Hooked on Benoit & Sergio

Benoit & Sergio create music that engage with its listeners on a personable level. There’s an approachability to their music that loves nothing more to loiter in the serenity of a melody, while it surges with the energy of a packed dance floor. Frenchman, Benoit Simon and US statesman Benjamin Myers (Sergio Giorgini) crossed paths in DC, where they bonded over electronic music as they curated House party playlists for mutual friends, before combining their musical skills in the production chair.

Making music together was inevitable and what started in an nondescript studio somewhere in DC found its way onto labels like Spectral Sound, DFA and Visionquest, the music’s charming allure finding a home amongst acts like LCD Soundsystem, Matthew Dear and The Juan Maclean.

Dance floor grooves machinate with seductive vocal exaltation, while magnetic harmonic movements works their way through the conscious, impregnating your memory where they can be recalled later in a happy reverie. It’s illuminating music made for the dark corners of the dance floor, and Benoit & Sergio’s preferred method of interpretation is the live context, where vocals and rhythms pulse with the energy of the club experience, opening up a direct channel of communication between them and their audience.

It’s in this context we’ll receive them at Jæger this week, and before they arrive we were given the opportunity to ask them some questions while they were on tour in South America. So without further delay… Benoit & Sergio

Thank you for answering some questions for us guys. We really appreciate it. First thing’s first. What brought Benoit and Sergio together and where did you as individual artists and musicians find a common ground in music?

We met in Washington DC, back in 2008, which is hard to believe. The time has gone by very quickly. We were working in normal jobs. A mutual friend told me that I should meet Benoit because we were both into “electronic stuff” (she didn’t really know much about electronic music, but her hunch was a good one). Benoit and I were also both new to DC, so we hung out. Then we started working on music in Benoit’s home studio where there were lots of old synths. We just were doing it for fun then we got more serious.

Sergio, I believe you were a school teacher, before you made the full-time leap into music. In some aspect that seems a whole world away from what you’re doing today, but in the same breath you’re also standing in front of a captive audience, relaying something to them, albeit something abstract in the case of music. Is there something in the performance aspects of music, that being a teacher helped bring out in you?

I think that being a teacher is a performance, absolutely, and being able to keep the attention of pubescent teenagers each day in class was, without question, helpful in thinking about keeping the attention of a dance music crowd. I mean, there might be no tougher crowd than a bunch of 16 year olds in the Spring, all of them wanting to be outside, hanging out with girls. Rocking a club has never been as tough as that.

Benoit, what were you doing before music and at what point did you both feel you had something special that could eventually lead to a career in music?

I was working in an Internet venture before going full time with music. I had always loved all things related to music/sound since very young and up until before the startup, I had always tried to align my studies and work to music and/or sound: I had worked on speech synthesis, speech recognition, voice encoding and music services before. But I don’t know if we ever realized that we had something “special” to pursue a career in music. Music is just our passion and we were lucky enough to be able to live from it. There was no question really. No realization.

Was there a particular sound or spirit you tried to capture before you even sat at a keyboard?

We used to go to this now defunct little basement club in DC called Napoleon. On weekends, it was packed and dark and hot, with horrible sound, and the DJ would basically play 30 second mash ups of tracks before trainwrecking into his next mix. But the vibe in that place? Wow. That’s one of the things we wanted to capture.

There’s a melodic focus in your music, that adds a very engaging dimension to the dance music you create. Can you give us some insight into your creative processes and how these two elements come together in a Benoit & Sergio track?

Yeah, we like hooks and melody. But the genesis of a song comes from any place. It could be a one bar percussion loop that has some magic to it. It could be a snippet of a vocal loop. It could be a fully fledged bass line that comes to you when you’re working on music on your computer on a flight to Uruguay for a show. Whatever the element is, it has to captivate both of us enough to begin the long process of sequencing an entire track around it or part of track around it. But if there is no magical seed to begin with, then it’s hard for a track to grow into a tree that shelters us from the harsh light of the outside world. Once we lay elements down—bass, groove, whatever—we are ultimately looking for that final epic hook to rock on top. Sometimes we get that hook. Oftentimes we don’t. But you’re always looking for it—that big, fat, juicy hook.

Neither of you come from a DJ background, and yet you seem to exude a natural talent for club music. Where and how did that bug bite for you both?

Benoit has been into dance music a long time—disco, funk. It runs in his French blood. I grew up four hours from Chicago in Iowa and a lot of us got into the Dance Mania/Cajual/Relief Records sound coming out of Chicago. I loved Paul Johnson, DJ Funk, Cajmere etc. I still do.

I got into the newer iteration of dance music around 2004/2005 during the Perlon peak. And then I visited Berlin in summer of 2006 and that blew my mind. There is a joke in real estate: when is the best time to buy property? Five years ago. This joke probably applies equally to any music scene: five years earlier is always when the scene was better. So for people who were going to parties in Berlin in the late 90s, 2006 is probably way past its prime moment. But that was the moment for me. It doesn’t matter when something inspired you, just that something did.

Watching some live performances of yours on the net, I noticed that vocals play an integral part in your show. What dimension do you think that adds to a dance floor in the live situation?

There’s this classic scene in the wonderful mockumentary, “This Is Spinal Tap,” where the dimwitted lead guitarist Nigel is showing his guitar amps to the camera. All the amps go to 11 (instead of 10). When he needs that extra boost, he goes to 11. Vocals sometimes can do that. Take things to 11.

And why are vocals such an integral part to your music in the recorded format?

For better or worse, vocals add a sense of the human to things. Given how you feel about humans, though, this might not always be best strategy. We do get the strategy of erasing the voice and traces of the human from music, of returning to a field of sound without the intrusion of subjectivity, selfhood and the apparatus of the voice interfering with it.  

If you could sum up a Benoit & Sergio show for the uninitiated how would you describe it?

High octane, bouncy, positive.

And that’s all the questions we have. Can you play us out with a song.

Here is a nice one: Rod Modell, “Mediterranea, Part 1.” Not club but pretty epic.