to be that friend that at one or many points in your life helped you get through something difficult, but for as many people as possible.
Where do you draw inspiration when you write songs or from the songs you have written?
MIGUEL: our experiences, and the vast reach of nature.
How do you react when people sing your songs?
PAOLO: It never will get old. We are floored each time.
What is music to you?
MIGUEL: Music is healing. Our music is catharsis, healing, and transcendence.
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