Benny Bridges Finds Calm & Confidence on Debut LP, The Duck Tape [Interview]
After co-founding indie electronic group and label Fantastic Voyage, Benny Bridges soon caught the itch to depart on his own sonic expedition. At a time when he was struggling with self-doubt, an introspective Bridges took time to explore his own relationship with music, and found the process of creating an album to be highly therapeutic. With the support of his friends in Fantastic Voyage, Benny Bridges took a big step in his musical evolution with his debut album, The Duck Tape.
In 2013, Bridges—also known as Ben Glasser—enrolled at University of Southern California’s School of Music with aspirations of becoming a studio guitarist. He quickly realized that that program was not the right path for him, and eventually dropped out. He would take an extended break from music, but during that time he met a singer-songwriter, Josh Taylor, who needed a guitar player for a few gigs. Benny gladly agreed, and reimmersed himself in music in a more carefree way.
“It was a really wonderful way to get back in touch with my musical side,” Glasser told MP3 MAG, recalling playing fun, beachy pop songs. “There wasn’t the pressure of [a professor] grading it or doing advanced harmonizing.”
In their junior year, Taylor introduced Bridges to Justin Jay, who was beginning to break out as a DJ and producer in the Los Angeles house scene. The three were a natural match and quickly began writing songs together and thus, the musical crusade of the Fantastic Voyage was born.
With Justin Jay already touring up and down the California coast, the newly formed trio had a platform to try out the new songs they were writing. Taylor and Bridges would plug their microphone and guitar into the DJ mixer, and perform the tracks live; interspersing them into Jay’s diverse and rowdy DJ sets. This unconventional approach was well received, and the enigmatic crew that is Fantastic Voyage has gone on to reach new heights as a band, label, and musical friendship.
They released their first EP in 2016, following it up with a huge tour around North America and Australia while playing festivals like Coachella and Bonnaroo. They also expanded the band to allow for fully instrumental live sets, adding Danny Goliger, Sam Van Horn, and Henry Was. Fueled by their close-knit friendships and diverse musical backgrounds, FV abandoned convention and genre to create their own musical movement. Their all encompassing love of music and experimental style has resulted in a one-of-a-kind house party that explores all reaches of music.
“We trust each other’s opinions and there’s a constant feed of inspiration that we are all eager to show each other,” said Bridges. “I’m really grateful for the group of people we have and I know how rare this is.”
Five years removed from that first tour, Bridges has just released his first solo album, The Duck Tape. It’s a meaningful milestone for the artist, representing a phase of personal growth as well as musical evolution.
While Bridges had gained confidence and experience while touring and making music with the Fantastic Voyage crew, he sometimes doubted that he belonged on all of those big stages, wondering how he went from a music school dropout to playing at Coachella. His connection with Justin had been invaluable, but it also led him to feel as if he hadn’t worked hard enough or he didn’t totally deserve to be there. In part, that feeling inspired him to make an album.
“There were definitely a lot of feelings of worthiness to explore and I felt like I had a lot to prove. That was where I fueled [The Duck Tape] from.”
Bridges pushed himself and churned out a bunch of tracks throughout the summer of 2018. He wanted to bridge the gap between danceable, club-like energy with his own unique songwriting twist and performance style. After showing his bandmates what would become the album’s lead single, “Lucky Penny,” he recalled to MP3: “They told me to keep going and that was a very helpful thing in continuing on my journey.” When he had enough songs written, Ben recruited friend and fellow FV member Danny Goliger to help him polish up the tracks in the studio. The pair would go on to finish The Duck Tape in 2019.
Underneath shrouded vocals, dynamic beats, and experimental electronics, Benny Bridges’ debut album grapples with the identity of a musician on his own voyage and sometimes at odds with his own mind.
“I find myself always in a lovers quarrel with my musical self; it’s a very vulnerable, challenging, complex thing that can bring out so many things in myself,” said Bridges. “The whole concept of writing an album is a statement of commitment. The act of making an album can be very therapeutic; to find things that you’re embarrassed about, overcome them, and put them on display.”
Bridges has the unique pleasure to surround himself with a creative and open-minded crew of people, a place he says “has been a great place to comfortably explore our musicality.” The unrestrained exploration and experimentation that characterize the Fantastic Voyage crew can be clearly heard in Bridges’ The Duck Tape, one that draws on diverse influences like psych rock, soul, disco, and electronica while weaving its own magic. The Duck Tape is nostalgic, yet uniquely modern at the same time.
Though it’s sonically eclectic, Bridges’ album maintains a cohesive sound that stands on its own and flows smoothly through its dynamic rhythms and varied arrangements. Driven along by strong, groovy basslines and layers of edgy electronica, the album blends an old-time feel with the fun and imaginative electronic sounds of the West Coast. It’s a refreshing album consisting of unique arrangements and emotionally infused songwriting, allowing Benny’s deliberate and introspective approach to shine through.
Beyond its crafty play on words, the name of the album holds symbolic significance for Bridges. His family has found ducks to be a good omen, and his mother has always likened him to a duck. Appearing outwardly to be peacefully floating along, but underneath, frantically paddling to stay afloat. After struggling with self doubt early in his career, The Duck Tape represents a big personal step for Benny Bridges. It affirms his place in the music industry as a highly talented young artist with his own unique musical perspective and sound.
“This project was important for me to find pride and contentment with myself,” said Bridges. “I feel strongly about finding those things that can calm that frantic motion and allow you to live within yourself and be proud of what you’ve achieved.”