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The best kept secret in music


"Side effects may include..."

Side effects may include ... Elation. Chills. Dancing. Welcome to the rocktronica world of Benzos.

You haven't heard of Benzos... yet. But you will. The New York sextet is about to touch down from the nether-regions of a nearby stratosphere with gorgeous, sweeping soundscapes that stretch out to the horizon.

Drawing influence from electronica subgenres like drum 'n' bass, trip-hop and breakbeat, Benzos (named for sedatives like Valium and Xanax) go "a little bit further than just taking dance stuff and throwing it in rock songs," says guitarist and vocalist Mike Ortega, calling in from a photoshoot at a Brooklyn loft. "It¹s sort of trying to create a cohesive thing, taking elements from both and have them mesh together and have them become one sound and not specific to one genre. We are trying to eliminate the boundaries between 'this is an electronic song' and 'this is a rock song.'"

Ortega and his cousin Christian Celaya (singer/guitarist), along with college chum Brian Joyce (guitarist), formed the band in early 2003, holing up in Ortega's Tribeca loft to shape their songs. Momentum has built steadily, from their first gig at The Continental, "the sh**iest club in New York," to opening for Elefant at the Bowery Ballroom, but they are slow to sign to a label, choosing instead to fully forge their sound and settle the lineup. Drummer Steve Bryant, bassist Eiko Peck, and Mike¹s brother Matt Ortega, holding down synth duties, now round things out.

Their nine-track set of demos reveals the stuff Anglo-dance fiends dream of: ambient noise flourishes on "All the King's Men," a dance raveup that will appear on the next Nettwerk compilation "Public Display of Affection," the beautifully shattered "It's Amiable" and the sexy rumble of "A Warm Road."

During live shows Bryant wears headphones, listening to a live feed of the brothers Ortega on-the-spot synth and sequencer noodling. "A lot of people these days are using laptops and just sort of hitting play, letting that run and playing on top of that," Celaya says. "Yeah, it's cool but..." Ortega quickly finishes his cousin's sentence: "No one frickin' wants to see a karaoke show."

- Selene Angier - Selene Angier, Boston Metro

"Delancey Review"

Six-piece BENZOS combine that band's early era love of guitars with its later adaptation of electronics, while one of the band's lead singers (Christian Celaya, I believe) frequently slips into a wonderfully intense falsetto all too reminiscent of a certain Mr. Yorke. None of which is criticism: almost all bands start with someone else's template, and there are less inspirational blueprints to follow than Radiohead's.

Benzos certainly don't lack for ambition: six members crowded onto something that at Up barely qualifies as a stage, featuring up to four guitarists, a computer co-ordinator and a couple of retro-anaglogue synths. What marks Benzos as singularly incongruous and ultimately intriguing, is that while the front line has clearly studied at the school of impassioned English rock (does it need saying that Coldplay and Elbow are also relevant comparisons?), the back line of drummer Steve Bryant and bassist Eiko Beck were schooled in breakbeat/jungle. It makes the improvisational aspects of the show frenetic to the point of near-combustion: Benzos at their best last night sounded like they were straining to invent an entirely new genre.
- Tony Fletcher, iJamming

"Sin-e Review"

As expected, April is kicking my ass. The shows I've seen have been unbelievably good. Backtracking to last week when i saw Benzos and TV on The Radio at the Mercury Lounge. You already know that Benzos is great, but Benzos at the Mercury is greater, because as said here 1,476 times, the sound at the Mercury is just pristine. The guys played all the songs we're familiar with from the EP and web site, and added some others that sound just as good. The potential of this band is limitless and seeing them climb up like they have in the past few months has just been very inspirational.
- Melody Nelson


1 self released, self titled 6 song EP.


Feeling a bit camera shy


Benzos… A band created in the minds of three people who were yearning for a difference not only in music, but also in their own lives. Christian Celaya (vox/guitar/synth/bass), his cousin, Michael Ortega (vox/guitar/synth/programming), and their friend, Brian Joyce (guitar/programming/vox) decided to get the recurring buzzing out of their heads and ears, and put it on tape.

As 2003 began, they secluded themselves in their Tribeca apartment for 6 months with the guidelines being to do what’s best for the song and have no limitations as to how far out and deep this music could go. They recorded and co-produced this collection of songs with their friend and engineer, Eric Helmuth. Mixing the ambiance and rhythm of early underground dance and experimental electronic music with lush guitars and soaring vocals to create a vibrantly huge sound that is all their own.

With the music recorded, their next challenge was to find the right people to help pull off the songs in the live format. To do this, they called on the talents of their friends, Eiko Peck (bass) and Steve Bryant (drums), whose musical roots lie in Drum n’ Bass, Breakbeat, Jazz and Trip-hop. Both of them have been bandmates for many years and so their seasoned chemistry has made for the perfect rhythm section. Michael then recruited his younger brother, Matt Ortega (synths/programming/guitar/vox) to join him in manning the electronics and live soundscaping. It was the final piece needed to recreate and build upon the foundation that was originally laid down on the recordings. With Benzos now evolving into a 6 member band, the composition, production and performance of their music and sound is now at it’s strongest.

In their short period of existence, Benzos have gone on to pack some of New York City's premier venues (Sin-e, Pianos, Mercury Lounge) culminating with a SOLD OUT performance at the Bowery Ballroom.

They are also being played on various radio stations across the country (Q104.3/NY, 92.3 KROCK/NY, Q101/Chicago and WMFO/Boston) including a live interview and acoustic performance on 92.3 K-Rock’s “The Buzz with Matt Pinfield."

Benzos are currently in the studio recording their debut EP that will be released in the fall and will also be featured on the upcoming Nettwerk Records compilation, Public Display of Affection, The Sound of Independent Radio.