Benhur

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  • Toronto Teardown: Benhur

    This show was on Nov 29th, 2014 | 3 people watched
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Bio

The biggest compliment Ben Nissan has received on the music he has created for the new Benhur album, Between Flower and Hive, is that it sounds so different from music currently in vogue in clubs and
on radio.

Nissan, the band's musical architect and inspiration, has created a unique musical de tour force with Benhur, as the band combines a seemingly incongruous blend of styles... more

The biggest compliment Ben Nissan has received on the music he has created for the new Benhur album, Between Flower and Hive, is that it sounds so different from music currently in vogue in clubs and
on radio.

Nissan, the band's musical architect and inspiration, has created a unique musical de tour force with Benhur, as the band combines a seemingly incongruous blend of styles to form a brilliant and eminently memorable auditory experience. Benhur's songs meld ¬sensitive, acoustic-based singer/songwriter lyrics and melodies and hard rocking guitars with a dynamic, hip-shaking Latin beat creating a distinctive musical entity that is being embraced by fans of all genres.

The seven tracks on Between Flower and Hive, while representing a broad range of moods and modes of expression, are brought together into a cohesive whole thanks to the poignant depth of Nissan's lyrics and the remarkable musicianship of his bandmates: guitarist Steve Frise, drummer Mateus Macedo and Danilo Baracho on bass.

In 2008 Nissan self-produced an album called Tryst. It was his first foray into the music business, after building a career as a lawyer. But unsatisfied with this first attempt, he spent the next few years looking for both musical inspiration, and the right musicians with which to collaborate. The arduous process paid off as the three men brought in to Benhur are not only sublimely capable players but human beings of superior quality, both of which has created a special spirit amongst the quartet.

"We have a very close friendship, and I really think that helps the band because everyone is invested emotionally. I think the emotional connection between musicians is crucial to the success of a band," said Nissan, who remarked on how each band member is decidedly unique.

"Mateus is a technically proficient drummer. He has amazing timing but also great feel. Danilo is very passionate, the heart of the band. He just loves life, loves everyone and is very creative. And Steve is a combination of the two: he's super creative, super technical and one of the best guitarists I have come across in Toronto. They each have these very different personalities that blend together beautifully,"
said Nissan.

"Steve has played heavy guitar all his life, so he brings the distortion and power to the band – a really heavy rock element. Mateus and Danilo grew up in Brazil, and bring this funky, groovy, reggae thing to the band, which is amazing considering they are the rhythm section. And I lean towards writing somewhat somber, acoustic-driven, singer/songwriter style songs. Combine all that, and it becomes this thing that sounds really cool and certainly different than a lot of what you hear these days."

The songs on Between Flower and Hive were written by Nissan, and then interpreted by the rest of the band. What results is an album that features a startling variety of moods, but also a remarkable thematic consistency, especially lyrically.

"We wanted songs that are really positive, that are about enjoying life, appreciating life. And for me, it's about thinking about life. Have you really thought about this thing, this crazy thing called life? That's how I approached it," Nissan said.

"The song Along the Way is about being musicians and about being along the way to something you're dreaming about, and trying to accomplish. I write a lot about music itself. If you're a musician and lyricist you're writing about things that are very important to you, and hopefully music is really important to you.

Nissan described the rocker Secret Enemy as a kind of passive-aggressive turn on the traditional break-up song.

"It's both a sensitive and insensitive way of letting someone go. It's saying 'I am hurting you more than you realize.' And there's a connection to music because the lyrics say I know you want me, but this needs me more. And 'this' is music. Whereas Lay Me Down is softer and more melancholic and is about letting go in a different way. My girlfriend's father passed away. It's about the dying person saying that you need to let them go," he said.

Nissan and Benhur decided that they also wanted to work with a top producer and in a first-rate studio. Respected veteran engineer/producer Ian Bodzasi, who has worked with Sam Roberts, The Tea Party, Sum 41 and Nelly Furtado among others, has been able to make the band sound tight on record, but without compromising any of the energy, passion and dynamism that typifies Benhur's live shows.

"We wanted to go into a big studio and Ian had been the head engineer at Metalworks for a number of years before going freelance. He knew the studio really well. And he loves to capture what a band actually sounds like. He wants the recording to be as authentic as it can be. And I think he has done an amazing job. What you hear on the album is close to what you hear when you see us live."

Nissan also good-naturedly addresses an issue that will no doubt arise as the band's popularity and public profile continues to ascend – the name.

Movie fans know of the Hollywood Epic Ben-Hur, starring Charlton Heston, which was based on a famous Christian novel penned in the late 19th century by a former Civil War general.

Ben said his real birth name really is Benhur, therefore there are no copyright issues. He said he began this project under his name Ben Nissan, but later decided this project should be The Benhur Band after awakening from a particularly potent dream.

"In the dream I was on stage and thousands of people were chanting 'Benhur.' Not long after I woke up, my mother called out of the blue and said she thought I should name the band Benhur, and then an hour after that my sister called and said the same thing. I brought it to the rest of the guys in the band, and normally a band name evokes a lot of debate, but they just said, 'yeah, let's do it.' So I guess it was meant to be," said Nissan.

Most assuredly, with the release of Between Flower and Hive, and a subsequent tour, the name Benhur will be on the lips of music critics, insiders and fans alike.

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