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Behind the lyrics: Q&A with Benjy Davis Project

July 10, 2010

Before they took the stage, the two rarely resembled people of the same ZIP code, not to mention the same band. Benjy was perched at the far corner of the bar in jeans and a baggy T-shirt, sucking on a longneck and aimlessly watching the 24-inch TV. Mic, being noticeably more hipster of the two, was sipping his red wine behind an array of T-shirts and CDs from the three musicians booked for the night’s show. When their set neared, he pulled out a piece of notebook paper, hunched over the table and began formulating what could only be their set list — and a good one at that.

But when the beat dropped for their opener, “Still Sweet” — a song I didn’t know until this set list since I bought Dust before they re-released the record on the Rock Ridge Music label — there was no denying it: Benjy Davis and Mic Capdevielle had chemistry you only see in people who’ve been friends since high school and band mates since the beginning.

Live at Jack Rabbits

I sat down with Benjy Davis Project before their opening-night show at Jack Rabbits in Jacksonville, which was the farthest east they’ve been. As for show itself, the 4-hour, round-trip drive from Gainesville paid off: Every note was worth it. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the venue. If you haven’t been there, Jack Rabbits is, literally, a hole in a cement wall in the middle of downtown Jacksonville. While Mic raved about fish tacos from High Tide Burrito Company next door, to me, there was nothing decent about the Jack Rabbits.

The punk-rock ambiance didn’t suit well for the band’s southern-folk sounds, and while the crowd that did turn out were true fans, there weren’t enough of them. Benjy, Mic (or really Rock Ridge), if you’re really looking to infiltrate the Sunshine State, I’d pull a Corey Smith and play the Friday night (Oct. 8 ) before the UF vs. LSU football game on Oct. 9 in Gainesville; the Venue or Common Grounds is calling your name. There’s nothing like heating up an old rivalry than putting Louisiana locals and Florida fanatics in one room with some good music. Hell, I’d even offer to help spread the word across Gator Nation headquarters. Anyway, on to the interview.

Erin: What’s the difference between opening night and your 8th show?

Benjy: If we’re playing a weekend, you kind of get tired after the first show. But for this, I think our bodies trained ourselves to get a lot of energy, and we can coast it out a lot longer. So, we’re just busting at the seams. We’re going to figure out a good set list and try to hit the right one.

Do you usually play with a set list?

Benjy: Yeah, but if we’re just doing random stuff we won’t try and keep on, but for this show, we’ll try to hammer it out. It’s not going to be sloppy or anything.

Mic: And because it’s a new market, we don’t know what we’re going to receive. Someone might come out here and call out a song, and it might not be up there, but it’s cool that someone in this area wants to hear a specific song. We’d play it.

So true. You guys are both pretty laid back, but you have a lot of critics that say you just write about drinking beer and getting stoned. How do you respond?

Benjy Davis

Benjy: I’ve never intended to write fiction, and it’s not like we’re not trying to be all cool, or anything. I mean,

why can’t you have a party song? If you want to get a full-scale scope of what’s going on in my every day, there’s going to be a stupid song in there somewhere.

What do you think is the stupidest song to day?

Benjy: Oh god, Cajun Crawfish Boil. I hate that song; I don’t know why we put it on the record. There are some other contenders, but that’s life, you know.

And your current favorite song?

Mic: “Aftermath” is really cool.

Benjy: I’ve been playing “Slow Wind” a lot. Any new stuff, really. That’s one of the reasons why we keep writing new songs.

Have you written anything since Lost Souls Like Us came out?

Benjy: Not a word. I don’t even think I’ve held a pen since then.

What do you like more: touring or creating the album?

Mic: Touring is fun, but it’s work, you know. The studio is fun, and you are working on your own personal time, but that’s the fun stuff: creating things and listening back the first time. And by the time you hit the road, the album’s out, and you’ve been playing enough, and your ears are already used to it, so essentially you’re trying to create new things about it, trying to add into it and give it more of that feeling.

So, do you try to have a new sound with every live show?

Benjy: No, we sound pretty much like the album on tour. We’re not a jam band just because we have short attention spans. And we hope everyone else does.

Mic: We would look at each other and be like, “Do you even know where the hell we are?”

Benjy: “Are you down with this song because I am?”

Do you feel off the crowd when you play?

Benjy: Yeah, I’m so guilty of that; it’s a bad example. If it’s a bummer crowd, I’m in a bad mood. I just close my eyes and pretend like I’m surfing or something.

Mic Capdevielle

Do you have a preshow routine or anything before you go on?

Benjy: Yeah, we haven’t done it in a while, though. When we were doing it, we were more of a band. It does involve a huddle, but when just me and Mic do it, it just ends up looking like we’re hugging.

Can I see it?

Mic: No, that’s G-14 classified.

You used to play a lot of collegiate, fraternity parties around Auburn and Baton Rouge. How was the transition like to playing at more venues?

Benjy: It took awhile. We found ourselves in that (open-bar, frat parties) five nights a week, and we got burned out. People were throwing beer, and I’m like “I don’t even like these people.” They just scream for the last song of our set the entire time.

Mic: It’s always cool to do something like this because you have people that really want to be here. For the open-party shows, they’re there, but they’re there for other motives.

Yeah, I remember those type of parties. What’s the craziest thing that ever happened to you at a show?

Benjy: I had a girl throw beer on me. It was the first time in my life I’ve ever felt violated. It was song 2 or 3 in the set, and I think we were playing “I Love You.” I didn’t know who it was. I guess she thought I would appreciate it.

Do you usually go out a lot when you’re home or just like to stay in?

Benjy: Every day smells like tailgate to us, so when we do get home, we don’t want to go out and throw down or anything. I’m usually just hanging out with my girlfriend for 48 hours because I just hope she’s there the next time I’m back.

Mic: We’re not home much, so when we are, it’s good to just be there.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

Mic: I like playing with remote control helicopters. I’ve got three of them.

Benjy: That’s not guilty! Not compared to mine. I could name a pretty big whopper one. I don’t know if I want to say it.

C’mon you have to say it now.

Benjy: Well, um, I read the Twilight series.

Really? How did you get into that?

Benjy: Well, my girlfriend was reading the book, so I went out and bought it, and didn’t think anything of it, but in retrospect the lady looked at me like I was pretty weird. I read it, and that shit just gets you like Harry Potter.

End note: Because of the lack of a back room — another strike against you, Jack Rabbits — the preshow huddle didn’t make an appearance that night, even after Mic promised I could join. And you better believe that I’ll be holding them to that the next time I’m at a show.

Mic Capdevielle, Erin Everhart, Benjy Davis

Mic Capdevielle, Erin Everhart, Benjy Davis

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