Light Music is a Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based band. The band’s latest release is the album Ocean’s Daughter. They are playing Crossroads KC May 7th as a part of Middle of the Map Fest 2016. Light Music singer-songwriter Brendan Benham recently discussed how he became interested in music, the band’s creative process and why he loves playing Kansas City.
Were your parents musical? Did you come from a musical family?
My parents were not especially musical, other than that they thoroughly enjoyed music. My dad played drums when he was younger, but that was about it. I do give them a great deal of credit though, as they started me on piano when I was very young, and have supported my musical endeavors ever since.
What was your earliest musical memory?
True story: the first musical memory I have is when I was maybe 4 or 5 sitting in front of a stereo singing along to Gloria Estefan songs in Spanish. For the record, I didn’t know how to speak a lick of Spanish at all, but I knew how to sing all those Gloria Estefan songs pretty flawlessly. It’s still hilarious for me to think about. Music really is the universal language.
How did Light Music first come together?
We were all great friends in high school, and had a former band called The Four Hundred. During our college years, we all scattered and went our own separate ways, but came back together around 2012 with a yearning to make music with each other again. That time apart helped us all to grow individually, but our collective chemistry was always still there.
You combine many different styles of music to form your sound. What is your creative process when writing a song? Do you start with lyrics or melody first?
We have a few different processes. Most of the time, one of us will come in with a demo of an idea, or a chord progression and then we will workshop it out. Sometimes the songs are pretty much complete when they get to the band. Other times we create it together in our rehearsal space. ‘Nessun Dorma’ was for all intents and purposes a song that Shae had completely written before we were even a band, and then we all sat down and figured out how to pull it off. I wrote ‘Inside’ in the same way, bringing a pretty complete demo for the band to learn. Other songs like ‘True Colors’ were a little more collaborative in spirit, beginning with a more basic idea, then being fleshed out in our rehearsal space by the band together. For the next record, we are trying the ‘sitting in a room together’ method a bit more, where everyone gets to shape the song at every turn. I would say we are a very melody-driven band, and melody usually takes precedence over lyrics when writing. A lot of times, Shae will sing gibberish until he has a melody, and then craft lyrics to fit that melody.
What was the first track written for Ocean’s Daughter?
Without thinking about it too hard, I think either ‘Nessun Dorma’ or ‘Entre Nos Corps,” which Shae had been working on since before Light Music was even a band. There was another b-side called ‘Amadeus’ that just was released on one of our label’s compilations that had been kicking around in my brain since about 2009.
What inspired the track “Pack of Wolves?”
Simply put, longing for a love lost. This was a very personal song of longing written during a very vulnerable time in my life. It was also probably the first song I wrote for Light Music with an eye more toward the electronic side of what we do rather than the rock n’ roll side. At the time, my dreams were being haunted, and I wanted it to sound very dream-like, which is why there are so many synths floating around and the vocals are so over-processed. Every lyric in that song comes from the most personal place within that experience I had. It is very autobiographical.
You’re playing Middle of the Map Fest this year. What are you most looking forward to about playing Middle of the Map Fest 2016?
Hanging with our friends at our KC-based record label The Record Machine, as well as eating some of the best BBQ in the country. We love making the trip to Kansas City. The city has such an incredibly fun vibe.
What is your favorite quote or motto?
“Shut your eyes and see.” – James Joyce
What advice would you give to musicians just starting out?
Number one rule in music: Don’t take yourself too seriously. You should be playing music because it’s the only thing that gives you that feel, not because you want to be rich and famous. 99.9% of the bands out there will never achieve fame or riches, even moderately. The sooner you are okay with not being in that .1% that do, the better for your personal enjoyment. Also, do it with your best friends, or at least people you can thoroughly enjoy yourself with. I love hitting the road with these guys because they are my best friends, and even if we tour without making a bunch of money, we still find a way to have the most fun possible. We’ve been through so much adversity together and having your best friends in your corner helps hold it all together when the going gets tough.