Columbus music in 2018 and beyond: Benji
The Columbus Music Commission (“the CMC”) is an entity that we’ve been getting to know a bit more in recent months. In their own words, their mission is as follows: “The Columbus Music Commission connects music makers, music commerce, and community to engage in creating, performing and promoting great music.” In the very near future, the CMC will begin to expand on these initiatives.
Tuned Up’s vision has quite a bit in common with the CMC, and we are happy to be partnering with them with a series of interviews that gets back to our roots while also looking into the future. Every artist featured is one that Tuned Up has been fortunate to meet over the years and one who we’ll tell anyone we meet to check out.
One such artist that fits the above is Benji. Ben Martindale is a jovial-in-a-reserved-sort-of-way dude that can be frequently be seen at emo, indie and hardcore shows of all degrees of notoriety around Columbus, as well as around the Roosevelt Coffeehouse, where a few of his best buds (inside and outside of the music scene) frequent and/or staff. He has played in a number of bands, including the now defunct Snow Day. He currently lends his skills on the electronic ivories to Jack Sipes’ sad dream pop entity Moon, but also has begun helming his own quirky emo-tinged indie project, which he simply calls Benji. If you’re a Columbus music connoisseur, if you’re into artists like Field Sleeper or Hidden Places you’ll probably enjoy this. Fans of Death Cab for Cutie and Into It. Over It will find things to like about Benji as well.
I have particular appreciation for this project because they happily hopped on a Donato’s Basement show that was otherwise full of pop acts (DBMK, Colly, and Sleeptalk were on the bill and are all slated to pop in the near future – check them out!). He played a simple set to a packed house that, although subdued, adequately warmed up the room for the bombastic tunes to come.
Tuned Up: How has living in Columbus benefited you as a musician in the past year?
Living in Columbus has benefited me as musician in a bunch of ways! When my first EP, Misc., came out, I had to figure out a way to play shows before the full-band thing was up and running because I got show offers right off the bat. And those offers were honestly just from having friends in the scene. So I guess, just having support right away. Also, I’ve met a lot of folks from out of state that either have contacts or tips about the road! I met my bud Alex from Pittsburgh at a show in Lancaster, and he gave me the opportunity to spend a few days on the road in March, which I had never done before!
What makes Columbus unique amongst music cities, from your point of view?
Columbus is kinda weird because there are a lot of opportunities to play with touring bands in well-run spots, but the attitude isn’t too serious. For example, when I played in Akron it was intimate and everybody laughed at the dumb stuff I said and I could kinda make fun of ‘em, and in Chicago other the bands were really professional and self-respecting (even if the show was in a garage), but the energy was overly-polite, and hyper-aware of itself. In Columbus, you get the best of both of those. We’re a pretty big tour stop and there have been a lot of local acts who have made it big, but the attitude is still rowdy and fun-loving.
What was the last local show you attended? What did you like about it?
If shows with touring acts count, the last local show I went to was the Moon and Michigander show at Rumba, which I played (so it probably doesn’t count on two counts haha). That show was fun because Rumba is an exceptional venue in terms of sound and atmosphere, and I love hanging with my Moon boys. Plus, Sam Beaumier who ran sound, is an old friend I don’t get to see a lot. If shows with touring acts don’t count, the last local show I was at was the Tango Moms’ EP release at Big Room, because those guys are my buds. I liked it for basically the same reasons though. Just a different set of friends.
What can we expect from you/your band in 2018?
The only things I can say for sure are some Columbus shows and a Midwest/New England tour some time in the summer. I’ve written some new songs since White Hot Pathetic Rage came out, but as of late I’ve been more focused on playing shows and enjoying the company of good friends than writing. So maybe new music? and who knows? T-shirts????
What shows in Columbus are you stoked about attending this year? Why?
I’m not sure when this thing is going up, but Open Mike Eagle is playing at Spacebar this Saturday, which is May 12th! That’s exciting just because I don’t really know much about what a hip hop show is like, and Mike is kinda out there so I feel like it might be an easy jumping point for me. Plus, he’s incredibly funny and smart, and quite easy on the ears!
Tell us about a memorable show you played in Columbus, and what made it such.
Well, the first ever Benji show at a DIY spot called the Ol’ N Tangy is probably the top of my list. It was just me and my buddy Carter on trumpet; he hasn’t played with Benji since. But I was a little intimidated about getting back into shows before that, but it was so warm and inviting I fell in love all over again. And almost all of my friends showed up and I met a lot of new ones that night! Plus, everyone was paying really close attention to my lyrics as I sung. They even laughed at a few overly-sharing moments in some of my songs (still don’t know if it’s because they’re legitimately funny lyrics [I think they are] or if they’re just awkward when you’re actually paying attention).
What excites you about being a musician in this day and age? What can be improved upon?
People are weird again! And I love it! There’s a lot of opportunity to make music that might have been too weird or too sad or too goofy or too brief or too specific for other generations. Plus right now, love him or hate him, we’ve got a reality TV host as our president, so a lot of people are paying attention to the arts at this juncture!
I see a lot of idea shaming, naming calling, and a lot of people waiting to pounce on anyone that might not hold their specific point of view. This kind of attitude is on both sides of the political spectrum. And I know that’s just culture as whole right now, but I’d like to see scenes pushing for acceptance, reason, and loving compromise.
What would you like to see develop further in the Columbus music scene in 2018 and beyond?
Maybe seeing some more house venues show up! Seeing more folks getting involved and opening their homes to others to come over for good times and tunes would be beautiful! Also, I’d love to see some new faces booking in proper venues!
Don’t forget to check out Benji at the links at the top of the article. This article was co-presented by the Columbus Music Commission. Keep up with what they have going on via Facebook, and Instagram.