Noosa, Australia-born, London-based twin siblings Toma and Andy Benjamin grew up in a musical home, and as a result they wound up joining the local church band when they were teenagers. Coincidentally, that same church band was where the Banjamins met their future Tempesst bandmates Kane Reynolds and Blake Mispeka.
The Banjamin Brothers eventually left home and discovered a whole new world of music, ideas and ways of living that weren’t part of their previous purview: after a short stint in the UK, the Banjamins wound up in Brooklyn, where they soaked up the DIY ethos of the late 2000s Williamsburg scene. They started to develop their own ideas, starting home recording projects initially inspired by Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Wings, Electric Light Orchestra and others.
After a year in Brooklyn, an expiring visa forced the Banjamins to relocate to Hackney, where they hunkered down and got serious about writing and recording material. They recruited Swiss-American Eric Weber (guitar) and reconnected with their fellow Aussies Reynolds and Mispeka — and at that point, the rising London-based indie act Tempesst started.
Unsurprisingly, the need to practice, write and record in a city like London helped facilitate the creation of their own studio. “We started out with a basic production studio that Tom kept at his house but one of the biggest challenges in London is that you can’t make noise,” the band’s Andy Banjamin recalls. “So we began looking for a rehearsal space and came across this warehouse, which was way bigger than anything we were looking for but got us wondering about what it would actually take to set up a proper studio.”
Naming the space Pony Studios, the band started to convert the warehouse into multiple studio rooms and practice spaces. Simultaneously, the band started Pony Recordings, which helped changed the way the band had approached their work. “These days artists are expected to do so much themselves and we have always been slight control freaks anyway,” Andy Banjamin says in press notes. “DIY is part of everything that we do, so that extends to our label, the studio, the videos, all of it and really it’s just how the indie music scene has evolved.” Toma Banjamin adds “With the studio, we have time to work on all the key things that have become quintessential to our sound but also experiment and add an element of surprise, whether that is a weird synth solo or a key change. It’s those little departures that keep the listener on their toes.”
After releasing a handful of critically applauded, buzz worthy singles and EPs, the Aussie-born, British-based members of Tempesst will be releasing their highly anticipated full-length debut, the Eliot Heinrich co-produced Must Be a Dream. Slated for a September 30, 2020 release through the band’s own Pony Recordings, Tempesst’s full-length debut reportedly finds the band boldly taking a step forward with their songwriting and their sound. Generally leaning towards folk-tinged psychedelia, the album’s material nods at Spiritualized, The Flaming Lips, and The Beach Boys — but with a modern melodic sensibility.
Sonically, the material is deceptive: complex musical ideas are centered around seemingly simple melodies. Seemingly sun-kissed, the album thematically explores themes of longing, love, loss, substance abuse, the death of loved ones — and yet remembering the beauty just underneath all of it. “This record is the first time that I feel like I’ve had the uninterrupted ability to create and have full control at our own pace,” Toma Banjamin says in press notes. “With this LP, we’ve created something we’re really proud of that truly cements our identity as a group. The joy of taking these songs live is something that we’re really excited about.”
Earlier this year, I wrote about Must Be A Dream‘s first single, the Brit Pop meets psych psych rock “On The Run,” a track centered around shimmering and reverb drenched guitars, layered vocal harmonies, an enormous hook and Toma Benjamin’s serpentine-like vocals. And while superficially being a sun-kissed, summery anthem, the song is actually much darker, as the song thematically focuses on substance abuse, death and the loss of innocence — that feels haunted by the weight of heartache. “High On My Own,” the album’s third and latest single sounds as though it draws influence from Electric Light Orchestra, The Beach Boys and Primal Scream, as the song is centered by a motorik groove, shimmering guitars and a soaring hook within an expansive song structure. But underneath the trippy, feel good vibes the song finds its narrator — and in turn, the band — juxtaposing their lives with those of their peers back home. Recognizing that settling down and having the family life at this moment isn’t for them, the song’s narrator does the brave thing — setting their own path in their own way.
“I grew up near Noosa, a small beach town in Australia. In my town, a 30 year old man was typically a family man, with a normal job, a mortgage etc.,” the band’s Toma Banjamin explains. “The kind of guy who had a balanced life and what seemed to be contentment as a byproduct. These guys had beliefs, they lived by a code that guided each decision with a brand of certainty that I envy and in my subconscious, this archetype framed the kind of firm identity one should expect to acquire by age 30. A couple of decades on, here I am, 30, still wandering, without the beliefs or certainty I expected to have.”