Words and Photos by JENZ
"Wait, there's a taqueria by us?" laments Morning Benders singer Chris Chu.
"We've been walking to El Farrolito..."
Chicken quesadillas and more were the topics on hand when I visited Chu, guitarist Joe Ferrell, and drummer Julian Harmon at Mission studio Different Fur where the band recorded debut full-length Talking Through Tin Cans (bass guy Tim Or was off celebrating his birthday). It was a Wednesday full of sluggish warmth and some unusual late-day sunshine for San Francisco, and the guys were also feeling it too. Sitting in the studio with the band, I got the impression that maybe they were more nervous of me than I was of them. My questions were met with polite answers and smiles, a slight bashfulness accompanying a simply worded response.
J: So tell me a little about how you guys met.
Ferrell: Hanging out on the streets.
Our interview came at a cusp in the Benders already impressive resume, which I think excuses the reservations: fresh off tours opening for The Kooks, White Rabbits, and Yo La Tengo, picking up momentum in the radio circuit in San Francisco, and having just freshly returned from jaunts at this year's SXSW and Noise Pop festivals. Now, the Berkeley four-piece was gearing up to support Tin Cans, set to join the Kooks in May in a supporting slot on a national tour. Not bad for the East Bay outfit who started off by playing tiny house parties in Oakland.
Tin Cans is a very sunny album, much like the day of the interview. And while influences that string from the '60s pop and indie acoustics is evident, the maturity and growth the Benders possess on tracks like silent power "Heavy Heart" show the band has a staying energy. "Patient Patient" carries a melodic beat with Chu's lyric "I'm just another book on your shelf" adding to the love forlorn and longing sugar. "Chasing A Ghost" showcases a darker sooth of guitar and skin pounding that extends the pop element genius, and "Waiting For A War" is a standout as well, "I'm calling out your name, I've been here before" overlayed on keys and harmonious vocals for a happy-go-lucky, feel-good-vibe, all-the-way-around good time.
The following week the boys and I trek out to Dolores Park for the photo shoot; initially, I'm unsure how to broach that I want them to jump and sing and dance and monkey around on the playground we're at. But I realize that's exactly why I like the record, because it makes me want to do things like that. "The album makes me want to smile a lot and have fun," I said before we began shooting. "That's exactly why I brought you here." And it was so evident while they were jumping for metal hoops that this is something they have worked towards for a long time. And I think it's paying off.
FIVE AND A HALF QUESTIONS WITH THE MORNING BENDERS
J: What did you guys do before this?
Harmon: I worked at a skateshop.
Chu: I was a nanny.
J: Oh man. Like a manny? Male nanny?
Chu: Yes! For two kids. Then I worked in the studio here.
J: What did you listen to while you made the record?
Ferrell: (looks around) We drove around in the same car...
Chu: The Beatles, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones. Mostly bands from that era.
J: So if you had your chance, who would be your dream duet?
Harmon: Bowie would be cool...(sports a huge grin) Maybe Bruce Willis.
J: Wait - Bruce Willis?
Ferrell: Oh man, yes. Me, Scarlett Johansson.
Chu: Choco Taco, for sure. (laughs from group) Maybe Phil Spector, David Byrne. Actually, you know, I'd love to work with Keanu.
J: You mean, Keanu Reeves? (imitating slurring voice) From Dogstar? Seriously?
Chu: Yeah dude. That would be so awesome.