4 To Watch: Benevento/Russo Duo

Music Features Benevento/Russo Duo

In conversation, Marco Benevento and Joe Russo are easygoing guys. They laugh easily, speak easily and politely respond to failed punch lines with encouraging phrases like “that’s classic.” The laidback vibe is a contrast to the way the two rip it up live, using only drums and keyboards.

Benevento and Russo developed the duo concept during a 2002 residency at the Knitting Factory in New York. “The gig only paid $100,” says Russo. “So I figured we could each make $50 a week.”

Benevento remembers the yearlong residency as a time when the two figured out how to sound like a quartet while remaining a duo. “Performing every Thursday,” he says, “not knowing what’s going to happen next, not knowing what songs you’re going to do, not knowing what Joe’s going to do—it was immediate learning.”

Using electronic effects to add colors and whimsy, the Benevento/Russo Duo began by performing instrumental covers by Radiohead, Led Zeppelin and others, achieving a huge sound. As the audiences expanded, and the group started performing nationally, they shifted to original compositions and live experimentation.

The Duo’s improvisational skills have earned it a solid jamband contingency. But Russo rejects the idea that the Duo itself is a jamband. “We’re an instrumental rock band that can improvise,” he declares. The Duo’s affiliation with ex-Phish bassist Mike Gordon might have something to do with the typecasting. Gordon sat in with the band last summer for what was originally intended as a one-off. But the results were immediate and Gordon continues to perform with the Duo (the “Trio?”) on special occasions. “It’s different from what Marco and I normally do,” says Russo, “and it’s different from what Mike normally does.”

Meanwhile, the Duo proper is turning heads with its national debut, Best Reason to Buy The Sun, one of the year’s most exciting breakout discs, and the Duo’s live reputation has guaranteed prime slots at festivals like Bonnaroo. With this kind of success, Benevento and Russo could afford to add guitars, bass, even horns and still make their $50 a week—but haven’t you heard? Less is more. Two is the new four.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin