We all encounter different types of couples on a daily basis. On the streets, there’s the token ugly PDA couple. Out at the bars, there’s the unavoidable man-wingman pair. And, of course, there’s the irritating name-fusioned celebrities, ranging from the over popular Bennifer to the lesser known Vaughiston. However, the negative connotation with couples is about to change.
Comprised of Marco Benevento on organ and Joe Russo on drums, the Benevento-Russo Duo is an up-and-coming coupling of two talented and artsy-but-still-attractive (hey, I can’t help it if I have eyes) musicians about to make themselves household names. Fresh off their summer tour with Trey Anastasio and Mike Gordon of Phish, Marco and Joe played Lollapalooza last Sunday afternoon, where we sat down in the shade to chat about their weekend, music, and experiences.
buzz: What was it like playing this festival (Lollapalooza 2006)?
Benevento: It was nice, the crowd was really receptive, [and] it seemed like everybody was into it. I liked the festival a lot, because all my favorite bands are here -Wilco, The Shins, uh…Manu Chao.
buzz: Were you here the past two days?
Benevento: I got here yesterday, walked around and saw The Flaming Lips. It was a great festival. I like festivals that are day festivals; it’s refreshing every day to be here as opposed to a camping festival where everyone gets…grimy. There’s something great about that too though, you know, people who have been camping and on the third day everyone’s all freaked out on acid or something. At our signing and even at our show there were a lot of younger kids, and I like seeing that. To me, it shows that our music is something that kids [who] are going to be the next generation are hungry for. When I was 18, all the bands that I listened to that were a little bit underground at that time are doing pretty well now.
buzz: Like which ones?
Benevento: I liked Medeski Martin and Wood in ’96 – ten years ago – when they were playing little 800, 1,000 [people] rooms, and now they’re playing big rooms. Even Phish – they were big then, but I used to listen to them, and they were small at a time.
buzz: What was it like for you to play with Trey and Mike, having been a Phish fan originally?
Benevento: That was cool. Mike called me up and was just asking me, “How you feelin’?” Mike and I and Joe had played in a trio a couple times before – we did some tours – but not with Trey. Since we started with Trey, Mike was like, “How does it feel to officially be a member of Phish?” Even though we didn’t do any Phish songs or whatever, it was a quartet, so it was similar in instrumentation. I told him, “What’s really cool about it is that I’m playing at a venue with you where I saw you with Phish.”
Russo: (arriving to the interview) Hi! I’m Joe, sorry for my tardiness!
buzz: No worries, we were just talking about [what it was like] playing with Trey and Mike.
Russo: (sarcastically) Who?
buzz:(sarcastically) Oh, Trey Anastasio? He’s the lead singer of a band called Phish?
buzz: Yea, it’s spelled with a ‘P’, which is interesting.
Russo: Mm, like ‘phone’!
Benevento: Yeah, like phone! (laughing)
Russo: Yeah, that’s right; we did do a few week tour with those guys, didn’t we?
Benevento: Oh yeah!
buzz: So, did you guys meet Page (McConnell) and (Jon) Fishman (the piano player and drummer for Phish)?
Russo: Yep, they both played with the Duo.
buzz: What was that like? Because, in a way, you guys were sort of replacements.
Russo: People saw it like that, but we weren’t trying to [be]. Page played with us a number of times, and then Jon, the last time we played Vermont, came down. He would come to our shows a lot, and every time I’d be like, “Dude, just come up onstage and play, anytime!” This time he just walked up, and I was like, “Oh!”, so Me and Marco went out for a while, and it was pretty cool.
Benevento: We’d go see them ten, 11 years ago, and it wasn’t anything weird or crazy, it was actually very natural to have him come out and play. It was like, “Oh, great! I get to play with these guys [who] I used to go see!”
buzz: What do you guys think of the recent growth of music festivals and how it seems that music festivals are really catching on?
Russo: A couple years ago, everybody was having a festival, and it seems like now there’s more big ones like this (Lollapalooza) and Bonnaroo. People are really honing in on the diverse acts, so now I think it’s a lot cooler than it was. It [used to be] like, “Dude, I’m havin’ a fuckin’ fest”, so that was lame, [since] it was the same shitty jam band lineups.
buzz: With the festival over the past two days, what acts did you see, and who did you really like?
Russo: I came in early to see Ween, and they were incredible. I saw Gnarls Barkley, that was cool. I saw the Raconteurs.
buzz: Did you see the crowd for that show?
Russo: Oh yeah, it was fucking crazy. That was really cool! I was in and out [mostly] … I saw a little bit of Common last night, and that was sick. You walk around and you see so many people you know [that] you end up having conversations half the time.
buzz: What’s it like to play with other people as opposed to playing by yourselves? Do you find it more difficult to bring other people in?
Russo: It’s hard; we just have such a thing going on with the two of us. When we had more of an improv band it was easy to bring people in, but now that we have our own-
Benevento: (laughing) and then we started writing songs!
Russo: (laughs) yeah, and now it’s a bit harder.
Benevento: Yeah, when other people come and sit in with us – which doesn’t happen that often – but when they do, they’ll kind of know the song before, or know the part. [Otherwise,] we’ll have someone just come sit in on something that’s pretty free, and we’ll just improvise, depend[ing] on the night. For the most part we’re into the duo thing, and we’ll want to keep it a duo.
Fine by me. The Benevento-Russo’s new album, Play Pause Stop, is in stores now.