Benihana interview. Debut EP and the writing process.

Benihana forest image.

Last year we mastered an EP from new Irish duo Benihana that's now got Nialler9's support and is receiving glowing reviews in many other blogs too including GoldenPlec and HarmlessNoise.

'Patterns' combines five concise tracks to form a blend of emotive width, found sounds and gentle but deliberate beats and melodies. Where the EP really excels is the way the first four songs form an arc leading into the final song 'Tell You', which caps off the proceedings with the feeling of an epic played out in slow motion. With the EP running for only fifteen minutes, when the last sound fades you can't help but feel it's all over too quickly. All the more reason to keep an eye on these guys in the coming year.

We caught up with Billy and Will to ask them a few questions about how they started, their writing process and what goes into their sound design. Curiously they actually live on opposite sides of Ireland!

Stream the EP and read on.

Tell us a quick bit about yourselves.

We met where we went to school in CBS Naas.

How long have you guys been making music together for?

Since school. We’ve been in a few bands together with a couple of friends but nothing much really ever happened. During the summer of 2011 we spent a lot of time jamming with each other and that’s when Benihana started.

How did you guys get started making tunes?

In the summer of 2011, we put together a few tracks with a guitar, bass, microkorg and a keyboard, and recorded them on a 4 track recorder. They sounded alright but we knew that recording with a 4 track recorder was fairly limiting.

Before we went back to college that year the two of us got copies of Propellerhead’s Reason software and started making stuff on that and sending it to each other. The two of us went to college on either side of the country (Billy in Galway and Will in Dublin) so typically one of us would make something we like the sound of, email it to the other to work on, and so on until we would finish it. It’s kind of a strange process. We rarely actually sit down with each other and write something together.

How did 'Patterns' come about?

Over the course of the last 2 years or so, we have been experimenting a lot and working on a lot of songs. We have a load of tracks which we have left aside and have never gotten around to finishing. We started working on the tracks off our “Patterns” EP well over a year ago but it was only during the summer that we thought of putting them together and releasing them. We released both “Festivals” and “Vanish” earlier in the year and it was only afterwards that we realised that they would fit in with a few other songs that we had started working on. We decided to throw them all together then and release them as our “Patterns” EP.

For such a short EP it travels through a lot of different sounds and feelings that come together to form a strong narrative. Did you start with intentional ideas as in, 'We want to make music that does X' or was it a case of 'Let's see what comes out'?

There’s not really any particular meaning behind any of our songs. We just sit down and try out certain things and usually things start to fall into place. We knew that the tracks off “Patterns” would go well together but it was just a case of laying them out in the right order. We wanted something that flowed nicely through from start to finish.

What's your musical setup? Are there live instruments or all electronic?

At the moment it’s all electronic but we do plan on experimenting with some equipment we have. We need to find time. For the past 4 years, we have been living on opposite sides of the country to one another so it has been hard for us to get together and experiment with live instruments. We have some tracks that we are working on at the moment so we hope to get together soon and try and incorporate some instruments into the production of them. Hopefully then we can start to piece together our next EP.

How does a song usually come about? Do you jam around a few ideas and slowly get something concrete or is it more deliberate from the outset?

Usually one of us has made something from messing about and if we both like it and think we can make something out of it we take it from there. It would be a particular piece of music that we would just build on. We’re pretty harsh on each other in that if one of us doesn’t like the others idea, we’ll be honest, call a spade a spade and move onto something new.

How quickly do you write, record and mix your material?

It really varies like sometimes we could sit down and get lost in it for hours and come up with nothing we like at the end. Then sometimes things can come together really quickly. It usually takes us a good stretch to finish a song though because we like to try out different things. It has happened a few times that one of us would have what we thought was a finished song, we’d email it onto the other and then they would try out a few things that would take the track in a completely new direction. That’s one of the advantages of us working individually, it allows us to put a lot of time into our productions. We can spend hours trying out different things by ourselves.

I've asked you to choose a sound and speak a little about how it came about, any mix/technical issues you may have had in getting it to work, if so what made you stick with it(!) and to break it down or de-construct it so we can hear what went into the sound...

We thought we would deconstruct ‘Intro’ off our Patterns EP...

This starts off with a sample taken from Reason’s factory sound bank. The original sample was a bit bare and sounded kind of harsh so we added a light bit of reverb to it to in order to give a nice warmth to the sound. Towards the end of the track the pitch of the sample is lowered.

The other two instruments we use here are Bass and Piano. Both original sounds have been modified.

The piano sound we used is very basic and sharp sounding but with the right amount of reverb we managed to get the nice soundscape type sound you hear throughout the song. At 30 seconds into the track another piano instrument comes in. This is more of a spikey sound which we also added a hint of reverb to. It hits the same notes as the 1st piano. At the end of the track the sound created from the reverb of the two piano instruments playing is compressed using side-chain compression from Reason’s ‘Kong’ drum pad and “MClass” Compressor.

'Patterns' is available as a name-your-price release. If you like the songs show the guys your support with price of a beer!

Get the EP here:

Catch up with Benihana here:

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