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Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia | SELF

Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia | SELF
Band Folk Rock


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"Album Can Wait for Benjalu"

Album can wait for Benjalu
16 Dec, 2010 04:00 AM
INDEPENDENT blues and roots act Benjalu will give their home crowd a sneak preview of songs from their forthcoming EP at The Brewery this weekend.
The band are working with respected producer and engineer Anthony Lycenko on their third EP, due for release in March.

Frontman Ben Gumbleton caught up with LIVE to talk about the band’s plans for the next 12 months, as well as to introduce their new drummer, Newcastle singer-songwriter Nick Saxon.

Can you tell us about the new EP?

We snuck away to a couple of studios in Byron Bay and worked with a guy who saw us playing in Melbourne called Anthony Lycenko.
He has worked with some people like U2 and Elvis Costello, The Beautiful Girls and Pete Murray.

From there we started talking and sending him demos, then we went up to Byron to do the recording.
We’re hoping to release three EPs within 12 months in 2011.

Why EPs? Why not an album?

At the moment we’re still finding our sound.
We love so much different music, and we’re all still writing and growing as musicians.

So for us EPs are a good way to try new sounds. We’re hoping we can create three really well put-together EPs in the next 12 months that may show three different sides of the band.

Then hopefully in 2012 we’ll have the sound of a really good album.

Byron Bay has become a home for blues and roots. Was recording there significant?

Yeah, it was. It was our second time in a studio. We did the first EP in a really big studio down in Wollongong, and it was all new to us and it was all a bit scary.
The second EP we did in a house, and that felt a little bit more homey.
And this time Anthony took us to a recording studio called Rocking Horse on this acreage in the middle of nowhere near Byron, then we went down to another place called Studios 301.

He heard our sound and thought we would best fit in that Byron Bay recording scene.

Did you learn a lot from Lycenko?

Just working with someone of his calibre and hearing his stories, and just through watching how he went about recording our songs, we learned a lot.

We’re going to be working with him all next year on these EPs, and he has a bit more of a grasp on our sound now.

We really like the way he works. We know there are producers that like to have 100per cent control of the creativity, whereas Anthony was a bit different. He was always keen for us to throw ideas around the table and trying different ideas to see what worked.

You’ve been touring around Australia; is it good to come back to your home crowd?

We’ve done well over 400 shows in the past two years. We’ve just been stuck in the van, travelling and travelling, and it’s always nice to come home.
I don’t know how bands that play in front of 30,000 people and have all of them singing along feel, but it’s just amazing to have 300 or 400 people singing our songs in Newcastle.

And you have a new member now?

For the past couple of years we’ve had lots of different drummers, but Benjalu has still always been the three of us really.

But now it looks as though we’ve found our fourth brother of Benjalu in Nick Saxon.
He is now our drummer, but during our shows we’ve been switching things around a bit. He’ll come up the front and sing some songs and I’ll go on the kit for a while.
He’s an amazing songwriter as well, and just to collaborate with someone different brings a whole new thing to the table.

Benjalu will perform alongside Heather and Shawn O’Friel and Barrel House at The Brewery on Sunday from 2pm. Entry is free.

- The Newcastle Herald

"Benjalu Waterwalls"

Chances are, they’ll tour near you soon.

If practice makes perfect, Novocastrian roots outfit Benjalu must be close. Having played 250+ shows since Jan 2008, the trio have had numerous opportunities to hone their fusion of jazz, folk, rock and blues. Waterwalls, their second EP, is clearly the work of a band that knows how to play together. Singer Ben Gumbleton’s rich tenor spends much of the record intertwined with the lead guitar while percussion, rhythm guitar and occasionally harmonica or clarinet rise to fill out the rest. A (remaining anonymous, just in case) musician (okay, drummer) friend confessed that a touring schedule like Benjalu’s would’ve resulted in multiple homicides if his band attempted it. Here though, even the roots-rock tracks like So High and barrelling blues of Grey Old Man sound relaxed. With all that gigging they are better off saving their energy by getting along anyway. Murder can really take it out of you.

- Rave Magazine

"Benjalu CD Review- Waterwalls"

Newcastle-based band Benjalu are calling their latest release an ‘EP,’ but it’s only a token use of the term. Waterwalls, at eight songs in length, has a lot of musical variety and depth on offer. It feels like a cohesive album. It also displays the advances that the hard-working three-piece have made in their song writing.

From the rock grooves and guitar solo of ‘So high’ [and its subsequent transition into the track ‘Grey Old Man’], to the timeless and mesmerising beauty of the title song. Benjalu prove that they’re not ready to be figured out just yet.

Lead singer Ben ‘Gumby’ Gumbleton sounds less like his earlier comparisons to John Butler and more like a male version of Tracy Chapman. Vocally, his tone is soulful- perfectly made for story-telling. This is a supremely mature and composed release from a very young and exciting act.

For fans of: John Butler Trio, Last Train Home, David Grey, White Buffalo, Tracy Chapman, Jose Gonzalez. –NICK MILLIGAN
- Reverb Street Press

"Benjalu Launch Live Review"

A few years ago the name Benjalu would have surely puzzled many faces and raised no more than a few curious eyebrows. Today, however, it is a name that belongs to not only one of Newcastle’s increasingly loved new talents, but to four high school mates dedicated to their new musical profession.
On Friday 14th December, the group’s hard work was finally ‘road tested’ when Benjalu members Ben Gumbleton, Anthony Morris, Kelsley Nathan and Luke Elsley launched their first EP at The Queens Wharf Brewery in front of a 400-strong crowd. Together with many life-long friends, proud family members and a bunch of novice listeners the night quickly transformed into a folk-rock feast initiating an enthusiasm shared by band and peers alike. Despite having been given a measly one-hour slot, the group made good use of their time progressing with a few new songs including ‘Strange Feeling’, ‘Time Wasted’, ‘By Your Side’ and newest addition ‘My Shelter, My Fortress’. Complete with saxophones, clarinet, bongos and a harmonica, Benjalu put aside the basic ‘guitar-drum-bass’ convention and opted for a fresh and exciting new sound not often heard on the Newcastle life front.
Simply titled ‘Reflecting On’, the group performed most of the songs from the new EP in a way that was equally passionate as it was professional. While some songs are evidently influenced by artists such as Jack Johnson and The John Butler Trio, it is genuinely difficult to define the group’s unique musical characteristics or even limit their creative intuition into the strict boundaries of a genre. Instead each song takes on a uniquely different ‘personality’ fusing together elements of jazz, folk, blues and contemporary rock to maintain the group’s fresh sound as well as keep their listeners interested. This clever musical blend proved a huge hit with the high-spirited crowd who cheered at the end of every song, clapped their hands together with the band and sang along to their obvious favourite ‘By Your Side’.
Leading the night was the band’s charismatic lead singer and guitarist Ben Gumbleton (or ‘Gumby’ as he is affectionately known by friends) who spent the night thanking his strong band of supporters and dedicating songs to the “the Dudley gang”, “the long-time aficionados” and “all our new friends”. Meanwhile in the background bassist Anthony Morris together with drummer Kelsley Nathan maintained the group’s steady pulsating rhythm while Luke Elsley produced a blues-styled guitar lead coupled with a few notes on the harmonica.
While the night was finishing up Benjalu started their second last song to which they promised would be the most entertaining – they weren’t kidding. Starting off with the high-pitched sounds of the harmonica, Luke kick-starts the song followed by a slow progression of guitar and bass. A few minutes later and Gumby abandons his guitar, pulls out two drumsticks and begins a vividly enthusiastic drum duet with fellow member, Kelsley. As the song gradually builds with the inclusion of bongos and percussion, Anthony puts aside his bass and steals the limelight during an electric and highly entertaining clarinet solo that almost blew out the speakers and (according to him) his eardrums as well!
Despite the small room and slightly distorted sound it is difficult to deny that the night most certainly flourished for the Newcastle quartet. In fact the genuine lack of space can be pin-pointed to the number of people who came to watch rather than the actual venue – something the group definitely considered to be “absolutely amazing”. With a running time of just over an hour, Benjalu’s performance proved to be quite a success due not only to the large amount of EPs and T-Shirts sold, but to the passionate and loyal reception provided by the group’s growing audience.

- This Is Not 'Rolling Stone' Web Page

"Benjalu Waterwalls EP Review"

Benjalu – Waterwalls Review

The Lie – Perfect opening track to Waterwalls, and indeed a perfect introduction to Benjalu. This would be my choice of first single. It’s got all the essential elements of the band: a steady, head bopping bassline, soaring vocals, catchy guitar licks, jamming and intricate, yet sing-along lyrics. Love the ending, leaves listener on a high note!

My Confusion – Tight grooving bass that makes you want to nod your head in time. Most moveable track on the EP. And sing-along for that matter. High energy. Knowing this band on a live-level, I can imagine them really getting into this and jamming it out on stage. This probably translates as one of the songs most indicative of Benjalu’s vibe – warm, fun, buzzing, yet with poignant lyrics and a real honest approach to music.

Waterwalls – Guitar lick makes this track. Especially when the doubling comes in at the beginning. Luke has a natural flair for the guitar – never overplaying, always playing tastefully, with talent and thought. Gumby’s vocals are most showcased in this track – especially in the breakdown half way through.

I think though, at the 3 minute mark as a recorded song, it is probably time to cut it. Again, jamming out live does certainly boost this track, but at this point, there isn’t a lot more to come out of the extra 1 minute.

Close My Eyes – A beautiful track. The harmonica is reminiscent (to me) of Bruce Springsteen and has all the feeling and soul of his early recordings. A nice chill-out track.

So High – Soul-man Tony on bass does it again. I love it. This song was my initial favourite, the chorus is strong. Fantastic guitar solo and lots of room for jamming and action on stage.

I don’t think it really received all the attention it should have in the recording process. It is a stand-out, but the energy doesn’t seem to be there for me.

Grey Old Man – Good story-telling track. Doesn’t hold a lot of interest though. Something isn’t there for me. This seems to be where the vibe dips a little. It does pick up somewhat at the end of the track though, more use of light and shade wouldn’t go astray here.

Runaway – Love the feel of this track. The effect on the guitar at the start transports you almost to an alternate universe and the hand drums really add to this vibe. I can picture this on one of those great Coastal Chill compilations. It all just comes together in this song, everyone falls in line and it just works.

Java – Ha, I love the subtle intro. Only heard it through headphones. Again, a story-telling song like Grey Old Man.

I probably wouldn’t have put both this and Grey Old Man on the same record. It tends to drag a little, but in saying that, the sound is just clear and lovely. Just Gumby and guitar and that super-rootsy voice he does so naturally.

Overall, Waterwalls is a simple, no-trickery Benjalu record. It isn’t over-thought or analysed and I feel that it is close to the roots of where the band began. It is what it is, and Benjalu wouldn’t have it any other way.

The three main members of Benjalu just have this feel for music – They get it, they respond to it, it’s all there so naturally.

It’s easy to see a future for this act, that grows and grows and develops as organically as they sound.

- Pixie Music


• Shadows In The Sun (2012)

• Waterwalls (2009)

• Reflecting On (2007)

• Home Grown Roots Vol 3 (Paul Kelly, John Butler, Ash Grunwald)

• Jam For Awareness (Missy Higgins, Grinspoon, Blue King Brown)

• Rhythm Kangaroo (Brazilian Release- Bomba, Blue King Brown, Rogerthat)



‘Above all else, we just love touring! Who wouldn’t want to head on a never-ending road trip with your mates - sinking beers, playing tunes and gathering stories you wouldn’t tell your future children.’ - ‘Gumby’ - BENJALU

...I guess that’s why these guys have played over 500 shows over the last few years. Somehow in the midst of these there was a 14 show Canadian tour last year with Kim Churchill spanning from Vancouver to Montreal also including a showcase performance at NXNE.

An unexpected cult following is growing down-under for BENJALU thanks to all their touring and a smattering of summer festivals. The guys are always sonically evolving via new influences and perhaps some of those stories...

BENJALU’s shows and recordings are the collaboration of fresh sea spray, the sun and the sand with a good dose of psych and melody. Their live show leaves a room of sweaty punters along with a very publican. Their recordings on the other hand reveal honest lyrics and knack for harmonies and savvy guitar licks.

Stay tuned and catch the BENJALU boys on their never-ending road trip with their mischief machine aka tour van, Tin Tin...

YouTube Links:

Little Darling

Way To The Coast

What We’ve Heard

“If practice makes perfect, Novocastrian roots outfit benjalu must be close.”
(Nils Hay, Rave Magazine).

“Young and exciting act”
(Nick Milligan, Reverb Magazine)

“Just infectious and hard not to get involved with their clever grooves and good feel”
(James Schaefer, Jam Magazine)

For more information and enquiries;


Alyce Guy

BLACKYAK management
PO Box 47 St Peters, NSW 2044 Australia
M: (+61) 0422 966 112
Ph: (+61-2) 9597 5544
F: (+61-2) 9556 2027