“Review: The New Benjamin Britton – Raise A Glass Broken Land
New York folk-pop duo, The New Benjamin Britton, cleverly configured their group moniker by arranging their own names: Ben Cockerham sings lead and plays guitar and bass, and the classically trained percussionist Britton Matthews hits a variety of things, including marimba and vibraphone. They shouldn’t be confused with the old Benjamin Britten.
Unabashedly positive, with a genuine, infectious enthusiasm for the music they’re making, The New Benjamin Britton make a refreshing change in a musical landscape where ‘angst’ seems the default setting. Cockerham and Matthews are intent on enjoying themselves and their upbeat tunes and cheery disposition will undoubtedly raise the spirits of the most jaded listener. That’s the plan, and frankly, there’s much to be said for unadulterated feelgood pop, especially when it comes with a streak of originality.
“Raise A Glass Broken Land” is their debut release, an eight-track collection, which showcases their songwriting chops and instrumental prowess. Matthews’ wide-ranging percussion is utterly persuasive and hints at the exotic, giving the songs an evocative, world music feel. Indeed, the avoidance of a conventional beat provides the pair with a unique calling card, and when combined with Cockerham’s wholehearted vocals, it’s nigh on impossible to come up with any direct comparisons.
The best of their songs certainly deserve a little love and attention; “Underprepared” opens the record, and it’s an instant favourite – in a just world, pop radio would be playing it to death. “The Lights Go Out” may well draw its inspiration from Tom Waits, circa “Raindogs” (I hope so) – and “The Shape of a Star” slows things down a touch without sacrificing any of their appeal.
www.benjaminbritton.netwww.facebook.com/newbenbrittonwww.reverbnation.com/thenewbenjaminbrittonThe New Benjamin Britton CD Baby Page”
- Phil S
“Raise A Glass Broken Land
What happens when you combine a percussion expert, an 8-string superaxe, and a boxador named Abbey?
The New Benjamin Britton is what happens.
Missed our interview? It was a great one, go read it.
Britton Matthews is a classically trained percussionist. In this band, she handles the vibraphone, marimba, and various other instruments that can be hit with your hand or a stick.
Ben Cockerham, a former professional Lindy Hopper, not only sings but he plays this beautiful monster of an axe with…8 strings?
Yes, 8 strings. 3 for bass, 5 for guitar, and separate outputs so you can run bass strings to a bass amp and guitar strings to a guitar amp.
Ben was cool enough to tell us where this instrument came from.
Along with their dog and mascot, Abbey, The New Benjamin Britton is creating some of the best marimba-guitar indie-pop I have heard yet.
Ok, so this is the only marimba-guitar indie-pop I have heard (yet) but still…it is the best.
This is feel good music. This is everything you love about singer/songwriter duos only fresher…and quite refreshing.
Ben and Britton’s voices merge together in beautiful harmony. The superaxe and the various elements of percussion coalesce into something unique, original, uplifting, and fun.
The experienced musicianship of this couple guarantees not a dull moment exists in these 8 songs. Raise A Glass Broken Land is one of the coolest albums to come across this desk in a while.
Consider me a new fan! One who cannot choose a favorite song.
Raise A Glass Broken Land is the duo’s debut album. Visit their website then go connect on Facebook or Twitter.
Read more at http://www.midtnmusic.com/raise-a-glass-broken-land/#KMzMbFwiw4xBWfwi.99http://www.midtnmusic.com/interview-with-the-new-benjamin-britton/”
- Joshua Smotherman
“Interview With The New Benjamin Britton
Who are you? Where are you from? What style of music do you create?
We are both originally from Texas; I’m from Ft Worth and Britton is from Dallas. But we’ve both been in New York long enough to consider ourselves New Yorkers. We’ve taken up residence in Brooklyn and love the music spirit and scene here. I have a background in classical and jazz composition and also play a lot of funk and soul. Britton is a gigging chamber percussionist and recording artist, specializing in new (ie 21st century) music, who plays actively throughout the east coast, and especially in NYC. However, this band is very much in the singer-songwriter vein, albeit with unusual instrumentation.
An 8 string guitar? Custom made? What’s the story behind this beast?
It’s made by Novax Guitars; it is the model created for the jazz funk guitarist Charlie Hunter, who plays independent guitar and bass lines simultaneously, much like a jazz organist would. I’ve been a huge fan of his since I was a kid. The guitar combines 3 bass strings and 5 guitar strings with separate pickups and outputs, allowing the player to run the bass side through a bass amp and the guitar side through a guitar amp so the one instrument sounds like two completely separate ones. In addition, the frets are “fanned” (angled) so that the bass side has a long neck scale (like a bass guitar would) and the guitar side has a shorter one.
It’s an amazing instrument, probably the finest crafted guitar I’ve ever played, let alone owned. To really hear it in its element though you should check out some of Charlie’s tunes! Although they’re amazing, it’s not what this band is trying to do; I don’t have the chops of him, nor am I trying to imitate him (other than the obvious use of his guitar/bass combo instrument). Rather, I was attracted to this instrument because I felt something was missing in our tonal spectrum. In early rehearsals, I was playing standard 6-string guitar and Britton was playing on a 5 octave marimba, which extends down to cello low C. The rich resonance of the low frequencies really filled out what was otherwise a pretty sparse texture. Unfortunately, moving a 5 octave marimba is quite difficult and not at all suited for NYC club gigging. The marimba we use live is 4 and 1/3 octaves – much easier to move, but we lose out on those beautiful rich low tones. I was looking for a way to keep the low notes in while still maintaining my guitar parts, and the Novax was the perfect solution. It was a huge challenge – basically like re-learning how to play guitar – but the musical possibilities with the instrument are endless.
How does one start down the path of becoming an expert in percussion?
Britton has been active in the field of percussion since she was in middle school; working with everything from timpani to snare drum to keyboard percussion instruments played with mallets (ie marimba, vibraphone, xylophone, etc), the latter attracting an extra-special interest for her (though in her ongoing professional work as an orchestral and chamber percussionist, she has to play pretty much every percussion instrument under the sun). She began her musical training on piano, which is a natural progression to keyboard percussion.
She was first introduced to percussion in her school music program, and has continued intensive study through undergraduate and graduate degrees, studying with some of the top names in the field. Today she is a full-time percussionist, playing all over the east coast but especially active in the NYC chamber scene, including with the Grammy-nominated Metropolis Ensemble, and is a recording artist with Naxos and Nonesuch record labels.
There is no silver bullet, just a lot of study, a lot of shedding, and a lot of drive. And needed most of all is an undying love of the instruments and the music. And of course – if one is to become a professional gigging percussionist – a willingness to schlep loads of heavy gear from venue to venue.
How did the two of you come together? Was there an “ah-ha” moment?
Britton and I are married, so the story of us coming together is quite different than the story of the music
Although both of us are musicians, we had never played together until a party in 2010, where we were asked to provide music. I played guitar and sang some of my songs and some covers, and she played hand percussion (mainly cajon if I recall correctly). At the party was Scott Sellwood, a good friend, and longtime indie musician and songwriter with bands including Drunken Barn Dance and Saturday Looks Good To Me. After the show, he encouraged Britton and I to work on a stripped-down, guitar and percussion project. We wanted to add in the keyboard percussion element since we felt it was highly unique and added something new to the singer-songwriter genre. Once we started rehearsing with the marimba, it unleashed a flood of inspiration, and we fell in love with the combination of textures.
The name “The New Benjamin Britton” is a light hearted reference to both of our first names and their phonetic similarity to the famous British composer Benjamin Britten.
What was the last song you listened to?
“Either Way” by Wilco from “Sky Blue Sky”
Who or what influences your style? Have your tastes change from when you were younger until now?
We work in so many genres it’s tough to pick a single source of influence. For this band in particular I would say the main artists we lean towards directionally are Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, and Belle and Sebastian. And of course no one ever escapes or outgrows their Beatles influence.
Certainly my tastes have changed considerably from when I was younger. Then I liked more straight ahead pop and rock, especially classic rock. I’ve since acquired a taste for extended funk jams, classic soul, jazz from early 1920s to the avant garde, modern and atonal orchestral and chamber music, and indie singer-songwriters, among countless other genres.
How big of a role does the web / social media play in your music career? Connecting with fans? Any challenges?
A huge role. I don’t think any band today can grow without embracing social media. Whether you love it or hate it, social media is the most immediate and utilitarian way to connect directly to large numbers of people, both in broad swathes and in quite targeted ways. We get excited as each new person connects with us through these channels and enjoys the music. Music is meant to be shared and social media enables and democratizes that like nothing else that has ever existed.
Do you actively perform? Any tours? Where can people see you live?
We do actively perform mainly in the tri-state area around New York, though we’ve taken a multi-month furlough to finish up our debut album. Our last tour was through the midwest, focused in Michigan and Illinois (a live clip here), but we don’t have a new one scheduled currently. However, we do keep an active gigging schedule; usually in Brooklyn, Philly, Jersey, or other usual local suspects. If you can’t make that, watch for frequent live footage postage on YouTube! And hopefully a more extensive tour later this year.
Where can we grab your music? Buy a CD? Where can we connect with you online?
We are in the process of scheduling the release date of our debut album “Raise A Glass Broken Land” … it will be mid-summer but exact date is still being coordinated. However in the interim, you can stream it for free on our website (benjaminbritton.net). If you just can’t wait (who could) and want an advance copy of the CD (full disclosure: they are REALLY cool!), email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll mail one to you. The best way to connect with us is on Facebook: facebook.com/newbenbritton. From there you’ll get lots of updates, videos, musings, and the occasional gratuitous picture of our (very cute) puppy. It’s also the best way to stay on top of our new CD release, which will head to all major digital retailers including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, Rhapsody, and pretty much anything else you can think of.
Any last thoughts? Shout outs?
Extra special thanks to all our friends and fans here in Brooklyn and NYC – and we still get a thrill out of being the most unorthodox ensemble in most NYC clubs we play.
Read more at http://www.midtnmusic.com/interview-with-the-new-benjamin-britton/#O6jOOHIVPkSpCHJd.99”
- Joshua Smotherman
“Creating a microcosmic orchestra within each song is an impressive feat to achieve. As a result, New York indie-folk musicians The New Benjamin Britton are gaining widespread attention with their use of percussion rhythmic in the release of their debut eight-track album, Raise A Glass Broken Land.
Combining a vast instrumental array of keyboards, guitars, a vibraphone and marimba, Ben Cockerham and Britton Matthews provide unique pairings of sounds that are experimental by nature, but in practice provide an established and distinguished sound. Matthews can be credited for many of these clever combinations, having an extensive background in percussion, including a professional career as an orchestral and chamber percussionist in Manhattan.
While Matthews pairs timpani with keyboards and snare drums with xylophones, Cockerham tackles the band’s eight-string guitar. Utilising a replica Novax custom guitar created for jazz funk guitarist Charlie Hunter, Matthews has undertaken the long and dedicated process of practically re-learning how to play a guitar. It is a feat that he told Middle Tennessee Music he could not have achieved without an ‘undying love of instruments and music.’
It is not only the instruments that the duo has fallen in love with. Both a couple off and on the stage, Matthews and Cockerham have time to practice and perfect their rhythm together. By having such close proximity with one another, it is evident to see how much time the pair has invested in their music. Raise A Glass Broken Land is a well-established concept, lyrically engaging and musically executed with commendable precision.
Described as of a similar sound to folk-rock musician Paul Simon, and indie-folk singer/songwriter Sufjan Stevens, the band’s first track of the album, “Underprepared” echoes the stylistic capabilities of these artists. “Underprepared” is a bit of a misnomer for the band, which appear to seamlessly produce a well-constructed mix of mellowed vibraphone undertones contrasted with the piercing nature of Cockerham’s strong voice.
It is difficult to ignore the upbeat and relaxed tempo of The New Benjamin Britton’s work. The use of vibraphone in particular connotes feelings of exotic, faraway places to which the mind can escape. The richness of Cockerham’s vocals is unique when compared to other folk singers, enchanting the listener to continue through the eight-track compilation.
Tracks Come Into The Moment and Long Distance Salvation tie in well with Underprepared in a flow-on sound, and overall, the album fits together in what seems like a complete package. The use of percussion instruments causes The New Benjamin Britton to stand out amongst their competitors.
With the release of Raise A Glass Broken Land, the band are now turning to touring. TNBB are planning a lengthy tour across America’s mid-west for later in the year, and in the meantime the band will be touring locally near their hometown of Brooklyn to eager fans.
Raise A Glass Broken Land is now available for download on iTunes and websiteCDBaby.com. Fans can also stream the album via the band’s website atwww.benjaminbritton.net.”
- Lily Pavlovic
“Music is supposed to be fun. Yes, there are times when an artist needs to focus and use their technical skill to prove their worth, but when you have the skills and can truly enjoy yourself, that is when the real magic of music takes hold. We recently discovered a band that fits this mold well. Let us introduce you to The New Benjamin Britton.
The duo is made up of Ben Cockerham on vocals and 8 string guitar along with Britton Matthews on vocals, vibraphone, marimba, and a host of other percussive instruments. Their fresh take on indie folk has been getting them some grand attention in the NYC underground scene. Remaining minimalistic while using unique instruments and incorporating pop, jazz, and even classical genres has set them apart from the masses of coffee house players.
The New Benjamin Britton is set to release their debut album Raise A Glass Broken Land on July 23rd, 2013. Indie Band Guru was able to get a sneak listen to some tracks and has had the songs stuck in his head ever since. The first song ‘Underprepared’ starts with a marimba line that lets you know right off the bat that this is something different. Ben’s vocal style is warm and welcoming and sounds as if he is singing just for you. The mish mosh of sound is very impressive coming from only 2 people. ‘Come Into The Moment’ has more of a pop feel but still stays strange enough to stay unique in its style. On ‘Long Distance Salvation’ I was reminded of the glory days of Elvis Costello and his innovative vocal tone. These are songs for the happy go lucky times when you need a smile on your face. I suggest you turn that frown upside down and go take a listen for yourself at: www.benjaminbritton.net”
- Keith Pro