Alex Necochea and Bryn Bennett: the 'Guitar Heroes' of Bang Camaro
Monday, October 8, 2007
When a fan connects with a band, it's often during moments like a drive down a highway at night reflecting on some aspect of his or her life; sitting at home after a fight with a girlfriend; singing in the shower; or celebrating at a party with her friends. Music becomes a soundtrack to an individual's life, and a connection with the musician forms when the listener is able to peg a perfect moment or feeling to a song. Boston-based mega-member rock group Bang Camaro's fan base claims a different level of interaction: they often have learned to play their music before they ever had a moment associated with it. Bang Camaro found fame on the video game Guitar Hero II, where an aspiring rock god uses a guitar-shaped peripheral to play rock music as notes scroll towards him on the screen.
Wikinews reporter David Shankbone journeyed to the Bowery Ballroom to talk to the two founding members of Bang Camaro, Alex Necochea and Bryn Bennett. But when MTV.com shows up at the same time as Wikinews to do an interview, the band must split up. Below is our conversation with Necochea about touring, influence, politics, throwing his corpse out of a plane and flatulent women.
David Shankbone: How's the tour going?
- Alex Necochea: The tours is going great! We just played in Poughkeepsie last night with the OCC house band.
DS: Poughkeepsie, huh?
- AN: Yeah! [Laughs] Poughkeepsie, it's kind of a dark town. Not much of a built-in crowd there.
DS: What kind of crowd is there?
- AN: From what I could tell, we played for a lot of Guitar Hero fans and people who heard about us through friends of friends, or came across us on MySpace. That sort of thing. But for the most part a lot of the kids we meet are anywhere between...well, I guess at a club like that they have to be over 18, but usually they are just much younger kids who are video game fans, who have heard about us through Guitar Hero II.
DS: What's that like to have a fan base that comes from primarily video games? Have you noticed a difference between being known as a local band playing in your city and being known through video games? How would you compare the audience?
- AN: It's different. In our hometown it started off as just a big word of mouth thing. We had twenty guys in the band, so everybody had friends-of-friends. We started a groundswell that way. But when we get out of town, not in New York so much, but when we go to Chicago and Milwaukee and places like that they generally tend to be much younger people. It's a really big thrill for Bryn and I in that we are meeting kids who are just like us: young video game fans, aspiring musicians, usually males who picked up guitars. They come to us and say, 'Nobody plays guitar anymore like you guys do!' or 'My parents used to listen to music like that!' It's just a big thrill for us to meet young kids like that who remind us of ourselves when we were kids.
DS: How does it feel to be looked-up to by the kids, by America's future?
- AN: [Laughs] It's terrifying! [Laughs]
DS: Do you see parents at the show?
- AN: Oh, yeah, oh yeah. Parents with their kids—
DS: That must reduce the crotch grabbing.
- AN: [Laughs] Yeah, a little bit of macho posturing. I tell you man, it's a really big thrill, just to go out and play in towns we've never been to. Kids come out and they know all the songs. We've had situations where we've played New York and girls are in the front row singing along to our guitar solos. Like, wow...we're on stage playing and we can hear them singing back at us. Something else Bryn and I have noticed is at larger festival shows when we get to the end of our shows we play Push Push Lady Lightning, the kids would just light up and start air guitaring! But not actually playing air guitar, but playing air guitar hero--like, they knew where all the notes were!
DS: Which is a lot different for audiences of many bands.
- AN: Absolutely! I can't imagine other bands having the same experience, because we come from such a unique perspective that a large part of our music is driven by the instrumentals, and that sort of thing.
DS: Your fans are so engaged with your music, far more than most bands have. Most bands they have fans who feel their music speaks to them, but your fans can say, 'I learned to play guitar on your shit and not on Eleanor Rigby!'
- AN: It's an honor. It's still unbelievable to me. I had a message from a friend of mine who was at Guitar Center and he heard one of the kids cranking out one of our songs when he was trying out the guitar. To me, it's like we made it.
DS: At this point of your career, you're not playing stadiums, but you're also not playing Otto's Tiki Lounge on a Tuesday night. When you reflect upon it, what do you think about?
- AN: In the past two years, since Bryn and I started this project, we've both been playing in bands locally in Boston for years. We had some mixed success, we played large venues in and around Boston. We got to the point where we said fuck it, we just want to have some fun and we'd laugh a lot going over old Ozzy Osbourne stuff we listened to as kids, just giggle about it. Bang Camaro started that way, something for us to do and invite our friends to come sing on it. Now, just two years later, it's amazing what happens when you stop trying. It's something not contrived or born of any desire to reach an audience. We just did it for fun, and that spoke to people more than anything else we worked on.
DS: Do you have other areas of your life where you've been able to apply that?
- AN: [Laughs] You mean as an ethos? Don't try? [Laughs] You know, not really. I have found the greatest success in the things I have put most of my effort into. This band has been a complete unique experience in that respect, at least in terms of trying to forge a 'career in music.' Bryn and I had gotten to the point where we thought maybe this wasn't the way to go. Bryn was going to go back to his career as a video game programmer and I was just going to find something else to do. So not really, I don't really apply that in any other portion of my life.
DS: What are some dream projects you'd like to work on?
- AN: As a musician, obviously for me it would be to meet and work with some heroes of mine since I was a kid. Like Mutt Lang; he always made my favorite records. At the same time, it has also been a dream of mine to meet people like Mark Linkous of Sparklehorse. Those guys made honest sort of rock n' roll, for lack of a better comparison, the way people like John Lennon or Bob Dylan would. To me those are the artists of my generation. It would be my dream one just to meet those guys and two just to work with them on some level. I'd also be lying to say that it would just be my dream to take this project with twenty of my best friends and take it as far as we can take it. So far in my life it's been the most rewarding thing.
DS: In the creative process it's so difficult to be original today. Everything has been done. Do you ever let that trip you up, the Simpsons Did It problem?
- AN: No, not really. I found I would end up falling into that cycle playing in indie rock bands, just trying to come up with the next thing, like Radiohead they stopped using guitars and things like that. Trying to kick the ball forward a little bit instead of kicking it side to side. With this band we don't get hung up on that. We originally just started it as a celebration of the things we loved when we were kids. We're not out here trying to reinvent the wheel. We're fortunate in that when we were putting the project together we wanted that big vocal sound. What set us apart was how we went about doing that. We just invited all of our friends because we didn't want to multi track everything ourselves. Soon after we had to figure out how to pull it off live, and people would approach and say 'we heard you have this crazy project with all these people.' The project grew into the live monster it is out of necessity. We're not rich people, we don't have refrigerators and the big tour bus. Speaking of dreams, maybe one day we'll have a tour bus. For now, we travel in two very smelly vans.
DS: If you could choose your own death, how would you die?
- AN: [Laughs] I would want to steal what I heard a mutual friend of ours said. He said when he died--it's not how he died, but this is what I heard--he said when he's dead, he wants his corpse to be dressed up like Superman and thrown out of an airplane. I thought that would be fitting. But I'm not ready to think about death, not just yet.
- AN: I would call us anthem rock. We're really not heavy metal. I think our focus is more on writing great singles, as best as we can make them. Pop music. That's just something Bryn and I grew up on. We're big fans of melody and big driving hooks, that sort of thing.
- AN: I would say half and half. Our influences don't just stop with hair metal and things like that. We draw on things like Thin Lizzy, Boston, bands like that. Not necessarily virtuosic sort of musicianship, but things that are put together. We like to spend the time when we are writing our songs that we are taking all the extraneous crap out of it. We just want to make good, hook-drive pop music.
DS: Does the war in Iraq affect you artistically at all?
- AN: [Laughs] No, not at all. No, you could say I'm just like everybody else. I read the paper and blogs, and I'm just as horrified as everybody else. I'm definitely not a fan of this war.
- AN: Oh, the fight was definitely in Afghanistan. Iraq was a much different animal.
DS: Are you more inspired by things in nature or things that are man made?
- AN: I would probably have to go with nature. I'm a student of science. I have a degree in environmental geology. When I was 19/20 years old I went through all the regular existential questions people that age go through: why am I here and my place in the universe, that sort of thing.
DS: Did you answer any of them?
- AN: Oh, God! I play rock guitar in a twenty man band!
DS: That's important for a lot of people - you see your audience. You're giving a lot of inspiration to a lot of people. You don't know who you might be inspiring to pursue music.
- AN: [Laughs] Oh, kids, don't be like me! I would definitely go with nature over man made.
DS: What's your favorite curse word?
- AN: Fuck.
DS: What's your favorite euphemism for breasts?
- AN: Big guns.
DS: Have you used that recently?
- AN: Actually, I think I did use that in the last week, and no comment.
DS: I read that you named the band after fast women and fast cars.
- AN: [Laughs] Who told you that? No, Bang Camaro were two words out of the English language that were the two sexiest words we could think of. We put them together and they roll off the tongue. Bang Camaro. It says a lot more than it means.
DS: What sort of qualities do you look for in a woman?
- AN: I need a girl who is going to make me laugh. I need a woman who is smarter than I am. A woman who will always keep me guessing. Absolutely. Calling me out for my own jerky bullshit. I like a girl who is fiercely independent, knows what she wants, and doesn't need me.
- AN: Oh, man, I'm going to get in a lot of trouble for saying Obama. I would probably go with Obama. There's just something in his rhetoric and his oratory that is a lot more inspiring than Hillary. Hillary, to me, represents not much of a changing of the guard.
DS: What would be the greatest of misfortunes to befall you?
- AN: [Chuckles] Oh, if I were to die alone. No, probably one of my greatest fears is injuring or maiming any of my appendages, to be honest.
DS: Do you have any special things you do to make sure you don't injure or lose an appendage?
- AN: [Chuckles] I don't keep my hands in my pockets when I am running down stairs.
DS: That's a conscious choice?
- AN: Yes, that's a conscious choice.
DS: What if you are just walking down stairs?
- AN: [Chuckles] You can't realign the stars, man. Shit will happen, shit will happen.
DS: What possession do you treasure most?
- AN: That's a good question. Probably my cat. I love my cat more than anything.
DS: What's your cat's name?
- AN: Sadie.
DS: Like Sexy Sadie?
- AN: Yeah, like Sexy Sadie. That's exactly what I named her after. Big John Lennon fan, so I couldn't resist.
DS: What trait do you deplore most in other people?
- AN: I'm a lover, not a fighter. Jealousy, greed. But I try to look for the best in everybody. Who knows.
DS: What do you think are the greatest threats to humanity?
- AN: Humanity itself. You can typically read anywhere that humanity is a virus, a plague, on Mother Earth. I really think the greatest threat to humanity is not a meteor or comet hurtling toward the planet, it's us. We'll be our own undoing. Bad politics, the spread of...oh, man, I could get in trouble...
DS: Who would you get in trouble with?
- AN: No, I don't know who I could get in trouble with. But I definitely think that capitalism is something that having gone unchecked for so long isn't doing right in delivering civil freedom. It's not delivering on its promises. Then again, I play in a rock band and people come pay to see me. I understand it works on both levels.
DS: What would be a bigger turn-off in bed: a woman who spoke in a baby voice, or someone who was overly flatulent?
- AN: Oh God! I'd go with the baby talk, man.
DS: You'd prefer the baby talk?
- AN: No, I would go with the flatulent woman. At least she's real.
DS: Have you ever been faced with either scenario?
- AN: No, I don't think women should be flatulent.
DS: At all? Not even if she lets out a little giggle afterwards?
- AN: Yeah, well, so be it.
DS: What if she was really flatulent?
- AN: Like, extremely flatulent? I'd go more for the flatulence. Baby talk...that's a real boner killer. Sorry, man.
DS: And you've never had a baby talker?
- AN: No, not since high school.
DS: In high school?
- AN: Oh, yeah. She had to go.
DS: What if she was Dutch oven flatulent?
- AN: Is it really one or the other? Can I just go gay?
DS: You can always go gay. It's the new millennium.
- AN: Yeah, well, I'd probably end up with a baby-talking overly flatulent man, I'm sure.