Bye Benco are a little indie folk band from sunny South Africa. They recently released their debut album Space Elephant through Just Music. MEB staffer Craig Roxburgh recently caught up with the band and discussed their history, their name, the South African music scene and hipsters
Could you please give the Mind Equals Blown readers a brief history of the band?
Bye Beneco was established in 2012. We started gigging way before we should have, which definitely turned out to be a good thing. There used to be 5 of us, now there are 4 of us. We signed with Just Music in 2013 and released a demo disc (live recordings), an EP and have just launched our LP Space Elephant which is in stores and on iTunes now.
You guys are another one of South Africa’s underrated and hidden gems within the music scene. From an under-dogs perspective, what is the music scene like in South Africa?
Thank you. The scene is impressionable here. There are certain obvious limitations that may very well be worse in SA than elsewhere, but it excites us that the scene is young and asking for so much more than what exists at the moment. This makes us want to do something a little different I suppose. Objectively, it often occurs to us that South Africans tend to be blindly westernised. You find that people copy what other people are doing. Im not sure if it’s because it’s ‘safe’, or if the logic is that ‘If they’re doing it and it’s working, then it’ll work for me.’ Either way, we thought to take zero reference from the scene here and do something that came naturally.
People often say that if you’re a South African band, you’re not going to make it anywhere but now we have our home-grown heroes Seether playing overseas with the likes of Avenged Sevenfold. Die Antword, Goodluck is playing at the UK Holi One festival and Goldfish recently did a massive tour of the USA. Do you think that the statement still stands that South African bands are never going to make it?
Definitely not the truth. Yes, it’s harder. SA is still earning it’s spot on the map, but if you’re doing something that appeals to people, your geographic placement shouldn’t define the world’s reception of your music. You just have to work a little harder as a band. Stretch those feelers out and make friends in other places.
Bringing it closer to home, the South African music scene is jammed pack full of brilliant bands and each with their own unique sound.This is impressive considering that this is all happening within the limits of three or four cities. How is it that our musicians have managed to fill the music scene up with unique music when there are so many musicians? If you look at the UK or USA, you see a lot of bands sounding the same and they have a larger stage upon which to play.
Reverting to our answers 2 questions ago, We seldomly experience real refreshment and suprise in terms of ‘originality’ in SA’s music scene. Without getting detailed, I dont think there are enough unique groups out there. In bigger markets, the popular sounds may just be more obvious because the pool is much larger. But that’s not to say that there aren’t really dope groups coming out of SA. (See Bilderberg Motel)
Is it possible that a lot of international exposure early on in the local scene’s development would have resulted in a loss of that unique South African sound?
It is possible. I’m not sure though.
Bringing it back to the band, what is the story behind the name “Bye Beneco”?
We were at a train station in Port Elizabeth in 2011, and as we were waiting, a tall lady in a berka sat down next to us. We noticed she was crying, and it seemed as though our presence was unbeknown to her. In her left hand she had a black suitcase which she seemed very aware of – almost as if it were going to unlock itself and whatever was inside would wonder down the terminal on it’s own if she hadnt held it so tightly. In her right hand, a note. We were close enough to read the note she held. It read “Bye Beneco” and was signed. When the train arrived, we got on before her. As we stepped on, the woman lunged her suitcase through the door and onto the train. The old leather case slid across the floor and stopped on the back of Len’s heels. When Len turned to look what had landed at her feet, she found the bag. Loosely sloted into an open seem of the bag was also a ticket. The woman’s ticket for that very trip. She never borded the train, and we never looked in the bag.
Your sound is a very unique blend of blues, folk and indie rock. What music influences your sound?
As individuals out tastes vary from one another, but one thing we agree on is WuTang4Life.
What inspires and influences you to write songs?
Music does. The concept of creating something from nothing does.
Are there any particular themes you guys like to focus on in your music?
No, I wouldn’t think so, but I find that if you look into the lyrics, the girls are often portraying a wounded world with their words. That’s the only theme I could pick out if I was looking for one. There’s a healthy vagueness that lets the listener decide what the message is, and we like that.
You guys recently played the St. Lucia Park Acoustics concert alongside a wide range of local artists and the ever-so brilliant St Lucia. What was that like?
It was great. Park acoustics is always good for us. It just seems to flow. We get great responses from the people there, and of course, it’s very exciting when you’re on the same bill as a big international bands. We like playing there a lot.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
Finally, how do you feel about hipsters?