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Band Alternative Rock


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The best kept secret in music


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Morning Stanzas


Feeling a bit camera shy


Benzos is the brainchild of five virtuoso musicians hailing from very different musical backgrounds, who were drawn together in their shared quest to create a unique, genre-bending musical soundscape, blending the ambience and rhythm of early underground dance and experimental electronic music with lush rock-based guitars and soaring vocals. The initial creative impetus for this five-piece, New York-based outfit was born in early 2003, in the minds of first cousins Christian Celaya (vox, guitar) and Michael Ortega (vox, guitar, synths, programming), in league with their longtime friend Brian Joyce (guitar, programming). The trio then recruited Celaya’s erstwhile music conservatory colleagues Eiko Peck (bass) and Steve Bryant (drums) to execute their ambitious musical vision. Together, the five members of Benzos create a sound that is at once sinuously cerebral and transcendently emotional.

Growing up in a musical family on the outskirts of New York City, Celaya and Ortega started playing together in an indie rock band in their early teens. After breaking up their band to attend college, Celaya and Ortega ended up taking somewhat divergent musical paths. Ortega abandoned rock music altogether for the New York underground drum n’ bass scene. Celaya, on the other hand, continued playing in rock bands. At the same time, however, Celaya was developing an interest in house music and rave culture. Sharing Celaya’s deepening fascination with the house music scene was Brian Joyce, a New School jazz program graduate and brother of one of Celaya’s band mates in a rock outfit in which Celaya was then playing. In the course of collaborating on house tracks and hitting up raves together, Celaya and Joyce conceived of a musical project that would combine a DJ element of cross-fading pieces of music with more traditional rock musical forms, to create a more viscerally powerful rock experience. Celaya co-opted Ortega, at a family Thanksgiving dinner, for this new musical enterprise, and, in early 2003, Celaya, Joyce and Ortega holed up in Ortega’s Tribeca apartment for six months to record an initial collection of demo recordings, with the assistance of their friend and Celaya’s former music conservatory professor Eric Helmuth. The trio dubbed their embryonic project “Benzos”, perceiving in the name a fitting evocation of both the euphoria and urban paranoia that the band’s music conjures.

With their initial round of demos in the can, Celaya, Joyce and Ortega embarked on the challenge of finding the ideal rhythm section to realize Benzos’ complex musical vision. Enter Steve Bryant, a drum n’ bass-obsessed jazz drummer who had attended music conservatory with Celaya, and Eiko Peck, another music conservatory classmate who had gone on to study jazz at the New School while playing in a drum n’ bass-cum-jazz improv band with Bryant. With this formidable line-up of accomplished musicians in place, Benzos quickly began to cultivate a devoted following in New York City, playing to consistently sold out houses at premiere venues, including with such venerable acts as Blonde Redhead, Phoenix, The Dears and Longwave.