Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sound and Vision: My Interview with The Morning Benders

I discovered The Morning Benders after SXSW last year when I stumbled upon the slew of great indie bands out of the Los Angeles and Northern CA areas . Based out of Berkeley, CA, theirs is a sound that is most comparable to sunny Britpop but with a distinctive edginess.

Lead singer/songwriter/guitarist Chris Chu started the band by himself initially, armed with just a computer and a guitar. He then added drummer Julian Harmon, a childhood friend, and guitarist Joe Ferrell, whom he and Harmon met when they all worked at Disneyland in southern California. "Julian ran Mr. Toad's Wild Ride," said Chu, "Joe worked Pirates of the Caribbean. I was in the yogurt shop that was the only
place where you could buy pineapple yogurt." Bassist Tim Or is a more recent addition, though they claim Tim was a Disneyland worker as well. "He was maintenance," said Chu with a laugh.

Though young (all are in their early 20s), the Benders are that kind of contemplative smart that normally comes with a few years under your belt. You know how some people are said to have an old soul, where they may be young in age but seem to have a sense about them that makes them more mature somehow, sort of wise beyond their years? That's definitely one thing that kept popping into my head when talking to these four guys. I mean, how many members of rock bands typically read autobiographies of yogis and philosophy books by Bertram Russell? And all four have a wry, deadpan wit that kept me in stitches. You know what they say, it ain't the years, it's the miles that matter...

Only on the scene for a couple of years now, the Benders have already become a seasoned touring band, opening on major tours for The Kooks, Ra Ra Riot, and We Are Scientists. Having just finished a great book at about the time of our interview, (Petal Pusher by Laurie Lindeen), about a woman's experiences in a young indie band, I decided to get the Benders insights on whether the whole "indie rock band in a van" experience has changed much in last 20 years. Except for the prevalence of anti-lock brakes, air bags, and cell phones now, I think it's safe to say the answer is "Nope." It's not an easy existence, criss-crossing the country as a touring band, but The Morning Benders are clearly four guys who take their music seriously and settle in for a good laugh about the rest, all the while enjoying the ride.

(Chris Chu)

(Tim Or)

(Julian Harmon)

(Joe Ferrell)

(See the rest of The Morning Benders photos from the Black Cat show here)

((The Benders saying g'bye...)

(The Morning Benders latest release, Talking Through Tin Cans is out now, and they are currently out on tour with The Submarines. They're also playing a tons of places during this year's SXSW.)

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