Monday, February 06, 2006

Across the Elementary, according to his MySpace, is a romantic depiction of home. Across the Elementary (also known as ATE) is also the guise of 11th grade Chapel Hill student Reed Benjamin. Benjamin has appeared in a number of bands in both his home state of Massachusetts as well as his current home in North Carolina, one I had the pleasure to be a part of called Paris:Guilty! Reed Benjamin continues his progression as a musician and more notably as a writer/producer with his latest release The Fall EP under the name Across the Elementary.

Don’t let Benjamin’s young age fool you into thinking his music is somehow immature and self-indulgent, as the music of high school musicians often can be. Benjamin’s recordings weave complex tapestries of sound, combining orchestral instruments, choirs, and a foundation of guitars, bass, and drums, all of which he performs and records himself.

Cleverly, Reed Benjamin has embarked on a journey to write and record EPs for his unique experience in each of the seasons. Remarkably, Across the Elementary has already put out an EP—one for the season collection (The Fall EP) and a full length that began the era of Across the Elementary, titled Everything I Never Told You.

Benjamin’s sound is reminiscent of a young Mike Kinsella (Owen, the Owls, American Football) especially in the layered, breathy vocals as well as the multiple twinkly guitar tracks in his music. In between these layers of guitars and voice, Benjamin intertwines electronic samples, which often accentuate the tone of the song and might I add, are very professionally recorded. Benjamin will modestly shrug off comparisons to famous indie titans, like the bands Kinsella appeared in, but these comparisons are not wholly undeserving. These sorts of comparisons may still be in the making musically and lyrically, but Benjamin has mastered the honesty that is necessary to remain creative and hold credibility in today’s music world. To make an impact in the Chapel Hill music scene as a junior in high school is no small feat.

Reed Benjamin is a quiet yet outgoing guy. In a room of crowded people you probably wouldn’t particularly notice him, but that isn’t to say he wouldn’t notice you. There is something to be said for the observations he makes in his music and in his own life that you can somehow relate to your own.

In the tradition of music that finds its strength in its honesty and personality, I decided to sit down with my friend Reed so that you all could see just how truthful his songs are to his personality:

naveed: so what is "the purpose" of a.t.e?is there any mission behind it?

reed: i mean to be honest its the the driving force behind. it is my childhood and growing up

naveed: awesome. yea, that's definitely a theme in the songs

reed: most of the songs are written about the past. like its mainly about where i used to live, but also its going in the direction of new friends and where i am now

naveed: does the childhood theme bear any significance in the name across the elementary?

reed: well sort of yes, but its also just kind of coincidence. it came from this one song that i wrote a long time ago

reed: the piano part from the first song on "Everything I Never Told You" was going to be used for something else, but i just messed around and fit it in to be the sort of intro for the cd

reed: that original song was instrumental, and whenever i listened to it i just got this picture in my head looking down from a hill over this field and trees that were at my elementary school—essentially across from it. i dont know why i pictured that but it just always stuck in my head

naveed: yea. that's a damn good intro.

reed: haha thanks man

reed: the original name was at first going to be "Trees Across The Elementary" just for that one song, but then i decided i liked the name, and cut it to Across The Elementary for a "band name" i guess, but the name ATE has grown to be so much more than that one picture in my head—its totally representative of what i write about, the whole childhood thing, and all my old friends, and home. elementary to me gives the vibe of the feeling of being young and stuff, so it just fits i think.

naveed: do you ever think your age is restricting? we both know how snobby chapel hill can be as an indie music "scene"

reed: Yeah as far age restrictions, i mean its just hard in one sense because of having to got to school everyday and i work on the weekends, among other many things from week to week, so its first off just hard to find time since i have so many other obligations at this age, and cant just focus on my projects as if it were my job or something
but also as far being so young in this town and stuff i mean i guess it can be restricting, as where it would be anywhere else, but im most of all just thankful for the oppurtunity there is here, there is so much talent in this area its kind of ridiculous, like most of the time i go home from a show realizing that i suck and become kinda embarassed by my songs

reed: but also there is the flip side where you bring your cd to the record stores down town and someone there will listen to it and tell you that they liked your cd, even if they are just being nice and bullshiting, its a little boost of confidence from some of the people you really respect and value their opinion the most

reed: but most of all my friends are my support system, and its just kind of hilarious to hear them throw out a line from one of my songs in conversation, and just kinda joke around with it, cause i think its actually funny to hear that someone actually knows the lyrics even at all and pays that much attention

reed: as far as age goes though, it can be restricting in some ways, but i wouldnt want it any other way, to be an older writing songs about god knows what, i definitely enjoy writing the songs of my youth while its still happening, because i feel like maybe when im older i wont be able to recall certain things as well

reed: hope that makes sense haha

naveed: yea yea thats fine. so what bands that you've been in/listened to have most influenced what we know as ATE

reed: well, its really weird. i think i go through phases of listening to certain bands a lot when i am writing new stuff, like focusing on writing a certain record. for instince, for Everything I Never Told You, i definitely listened to a lot of Bright Eyes and Death Cab For Cutie in rotation, and then definitely influenced a lot

reed: and for the Fall EP, as you can definitely tell, i was pretty much just listenin to Owen and American Football and i wanted a more acoustic, natural, earthy sound for the it

naveed: what do you want to say to everyone reading this who hasn't heard ATE. what should they expect or what do you want them to know?

reed: for those who dont know much about ATE, just know that ATE is all about friends and family, that is the only thing i write about, whether they are from the past or present, even the songs that ive heard a lot of people think are about like old girlfriends and stuff....welll...sorry to say they arent....they're still all about my friends and family, those are the number one things i value in my life, and besides i cant write songs about girlfriends and stuff....i just cant write that kinda stuff....and besides i dont really ever have any girlfriends haha

naveed: haha, well this article will change all that

reed: expect a Winter EP-which will be more ambient, electronic(much different from past/and probably ATE sounds), a Spring EP-think sunshine and flowers, and more natural sounds, and a Summer EP-which will be just one rockin/good times record. also this summer, as i am writing/recording the Summer EP, i plan on writing and recording my next full length

naveed: awesome. we all are looking forward to the recordings.

reed: thanks naveed!

naveed: yea dude of course, thanks for taking the time for this.

[mp3] When Autumn
[mp3] Everything I Never Told You
[myspace] acrosstheelementary

Naveed Hassan
Contributing Writer

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