Robb Benson
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Robb Benson


Band Rock Singer/Songwriter


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This band has not uploaded any videos



"Robb Benson - The Tree Mind"

Scene One: I'm in the Tower Records on University Ave. in the U-district last summer after a barbecue. A record on a display rack piques my curiosity. It's Dear John Letter's newest album, Stories of our Lives. The cover is intriguing, because it reminds me of the new Long Winters album's cover. So I scan the bar code to give a couple tracks the thirty-second listen taste those magic boxes in record stores allow.

Scene Two: Ten dollars and a few blocks later I am in my car, driving down 45th back to the freeway. Dear John Letters is blasting and I like it so much I almost hit a green Subaru full of nuns and orphans. (Or maybe it was just a green Subaru, it was hard to tell who was driving, what with the cacophony of Robb Benson's voice clouding my vision.)

Scene Three: Back in D.C., Dear John Letters becomes one of those bands I talk about to bar-folk whenever it becomes necessary to name-drop a band of such Mt. Vernon, WA obscurity as to establish myself as someone who actually knows what he is talking about when the only D.C. music I really know is Fugazi and the Dismemberment Plan.

ACT II: The Present

Scene One: Robb Benson, lead-singer/songwriter of Dear John Letters is putting out another solo record, this one entitled The Tree Mind. Three Imaginay Girls asks me to review it, to which I reply, "It would be my supreme and utmost pleasure. NOW GIVE ME THE PROMO BEFORE I BURST WITH SHALLOWLY CONTAINED ENTHUSIASM!"

Scene Two: I listen to the album for a month, and then take three days to drive back to Virginia where I start my senior year of college and promptly forget about the review I promised to write.

Scene Three: Sitting in the College of William and Mary's library and some ungodly hour, working on a paper about the male gaze and incestual hints in the fourth episode of "Ulysses," I check my email to find one from the Three Imaginary Girls and one from the school's newspaper. The first asks me sweetly if I ever got around to writing the Robb Benson and Visqueen reviews. The second asks me, not quite as simply, where the hell my column is for the lifestyle section this week. I curse to myself, and try to ignore the bloodshot stares of fellow late-nighters, upset that someone disturbed their procrastinatorial consequences by dropping the F-bomb. An enzyme of guilt releases into my bloodstream at the left ventricle and pulses through my form.

ACT III: The Review

Scene One: I set aside a Sunday to work on catching up on reviews and columns. I chastise myself for spending too much time on grad school applications and worries about future responsibilities while thus ignoring present responsibilities.

Scene Two: I sit in a Richmond, VA Starbucks after having spent half of my budgeted grocery money on used Smiths LPs. I get out my laptop and my folder of press releases, sip my soy latte, wonder why the air-conditioning is on when they have Christmas music playing, and speculate that absolutely no one on the East coast has any idea how to steam soy milk properly. I set my burnt-taste of a latte down, and begin the review.

Scene Three: I waste approximately 575 words of review on a long-winded bantering before actually beginning the review:

Robb Benson's The Tree Mind skips a few steps in the musical maturation process from where Dear John Letters was with Stories of Our Lives. The result is a well-formed exaction of a solo rock record. The title track and album-opener releases itself with the lyric "Creation is going in circles." In the last track he sings, "I have a story to tell you, but the words are undetectable." Somewhere in between the two self-consciously vague lines, Benson presents an album better than anything he has put out before, thus seemingly refuting the first statement, and leaving a modernist, wondering uncertainty with the latter.

The Tree Mind has all the traits that has made Benson so successful with his various projects of the past. The clean electric guitars with catchy riffs are everywhere, except in the tracks where acoustic guitar is accompanied by layers of vocal harmony, such as the brilliant "Melvin's Declaration to the Universe." His voice is nasally croony, his lyrics poetically lacking definition. Interpretation, insofar as what to make of the album, is left to the subjective point of view of the listener.

Many of the songs were written around the poetry of Benson's friends. Notably is the seventh track, "Il Pleut." I looked forward to this track immensely when I first looked over the tracklisting, for any song, especially any Robb Benson song, titled "It's Raining" in French, is surely something worthy of expectation. The first lines, "I trip on my shoelaces even though my shoes are tied/ Barely I catch the door with my hand/ And I try to stand up, the cool tile floor soothes my cheek" took me immediately to a memory of getting dumped by a girlfriend even though I thought things were going fine. Then I found that being single again was s - Three Imaginary Girls

"Benson is obviously a prolific and good songwriter,"

On Benson's solo CD, with the exception of one song, "The Next Millionaire," he handles all the instruments. Aside from that song which was recorded by uber-engineer Johnny Sangster, this was all recorded on a Tascam 8-track digital recorder. As the title suggests, it presents 15 new songs in a style not dissimilar to Dear John Letters, though a little more subdued in nature. The songs are more melancholy, too, not that it's a bad thing. Benson is obviously a prolific and good songwriter, and many of these songs are real gems. Benson is joined by his "muse" and (I'm assuming) romantic partner, Amanda Mae who adds sweet duet vocals to "To The Underdogs." -

"Unique force in American indie rock"

Centered around multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Robb Benson, Dear John Letters' third full-length album establishes the band as an ever more unique force in American indie rock. They may recall bands like Guided by Voices and the Weakerthans, but they still manage to bring something new and fresh to an overcrowded genre. A few tracks on here are certainly reminiscent of R.E.M., Benson even sounding like a young and eager Michael Stipe on "Creation Myth" and "Bipolar." Although, an even more present influence is David Bowie -- from the Hunky Dory-like "Sorry to Sorry" to the acoustic psych-folk of the title track. Inspirations and influences aside, Dear John Letters have no problem coming through on their own premises. Benson's voice is unique and energetic, and the performances on here are always insistent and engaging. Dear John Letters are growing more confident and clever with each album, and Stories of Our Lives proves the Seattle quartet to be at the top of its game. - Ink 19

"Let The Music Play to The End This Time"

With its 2001 debut album, Rewriting the Wrongs, Seattle band Dear John Letters established itself as a force to watch in indie pop circles. Combining a classic pop sound certainly influenced by Paul McCartney, folk stylings, and an indie rock sensibility, Dear John Letters created a broad canopy of sounds that spanned quiet acoustic ballads to grandiose rock compositions.

Unbroken, the band’s sophomore release, has all the same ingredients: frontman Robb Benson’s sure guiding voice, impressive guitar virtuosity from engineer/producer-cum-axeman Johnny Sangster, and the same heady lyrics courtesy of Benson and the band’s resident non-playing poet, Michele Price. But there are a few changes this time around. The most immediately noticeable is the cleaned-up and confident production, which removes some of the rough edges of the more lo-fi Rewriting the Wrongs. However, instead of sounding too slick and polished, Unbroken just sounds clean and rich, elevating crunch above mud.

Additionally, there’s an increased sense that Dear John Letters is shooting for a contemporary audience rather than the hearts of pop revivalists. There are enough big rock flourishes and clipped, angular post-punk guitar tones that Unbroken has as much chance appealing to Guided by Voices or Pavement fans as it does appealing to purists looking for a reincarnation of Wings. Not that Rewriting the Wrongs would have been immediately pegged as Pop Underground or any corresponding retro genre label, but this time out the band seems to have truly meshed Seattle rock and classic pop into an beautiful hydra of musicality.

If, however, you happen to be one of the many fans who were charmed by the oft-mentioned ability Benson seemed to have for channeling McCartney (as was I), you won’t be disappointed. The past hasn’t been buried, and Dear John Letters hasn’t given up its base strengths, it’s just that everything seems to have been updated a bit. One of the key features of the band has always band has always been its effortless shifts from rock send-ups to lilting pop to quiet moments of reflection, and that hasn’t changed in the least. This disc has its moments of variety and nods to the gods in equal doses. “Picture Show” is a full-on psych-rock track built on an oscillating lead guitar and effects-laden vocals. “Disappointed” returns to the sweet melodies of Beatle-esque pop, while “Fwd & Rwd” even drops a quick nod to Donovan riffs. And, of course, there’s a straight-up folk tune, the title track “Unbroken”, which has a decidedly Arlo Guthrie feel.

But Benson seems to have embraced a bit more of the rock whine and clipped guitars that thrive on the indie scene. Interestingly, instead of usurping the band’s sound, it really just works to make Dear John Letters fit into the present moment. “Out of the Park”, “Sorry to Sorry”, and “Kings & Queens” are definitely not mistakable as Wings clones, but they’re all remarkable songs, each of which could vie for CMJ chart positions. Possibly my favorite track on the disc even takes a 90-degree turn and touches on honky-tonk territory. “My Volcano” is a blues-rock explosion (without the Jon Spencer) with a rollicking piano line that drives the song at full-speed into Benson’s slightly twangy chorus of “Let the record play / To the end this time”. While it’s most likely a fun metaphor, I also like to hear it as an acknowledgement that, far more than Rewriting the Wrongs, Dear John Letters has delivered in Unbroken an album that satisfies from start to finish.

If practice does make perfect, Benson might well be on his way to becoming a genius. Following the release of Rewriting the Wrongs, Benson got together with guitarist Johnny Sangster to release a dueling song disc under the moniker Sangster Meets Benson in 2001, and then followed it up with a solo disc titled De Stella Nova in 2002, released almost simultaneously with Unbroken. Obviously a busy man, Benson’s gift with melodies and hooks continues to grow, and Unbroken is the bold and confident album of a musician and his incredible band coming fully into their own. - PopMatters

"Robb Benson a perennial hometown favororite"

"a perennial hometown favorite on the verge of greater success. Both solo and with his two bands...Benson marries lo-fi introspection with big, bright '70s chords and hooks. So maybe he's Seattle's Alex Chilton except without the creepy subtext and classic-rock baggage." - Seattle Weekly

"I love Robb Benson's voice"

I've been trying for over ten years to describe how much I love Robb Benson's voice. He's got all the pop smarts of McCartney, the peppy hooks of Squeeze and the gritty soul of Otis Redding, and he's so talented he sometimes uses all three in the span of a three-minute pop song. Benson has an extensive discography with the aforementioned Nevada Bachelors, The Dear John Letters and the Dept. of Energy, and evidence of his talent can be found on any of the cuts of those albums, but if you want to get right to it, The Glass Notes' "John Wayne" is all you need. The album closer here, Not only is this the single most powerful moment in music this year, this is what soul sounds like, this is what frustration sounds like and this is what existential worry sounds like when one realizes that the notion of heroism has lapsed into obsolescence. But most of all, this is what it sounds like to be alive, to be shot in your hummingbird heart with everything from global concern to concern about everyone you love. It's a voice that's filled with anger and dismay and sadness and it will bring you to your knees. - Alex Green - Caught in the Carousel

"Robb Benson nominated best Singer/Songwriter in Seattle Weekly Awards"

"Being prolific is easy. Maintaining consistency and quality is another animal altogether . . . for a lot of musicians not named Robb Benson. A veteran of Seattle's diverse singer-songwriter community, a witty, endearing, one-man lo-fi anthem factory. His vocal repertoire conjures equal parts Michael Stipe, Ben Gibbard, and Rocky Votolato, a perfect match for his introspective lyricism and penchant for sweeping '70s hooks. Benson delivers the instantly agreeable, inoffensively quirky pop that Pinback formerly cornered the market on." - Seattle Weekly

"Benson proves he's one of his genergation's most talented"

"Benson spits and talk-sings songs in a cracked, wobbly, trembling voice, somewhere between the Kinks' Ray Davies, Ian Hunter, and Squeeze's Glenn Tilbrook ...Benson proves he's one of his generation's most talented" - -Hal Horowitz (all music guide)


2012 - The Glass Notes - As The Building Crumbles
2012 - The Great UM - What the People Want (on drums)
2012 - Everything Points Up - 2.0 EP (digital release)
2012 - Everything Points Up - EP (digital release)
2011 - Robb Benson - The Time Slip Demo's (digital EP)
2010 - The Glass Notes - Dust & Hours
2009 - Dept of Energy - Faster
2008 - Dept of Energy - Held by Waits
2007 - Robb Benson - A collection of Songs I forgot to tell you about
2007 - Dept of Energy - EP
2005 - Robb Benson - The Tree Mind
2004 - Dear John Letters - Stories of our Lives
2003 - Robb Benson - De Stella Nova
2002 - Dear John Letters - Unbroken
2002 - Sangster Meets Benson - Benson Meets Sangster
2001 - Dear John Letters - Rewriting The Wrongs
2000 - Robb Benson - Songs About Songs
1999 - Nevada Bachelors - Hello Jupiter
1997 - Nevada Bachelors - Carrots & So On



Robb Benson is a uniquely prolific yet still confusingly somewhat unknown force in American Indie Pop & Rock. In 1997 his first band Nevada Bachelors signed with PopLlamma records. Ian Koss from Ink 19 wrote about the debut: "Enjoy this before a major label picks up on it and it’s rammed down your throat", but the majors didn't come. The second Bachelors release had writer Alex Steininger of In Music We Trust writing: "Nevada Bachelors write amazingly catchy pop songs - Better than most, too. Thus, this quirky album will become a favorite of yours. I'll give it an A." Sadly, before they followed fellow label mates "The Posies, The Presidents, and The Young Fresh Fellows" onto new great success, guitarist Mike Squires left the group to be a Harvey Danger touring side man, and the Drummer Jason Finn went back to The Presidents of USA (his original group who had broke up) & the band soon dissolved.

Robb then recorded a solo EP, then quickly formed Dear John Letters. After the groups second release on Seattle's Roam Records Patrick Schabe of Pop Matters wrote: "If practice does make perfect, Benson might well be on his way to becoming a genius. Following the release of Rewriting the Wrongs, Benson got together with guitarist Johnny Sangster to release a dueling song disc under the moniker 'Sangster Meets Benson' in 2001, and then followed it up with a solo disc titled De Stella Nova in 2002, released almost simultaneously with Unbroken. Obviously a busy man, Benson’s gift with melodies and hooks continues to grow, and Unbroken is the bold and confident album of a musician and his incredible band coming fully into their own."

In 2003 their third release "Stories of our Lives" had climbed to #34 on CMJ, on the LA label Foodchain Records. Writer Stan Haukland of INK 19 wrote: "Centered around multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Robb Benson, Dear John Letters' third full-length album establishes the band as an ever more unique force in American indie rock." Robb Benson was nominated 'Best Seattle Songwriter" three years in a row by the Seattle Weekly Music Awards. (2003, 2004, 2005). Sadly, the group being unable to do more then short tours, became frustrated and broke up.

Robb (although discouraged) continued releasing well received records (local press), in both in his third group Dept of Energy and via solo CD's. In 2006 Stewart Mason of All Music wrote: "Prolific singer/songwriter Robb Benson has released nearly a dozen albums, both as a solo artist and with his former bands the Nevada Bachelors and the Dear John Letters, over the last decade, but somehow he's never quite broken beyond a tiny cult following. Benson's relative lack of recognition is quite puzzling: Benson blending the best aspects of his Pacific Northwest contemporaries Ben Gibbard and Colin Meloy, his songwriting and production suggest influences that range beyond modern-day indie pop into '70s AM radio. Instantly appealing pop tunes feature great one-liners, memorable tunes; and clever, varied arrangements. Good enough to be the album that finally gets Robb Benson noticed.

Yet... Robb only remained a home town Seattle Favorite.

Today Robb Benson fronts yet another new soulful Indie Rock group "The Glass Notes" featuring Tim DiJulio (lead guitarist of Mike McCready's side project Flight To Mars)... The group will release their full debut in November of 2012, with high hopes of gaining some much deserved attention. In addition Robb is playing drums with the Seattle trio The Great UM, and is also still playing solo shows both acoustic and with full backing bands that he assembles in and aroud Seattle.

Marco Collins (Rock & Roll Hall of Fame DJ) recently wrote:
"Holy shit. Just got an email from the singer Robb of The Glass Notes. He emailed me a new track of his & I am SO BLOWN AWAY by his voice that I Soundclouded this for you to hear... one of the BEST MALE voices I have heard in years! Think Jeff Buckley, Black Crowes, Robin Zander, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin. Fuck, I dunno. JUST AMAZING
Listen to the whole thing and imagine him doing this live on my show.

We hope you will listen to Robb's Material and agree with Marco.

Be it an artists curse, or rather a blessing... Robb has recently been told he will be laid off from his pay the bills day job on New Years Eve 2012, allowing him the severance pay to get out and play many live shows with both his bands and solo in 2013. We hope you will add him to your most wanted list. He will not let you down.

-Bill Rand (Music In This Time & Space)