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Ralph Renna told me to get bent the other day. I figured he was pissed at me, but we he texted me ‘get Bendt…” I did just that; I got Bendt. Describing themselves as ‘a face of modern rock,’ Bendt delivers a sound with a smile, gaining a following and carving its own niche in the Capital Region, and for good reason.
With lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Matt Plummer, lead guitarist Carl Blackwood, bassist John Longo and drummer Cody Bingham, they’re putting out strong melodies and elaborate, textured movements with a pulse and a beat that drive hard and hang fast, long after the album’s over.
Today, I sit down with Carl Blackwood to catch up, and talk Bendt.
RRX: In the beginning, you were my upstairs neighbor and we all had fun, and now I hear this incredible band and lo and behold, you appear in my inbox. So, origin stories. How did Bendt form, from notion to motion?
Bendt: We formed in 2015 with our first single “Immured” hitting in early 2016. At that time I played drums. Originally I was a hired gun and the project had a different lead singer and different songs. That lead singer eventually left due to some bad circumstances beyond our control. Matt (Vocals, guitar) John (bass) Sam (Lead Guitar) and myself found it very easy to write together and we wrote our self-titled EP within just a couple months together.
Once we were in the studio laying down the tracks we ended up parting ways with our guitarist Sam. We rearranged our line up at that point switching me guitar and hiring Cole Mead on Drums. At that time the whole record was completely tracked except the lead guitar. I spent a lot of time woodshedding the songs to eventually lay down the lead tracks. I mixed the record then sent it out to Carl Saff to master it direct to lathe. Album art was a combination of graphics from Patrick Stephenson and Brian Morgante at Flesh and Bone design.
After the record was done and almost exactly a year ago we had a blow out album release party at The Hanger on the Hudson. Prior to the release we won the Schenectady county Battle of the Bands which put us in the opening spot for Schenectady County Summer night which featured The Spin Doctors. We kept getting better shows due to this notoriety, Hope Rocks Festival in Saugerties, Jammin on Jay Street, Lark Fest, Jupiter Hall, we headlined the Schenectady County Battle of The Bands in 2018 and we will open up summer night again in 2019. During this time we had another lineup change. We added a new Drummer Cody Bingham who is an old friend and the best fit in that slot so far.
RRX: One of the things I love about your sound is how you play with time signatures. It’s a very distinct thing that sets you guys apart from a lot of bands. Now that’s hard to do in a studio, much less pull off live. How do you keep the live energy in focus when you’re time traveling?
Bendt: The band puts the time and the work in. We practice a minimum of twice a week for no less then 5 hours a session. We record a good number of rehearsals and more recently our own click tracks, which really streamlines the ability for each member to practice at home. Giving us the ability to come into a live show and be very comfortable with the material so we can be more energetic on stage.
RRX: There’s a lot of nuance in your grooves. As I listen to your songs, I’m transported to a bunch of different places. I know, as a writer, that we develop a ‘voice’ in our craft, a message written between the lines of the music (or stories) we write. If your songs are your stories, what do you feel is your ‘voice.’?
Bendt: It’s hard to identify just one voice in our music, our songs are composed mainly as a group. Each song has a different voice, depending on who came up with what part. Some songs you can identify one overall tone or “voice” but for the most part we cover everything from heartbreak to ecstasy.
RRX: I find myself wanting to look under the hood here a bit, but since I’m not a mechanic, I’d just assume leave every nut and bolt unloosened. So take us to your practice room. Give us that video presentation of how a groove becomes a song, Bendt style?
Bendt: We have quite a set up in our space. Looking at the room from left to right, first would be our PA system. You wouldn’t think much of it looking at it from afar, but in our small rolling rack we have a Behringer X-air 18, which is a digital mixing board that is controlled by an iPad. This feeds into our monitoring system. Carl, John and Cody all preform with In Ear monitors and Matt uses a small personal wedge. By doing this, we can greatly reduce our live performance volume, giving sounds engineers at live shows an easier time mixing. To further help our live show engineers we also carry a 16 channel snake and a splitter for every input, so we can walk into any show, and control our own monitors, again making it easier for engineers.
American Vintage 1957 Stratocaster Customized Candy Apple Red, Handmade Telecaster, Handmade Stratocaster Black, Gold Tone LS6 Lap Steel, Larrivee OM40 Acoustic > Pedal board > Hiwatt Custom 20 > WEM 212 Starfinder Cabinet and Motion Sound Pro 3 Rotary Speaker.
Carl’s Pedal Board: All effects are on a programmable loop switcher.
Strobe Tuner > Meris Enzo Synth > Split > “Rout 1” (No Synth) > Diamond Compressor > Stomp Under Foot 1975 Rams Head Big Muff > Electroharmonix Gate > Retroman Handmade Colorsound Power Booster > Mooer E Lady Flanger > Wampler Tumnus > Xotic Parallel Blender “Blends in Rout 2 (synth)” > Strymon Big Sky Reverb > Radial ABY split > A = Hiwatt & Starfinder B = Motionsound Pro 3 Rotary.
Gibson Les Paul Standard Double Cutaway, Gibson Les Paul Double Cutaway > Pedal Board > Marshall JTM-50
Matt’s Pedal Board: All effects are on a programmable loop switcher.
69 Fulltone Fuzz > Ernie Ball Volume Pedal > Elextroharmonix Double Muff > Paul Cochrane Timmy> Keely Seafoam Chorus > MXR Phase 45 > Strymon Blue Sky Reverb > Strymon E Capistan Tape Delay
Fender V Elite Bass, Fender Geddy Lee Jazz Bass > Pedalboard > Ampeg SVT-4Pro head > Ampeg SVT 6×10 cab.
John’s Pedal Board: > Green Russian Big Muff > Darkglass BK3 overdrive > Bass Crybaby wah > Keeley 2 knob Compressor > Tuner
Cody’s Rig: Early1960s Trixon or Gretsch Drum kit with Sabian Cymbals
RRX: And hell, let’s follow up on that last question. Take us to your practice room for real. What kind of place houses the magic? Are there any things that have got to be handy? And are there any honorable mention locations?
Bendt: Our practice space is truly one of a kind. It houses all of our monster rigs, a plethora of tools and parts to fix or build just about any audio equipment and it’s where we feel the most comfortable being goofy and creative. Unfortunately we can not disclose the physical location, but a select number of people who have donated to our GoFundMe campaign will be invited into our space to sit down and “watch the magic happen.” Our Honorable Mention would be North Albany Studios, they were our first home and will forever be in our hearts.
RRX: I haven’t seen you guys play, but I see images of you all rocking out to some impressive backdrops. So share with us a really great show you did – you know, the kind of show you only have to say the name of, and you’re all on the floor, or you get misty. Do you all have that show?
Bendt: Another hard question, especially this year, we have had some really incredible shows. Opening up Schenectady Summer Night with the Spin Doctors headlining. Also we played Lark Fest on the main stage, it’s kind of a rite of passage in the local scene playing on Lark Street. It was also super convenient since three-quarters of Bendt live in Albany’s Center Square.
RRX: I always leave the last question to give each band a chance to shout out to other bands or venues. We also want to know what you have lined up. We’re all about giving you the power of the press. So who’s out there? Who should we put on our watch list, and what’s on Bendt’s calendar this year…
Bendt: We love to support local and regional acts. Who come to mind immediately would be Girl Blue, Good Fiction, Zan and the Winter Folk, Talia Denis, Stellar Young, Becoming a Ghost, Candy Ambulance.
Favorite Venue “Gugs” in Glens Falls probably has the audience that pays the most attention and is truthfully there for the music and features the infamous “Sweaty GUG” drink.
As for upcoming shows we will take a residency this year at The Excelsior Pub for 5 shows. And again we’re opening up Schenectady Summer Night 2019 with our friends Hasty Page. We love playing outdoor gigs and festivals so we’re hoping to get on as many as we can this spring/summer. But our big news is our upcoming album. We just finished tracking 11 songs in 6 days at Sonelab in Easthampton, Mass with the amazing Justin Pizzoferratto. He is currently mixing the record to be produced for another Vinyl Release in 2019. Once we have the mater disk in hand we will book our album release party and a small tour to get the word out.