Back To The Funkture: An Interview With Alissia Benveniste
Alissia Benveniste has been turning heads with her fresh take on classic funk for a few years, starting with a viral hit of the video for her song “Let It Out”, but now she’s stepped it up by releasing her debut EP. Back to the Funkture is a six-song, feel-good album tied together by catchy hooks and top notch bass lines.
Benveniste was born in Switzerland and raised in Italy, where her love of funk music and the bass grew. At 18 she moved to the United States to study at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. The “Let It Out” video, which has been viewed over 2.2 million times, was part of her college experience and helped propel her into the spotlight. Since leaving the school, she’s taken her grooves to New York City.
We caught up with Alissia to get the scoop on her musical background, her new EP, and her advice for bassists.
How did you get your start in music?
Growing up, I was always listening to music, I loved songs with good bass lines. I used to listen to everything from Michael Jackson to James Brown, Prince, P-Funk, EW&F, Cameo and the list goes on and on. I actually started playing piano at the age of 4 but I was playing more so for fun!
How has the transition to New York City been?
New York is a great city to live. It’s very inspiring, there’s a lot going on and a lot of music to check out! Sometimes it can be overwhelming and it can be a little too much, too many people and sometimes you might feel lonely in this big city. I try to take the good sides and stay focused!
What is it about old school funk that influences your music?
That’s a hard question! I would say mostly the overall feeling of when you put on a record and just start grooving. The musicality, the pocket, the message… I do also admire the pureness of analog sounds, the effect of the tape which now a days tend to vanish, the vocal chants and harmonies, horn arrangements and crispy synths! You know most of what I listen to is funk/fusion and it is generally older so being emerged so much in it I am influenced even unconsciously! [laughs]
Why do you think funk is making a comeback in mainstream music?
I believe that artists such as Daft Punk, Nile Rodgers, Pharrell Williams and now Bruno Mars have come out with songs with funk elements and it always has been hits! So I do think that it is slowly coming back.
What was the recording process like for Back to the Funkture?
The recording and production for the EP was a very long process. It took us a total of 2 years to complete it! I first went in the studio with John Blackwell and we recorded a song I had. That was in 2013! Then I went in the studio with Louis Cato and Alfred Jordan to record the rest of the drums. After having bass and drums down we recorded vocals, horns, keyboards and guitars.
The actual writing process was pretty quick, I wrote some songs in a couple of days but the pre-production took us about 4/5 months to finalize all the arrangements, I did some re-writing (until I was 100% satisfied with each and every song!). After that, we started the recording process and most of the recording was done at Q Division Studios in Boston and some at Studio G in New York. These are top end studios [because] I really wanted the best quality possible. I love being in the studio, there is a magic feel because you are creating and recording. On top of it, I was always with great friends and musicians so it was always a blast!
How did you pick the musicians for the album?
It wasn’t hard picking the musicians for the album because they were all people I knew and admired. For some tunes I wanted a specific sound so I called different people for certain tracks.
What is the theme behind the EP?
Each song on the EP features vocals and reflects different subjects and messages lyrically. I wanted to give certain topics to the listeners to think about. Some songs are deeper than others but overall it’s about positivity.
Any tour plans?
We toured last year with this project in Europe and are hoping to go back this summer now that the record is out!
How does playing with horn section and such thick arrangements affect your bass lines/tone?
When playing with a big band as a bass player I feel that the most important thing is to really hold down the groove and have a solid foundation with the drummer so that we can leave some space to the other instruments.
Can you give us a rundown of your gear?
As far as gear, I have the pleasure and honor of endorsing Aguilar, Dunlop & MXR and Mogami. I use Aguilar as far as amplification (Depending on the venue but I usually have 2 GS4x10 and a DB751). For strings I use Dunlop super brights stainless steels (they feel incredible and sound the best!). My pedal board includes mostly MXR pedals, some Aguilar, BOSS and a couple of vintage pieces. Finally as far as cables I use Mogami platinum instrument cable; these cables are the most high-end on the market.
Any tips for up and coming bassists?
Do what you love, never stop learning and take from each and every bass player that you hear. Play with your heart, that way people will feel what you are communicating. Listen to as much music as possible, stay inspired and humble!