Benck and The Robbers:
story by tim
Lazy-i: June 20, 2007
Sarah Benck and The Robbers
w/Scott Severin and The Milton Burlesque
Friday, June 22
The Waiting Room
6212 Maple St.
In an era
when hotties of questionable talent -- Christina, Britney, Mandy
-- are deified as modern-day divas with the millions and the bling
to prove it, Sarah Benck is the real deal.
attractive, with a voice that's pure American Idol finalist. Add
to that the fact that she can actually write music and play an
instrument and you'd think every suit on Sunset Blvd. would be
tripping over his coke spoon for a chance to turn her into the
next Christina Aguilera. All it would take is for Benck to give
herself up to them, body and soul, something that she's not willing
against my nature to bend over and take it from anyone,"
she said, surrounded by her band The Robbers, sipping java at
Caffeine Dreams. "I understand compromises have to be made
to a certain extent, and I'm willing to do that, but I don't want
dub beats added to my music."
around. Though this incarnation of The Robbers has only been together
for about a year, there's already a family vibe to the group,
with Benck playing the role of the sweet, red-headed little sister.
Bassist James Carrig and guitarist Jason Ferguson go back five
years with Benck to their days in The Rex Granite Band. Drummer
Scott "Zip" Zimmerman is the new guy, but has played
alongside them in other projects for just as long.
So it's no
surprise that her guys support Benck's wish to avoid the Hollywood
star-making machine, content merely to play live and release new
material like their upcoming self-released full-length, Neighbor's
Garden, the follow-up to 2005's Suicide Doublewide.
the new album, Benck continues to lean on a voice that's equal parts
Bonnie, Ricki, Joni and Joss (to put a modern spin on it), sung
over tunes that are equal parts Van Morrison, Black Crowes and Spin
Doctors. At the age 23, Benck's voice is still growing, though it's
already bigger than her 5-foot nothing frame. The fact that the
music lies somewhere between Americana, R&B, chick pop and good-time
rock is surprising and respectable, especially since she's well
aware that she's doing it from the heart of indie. Benck never caters
to the mode o' day of the Creek/indie/slacker nation -- where Omaha
just happens to be the capitol -- and that's just the way she wants
it -- preferring pop to pap.
And pop is exactly
what you get, with a title track that kicks off like every Jackson
5 tune you remember from the '70s, that is until Benck cuts in with
her brassy Raitt-ish croon, singing lyrics not about a secret love
child, but a Boston Terrier named Coco. The rabbit reference was
a dead give-away.
That jazzy R&B
bounce her fans have come to expect permeates most of the album.
"Dump the Truck" and "Dig Your Grave" ride a
cushion of bar-room beats, while "What You Got" slides
in some gospel organ that compliment's Benck's best Aretha.
however, are the slower numbers whose bare arrangements leave her
voice stripped to the bone. "Good Man," rolls like down-beat
early Ricki Lee Jones, while "Once A Week" channels Ladies
of the Canyon-era Joni -- Benck with an acoustic guitar trips up
and down her vocal ladder in awkward increments unafraid to reveal
the limits of her reach. At just over two and a half minutes, the
track is the disc's finest, most honest moment. Disc closer "I
Can Still," with its saucy line "I can still smell you
on my skin" is pure obsession. Benck won't say who the Casanova
is that she'd "walk for miles in my bare feet" just to
want that person to think that I was that infatuated with him at
the time, because he kind of blew me off," Benck said. "I
wouldn't want him to know the song was about him." She insists
all the men in her songs remain nameless to protect their innocence
(whether they're innocent or not).
Garden is a pop-soul gem that has "commercial accessibility"
written all over it. Too bad it likely won't get heard outside of
our little borough. Despite conquering the Omaha scene -- Suicide
sold nearly 3,000 copies from the stage or through Homer's -- Benck
and Co. have no plans to stray from the same formula that has netted
them only obscurity beyond I-80.
have a business model," said guitarist Ferguson. "We're
the anti-trying-to-make-it band. Everyone has this perception that
Sarah's going to be the next big thing, but we're not on the phone
calling labels begging to get signed."
said the band will continue to do what it's done the past two years
-- play anywhere and everywhere it can
in the tri-state area.
"She's established herself in her own town with two strong
CDs," he said. "The sky's the limit. Getting the CD in
the right hands, that's the next stage, I suppose."
the anti-trying-to-make-it band. Everyone has this perception
that Sarah's going to be the next big thing, but we're not
on the phone calling labels begging to get signed."
it's frustrating to see people succeed who I think have such
little talent, and who are only popular because of their image
or their willingness to compromise and completely surrender."
indie bands that rabidly send demos to perspective labels in a doomed
fishing expedition, the thought of blindly mailing CDs to record
companies never crossed Benck's mind, until now. "I never felt
you could send something out to a label unsolicited. It's a waste
of time, especially with the amount of competition these days,"
hopes to work her local connections, like Homer's president Mike
Fratt, who she believes has a natural link to labels. "He's
been mentioning us for years," she said. "I think that's
what it takes -- people in the community with connections who really
believe in you."
us back to, of all places, American Idol. If there's one local talent
that could do well in that competition it's Benck, who would have
no problem making scowling Simon Cowell a believer.
principal of the thing," Benck said, slightly agitated by the
idea. "They're singing cover songs. Even if you were a songwriter
and played an instrument, it wouldn't matter. They're selling an
image, a puppet.
trained the general population into believing what pop music is
supposed to be -- people who don't play instruments, don't write
their own music, and have no knowledge or skill to do either.
it's frustrating to see people succeed who I think have such little
talent, and who are only popular because of their image or their
willingness to compromise and completely surrender," Benck
added. "Everyone knows we're a real band. We've all played
music most of our lives."
In the end,
neither Benck nor The Robbers seem in a hurry to take the next step.
All four have day-jobs at Dietz Music, and all four can tour if
Benck (or someone) ever books a tour -- a task that she said goes
against her introverted personality.
band I've been in has dreamed of getting on a label and touring,"
said drummer Zimmerman. "We'll do it when we can, and go on
the road when we can. It's not the focus. The focus is on just playing
Published in The Omaha Reader June 20, 2007.
Copyright © 2007 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.