Rowland Heights, Calif.-based Filipino-American R&B singer-songwriter Benzer recently dropped his second EP ‘DEUCE,’ a collection of contemporary and 90’s sounds inspired by his young life so far.
Centered around themes of love, friendship, heartbreak and mindfulness, ‘DEUCE’ also features collaboration with other alternative/R&B artists on the rise.
His sound has been compared to the likes of Anderson .Paak and Mac Ayres, which have made it clear that the musically ambitious 21-year-old is no sophomore slump.
The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Benzer about ‘DEUCE’ and more.
Music Bugle – What does being a Filipino-American mean to you?
Benzer – I think the first thing that comes to mind is the importance of family to me. I’m pretty sure a lot of immigrant families can relate, but being the first generation American born here out of my family, I definitely noticed it more. Filipinos love music and that is something that I carry with me. From karaoke nights, singing at church and listening to Jeremy Passion, music is a language that surpasses a lot of boundaries.
Music Bugle – What excites you the most about R&B music?
Benzer – R&B is one of my favorite genres because it goes hand-in-hand with other genres such as jazz, soul, hip-hop and even gospel. The way that African Americans shaped the way of American music will always inspire me and my sound. I feel that R&B and all the genres that coincide with it are so vulnerable and tell stories that I closely relate to and love listening to.
Music Bugle – How would you describe Rowland Heights, California to someone who has never been there before?
Benzer – Drivers beware. Just kidding! There’s really not much here in Rowland Heights, but I could say there are some bomb restaurants here and the best Boba/Bubble Tea spots. I really love Thai food and Boba, so I could say that I love living here. We’re also not far from Orange County and Downtown L.A., but still have the space of suburbs, so I do enjoy that.
Music Bugle – What was it like putting together your EP ‘DEUCE’?
Benzer – It’s always nerve-racking releasing your art to the world, but it was worth it and fun. I loved getting together with local artists, creating and just being vulnerable with our art. I truly believe that no one is independent. It takes a team to be placed where you are. I am thankful to God that he blessed me with extremely talented people around me. From my marketing team, photographer, artist friends and producer friends, to name a few. They excelled when I asked them to help me put this thing together. There were ups and downs in the process a lot of times in my own mind of self-doubt. Recording is always a struggle for me because I hear my imperfections and have to rerecord all over again, but in the end, I pushed through and know I delivered well with this EP.
Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?
Benzer – Hope Tala, Ant Clemons, Mac Ayres, Devin Morrison, Lucky Daye and Leven Kali, just to name a few. I love old soul and R&B, but these contemporary artists really are doing something with their sound that I just love!
Music Bugle – Which of your songs was the hardest to write or compose?
Benzer – I think the first song on the EP, “Never Even Met You,” was the hardest. It actually was supposed to be a full song, but I ended up cutting it short because I just couldn’t record vocals. I still want to release the full song in the future, though with a different rendition of the song as well, but composition-wise, I’d say “Weekend” was the hardest because of all the automation and new tricks I learned. It’s a very simple song, but learning to emulate scratching and all the delay effects was new to me. With the help of my mix engineer Dylan Dagdag, he got it sounding fat and bumping.
Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder to stand out as a musician these days?
Benzer – I think I like social media as a tool because it shows audiences who you are apart from music. I use it to promote my music, but I also use it to show people a more personable side of me. I love the Lakers, my family, God, friends and music! If the music is good, it will find a way, that’s all I have to say about that.
Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Benzer – COVID has been a disruptive force halting all industries around the world, as well as killing over a million people worldwide, but personally, it has really only affected jobs that I actually would have to go in for, not the music. I used to work for Live Nation, but all live events are basically stopped indefinitely. This has given me more time to work on my craft though and build within my community and other amazing artists, so with that, I am grateful. I definitely had to adapt by going on more FaceTime and Zoom calls and dealing with lag, but recording remotely has been more frequent.
Music Bugle – What are your goals for the rest of 2020?
Benzer – Well, I just released ‘DEUCE,’ my second EP out now on all platforms, so that is something I am proud and relieved of sharing with everybody. I hope to grow with the people around me. Like I said, I am one to believe that there are truly no independent artists except for a select few. It takes a team and that is what I am building with my website through ARTFORM626, showcasing local artists from the 626. I also hope to record more music with those people and new relationships I just gained within the community during quarantine. No new projects yet, but I am working with a local producer named Wavlngth. and am excited to share the sounds we got cooking.
Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?
Benzer – “Be better today, not for yourself, but for God.”