Interview: John Brown’s Body’s Tommy Benedetti

jbbI had a chance to check out The Black Seeds open for John Brown's Body last week at the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. (The groups just wrapped up a twelve-city US tour.) Before the show I sat down with John Brown's Body drummer Tommy Benedetti. He talked about touring with The Black Seeds, the band's new album, Amplify, and reuniting with a former bandmember.

Hailing from New Zealand, The Black Seeds have a strong kiwi following but had no trouble packing venues here in the states with their amazing reggae/soul sound. If you saw the band a few years ago, you would have noticed former bandmember Brett McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords. The eight-piece band busted out a bunch of tracks from their new studio album, Solid Ground, which blends together roots reggae, dub, and Motown soul perfectly.

Jonathan Perrin: This is the Black Seeds U.S. debut. What's touring with them been like?

Tommy Benedetti: It's been phenomenal in every way to tour with the Black Seeds. They are one of our favorite bands on the planet right now and right when they came into the first show in Burlington, VT, it was like an an instant lovefest. Being able to see them play every night has just been an honor. This is one of the best double bills we've ever been able to put together.

JP: Is this the first time JBB has toured with the Black Seeds?

Tommy: Yes. In fact, it's their first proper coast-to-coast tour here in the states.

JP: JBB is still touring in support of the albums Amplify and Re-Amplify, correct?

Tommy: True. We're coming up on the one-year anniversary of Amplify, and Re-Amplify came out in March.

JP: Tell me a little more about Re-Amplify.

Tommy: Making a remix album is just one of those things we've wanted to do for a while. The band really digs artists that can take our music and make something new with it. It really opens up different aspects of your music to different people and to yourself, too. So our management reached out to really cool artists and producers from around the world, we added a live track from a show in Fort Collins, CO, and before we knew it, we had cool remix album. I think it's a unique thing for the fans and for us. We actually started performing the remix version of "The Gold" live.

JP: There is clearly some great connectivity and creativity onstage when you guys play. The last time I saw JBB here in San Francisco at The Independent, you brought up JBB co-founder Kevin Kinsella for a few songs. What was it like to have him back onstage with the band?

Tommy: It was cool. It kind of just came together. He was in the area doing some shows on his own and we thought it would be a cool treat for the fans to have Kevin come out and do his thing. So we did a few shows together in L.A., San Diego, and San Francisco. It was good to see him again, to perform with him again. He's a longtime brother.

JP: With a band name like John Brown's Body, you guys are doing more than just bringing the dirty dub. You're bringing a message with your music, right?

Tommy: Well, we're just trying to be ourselves. We're not coming out with any preachy vibes - just good vibes, a big sound, and sincerity. Elliot [Martin] writes lyrics about a lot of social issues going on, but it's not so obvious or in-your-face. The band is just about bringing good vibes and good energy to the stage and giving that back to our fans.