By Anthony J. Machcinski
Not everyone has the opportunity to have The Killers, Louis Prima, Lionel Richie, or the Fray play at their wedding or at a local club. The Benjamins are able to incorporate some of that plus more into their shows.
Created in 1999, The Benjamins, consisting of vocalist Joe DeGennaro and his brother bass player Ben DeGennaro, drummer Jeremy Mykietyn, and guitarist Cory Pensa have entertained thousands of people through a mix of cover songs and original material.
“We did originals first with other original bands,” explained Mykietyn about becoming a cover band. “We wanted to do something where we could make a career out of it.”
“Honestly, Joe came up with the name,” Mykietyn said. “I guess the easiest way to say it was that it was kind of slang for hundred dollar bills, so we went with that.”
Nonetheless, the band members don’t consider money-making their sole reason for playing; rather, there is a personal enjoyment that comes from being a musician, the band says.
“I enjoy playing,” Mykietyn said. “It doesn’t really matter whether it’s covers or originals. But there’s a satisfaction that you get from playing your own stuff.”
Despite the satisfaction, Mykietyn points out one trait that all successful cover bands have.
“It’s also the cover band who tries to do covers in their own way and bring a different light to the different covers they do,” Mykietyn explained, whose favorite songs to cover are offerings from Rihanna and LMFAO.
Mykietyn’s favorite songs show the diversity that the band has in their cover material. In a wedding medley that the band put together on their website, the band showcases several songs, including “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail” by Louis Prima, “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, and “Over My Head” by The Fray, all with a bit of added influence from The Benjamins. The songs have the band’s own interpretation, but still keep true to the original versions of the song.
While the band has made a name for itself off of its cover material, The Benjamins’ original material is just as good, if not better.
The song “Again”, off of the band’s first CD “GO”, is a gritty piece of music that resembles the toughness of Alice and Chains with the upbeat feel of Bon Jovi. The chemistry of the four band members shines bright, as there is a feel of balance throughout the song. This chemistry is not easily achieved, and when it is, crowds appreciate the result.
No show of appreciation was larger for Mykietyn than when the band played Starland Ballroom in 2007. Opening for rock group Third Eye Blind, The Benjamins were able to play their own songs in front of a large crowd.
“On the original side of things, the place that holds fond memories is playing at Starland Ballroom,” Mykietyn explained. “Just being in front of all those people, it was one of those type of moments.”
As the band continues to progress, The Benjamins hope to create a new group with the same members that keeps their original songs separated from their work as a cover band.
“Changing the name will make it easier for those who look to book us,” explained Mykietyn. “People wonder if it’s an original band or if it’s a cover band.”
The band’s new name won’t be released until the new album comes out, but in the interim they’ll still be plenty busy.
“We’re definitely going to be writing some more,” Mykietyn said. “Our plan for 2012 is to come up with more original stuff.”
To purchase music from The Benjamins, go to their website at www.thebenjamins.net. After playing the Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst, The Benjamins will move throughout Central and South New Jersey before returning to the area when the band plays the Whiskey Bar in Hoboken.