The Benji's (Photo by Adam Waz)

A band that’s been percolating on the local scene over the past several years is especially excited to be releasing their new EP later this month. The Benji’s, who first played together in LA in 2014 and were Motif Magazine’s “Favorite Breakthrough Rock Act” in 2019, will release Kitty Pills, on February 14.

I learned more about the band in a recent chat with core members Maryssa Morse (synth) and Philip Geronimo (guitar). The duo is usually joined by Adam Cargin (who plays on the EP) or Al Diaz on drums.

“We started recording songs before we were even a band,” explained Morse. “Phil had a few songs he had written and he asked if I wanted to sing them, that’s kind of how we started recording. We sent them to a buddy in New York who put real drums on them. After we had about five songs we decided to put together an EP, before we even really started playing live,” added Morse, who plays synth bass and sings in the band.

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By 2015, their song “Torn Away” from the first EP (known as ep #1) was in regular rotation on WBRU. Since then, they’ve opened for acts including The Motels, The Figgs, and Stonefield and were slated to open for The Verve Pipe, pre-pandemic.

How do they describe their sound? “That’s tough,” said guitarist Geronimo. “One of our friends tried to describe us the other day, but then said ‘none of this is accurate, so just go listen for yourself.’” “I think we have a kind of 90s that meets the early 2000s vibe, a little synth, bands like Metric, but definitely the 90s (alternative) like the Breeders and Veruca Salt. We are kids of the 90s,” says Morse.

“I feel like it’s a mix of power pop and dream pop, that sort of references the 90s a little bit, we don’t try to go too far in one direction, but they always end up blending,” Geronimo explained further. “If you try to get too power-poppy,  there’s always something that makes it a little dreamy at the end that doesn’t always make sense to people. There’s always some old school rock’n’roll structure that makes it feel like a little more power pop.”

The pair collaborate on songwriting. “We kind of go old-school, like the Beatles 50/50,” laughed Morse. “I might be the first one to bring the riff or the idea up front, but then once Maryssa jumps in, it turns into a collaboration, and we finish it from there,” said Geronimo.

The new release, funded in part by a Rhode Island State Council for the Arts grant, will be streaming everywhere on February 14. They are awaiting word on a physical release. “What we’ve done is what I call digital vinyl. We have these cute little CDs that look like vinyl, I burn those myself, and might sell some at shows. A lot of times I end up just giving them away, it’s a lot of fun. There are always people looking for CDs for their cars. I try to keep a few on me.”

And what about the Valentine’s Day release? “It’s a day for lovers or not lovers, you know. If you’re lonely, this album can comfort you, if you have someone to share it with that’s great,” joked Morse. At present, the band is working on planning some summer dates and expects to announce some live gigs soon. Stay tuned.

For more on the band, check their Bandcamp site here.

Album artwork by Byron Olson