There is an air of mystery surrounding Los Angeles-based duo, slenderbodies. Known simply by their first names, Benji and Max, the pair has been crafting pieces of downtempo perfection for years. Escaping simple classification since their debut, 2016′s sotto voce, slenderbodies is a duo best known by not genre terminology but their signature, transcendental sound inspired by the living, breathing world around them.
Fresh off their latest EP, soraya, which is inspired by all the powerful women who have left a positive impact on the duo’s lives, we had a chance to speak with Benji. Delving into who exactly soraya is, the bravery that comes with being vulnerable, and much more, we had the pleasure of getting to know more about the masterminds behind one of the most hypnotic musical projects in recent memory.
OTW: How does it feel having just put out your new EP, soraya?
Benji: It feels really cathartic. I think in a lot of ways we intended for soraya to be the perfect bridge for us, leading people from fabulist and fabulist: extended to where we’re going. That bridge blends perfectly into the album that is coming. So, we really wanted to do that from a sonic standpoint to give fans a taste of what’s going to come and hold their hand down the path as we go along. But also, conceptually, having just signed, it was important for us to pay a lot of respect to the people who got us here, and I think that soraya, conceptually, pays respect to all the strong women in our lives. We really wanted to make sure that we were honoring those who raised us, essentially, before diving into this next season of our lives.
OTW: Can you also speak on how nature has inspired your work?
Benji: Yeah, I mean, nature is a crucial part of it. Both of our moms are travelers. I personally grew up in a small farm town, so nature was a part of my life. And Max would take hikes as a kid with his family. So, it’s always been a part of our lives, and I think there is a really distinct, almost romantic intimate relationship that we have with the outdoors that definitely comes into our music.
OTW: Who is soraya?
Benji: I love that you ask who is soraya, because we’re really trying to connect with fans about who their soraya is. soraya is this amalgamation of all the strong women in our lives. So, that is our grandmothers, mothers, cousins, romantic interests, platonic female friends we’ve had. soraya is anybody who is a woman who has impacted us in a positive way in our lives. For us, we just know how much growth we experience through our relationships with these different women and how important that was, and we wanted to highlight how impactful they have been to our creativity and to our success. It’s many people.
In relating to the song, “the one,” it kind of explains it that “you could be the one to take my breath away.” That kind of refers to anyone who could take your breath away, surprise you, uplift you. It’s kind of a general sense. I think that’s a really good relation to soraya.
OTW: If you had to choose one place to start on the EP, would you choose “the one”?
Benji: I don’t know. See, that’s the thing, I think… I don’t know if I would. Personally, I think that for me, and this is something we always wanted to consider with our art, there is no one proper way to interpret or connect with the art, anyone’s art really. So for me, I think I would start with “king,” because for me, that song is about creativity, it’s about self-doubt. And for me, my mom was always there for me to say, “I believe in you, that’s a cool song. I like what you’re working on.” And since then I have had romantic interests and female friends who have served a similar role.
So I always start with “king,” because it’s something where creativity is kind of an unstable thing and there can be things that push it to the edge sometimes, and it’s good to have people to push back. So I think I would start there. Whereas someone else might start with “the one,” just because it’s kind of this magical cinematic moment where anyone can be there for you. So it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure, in a way, where I think any of the songs is a good place to start.
OTW: I also do love the fact that there is a song titled “king” on this EP that is focused around women. It may seem contradictory at first, but it does really fit well into soraya’s overarching theme.
Benji: Thank you. I appreciate that. That’s actually really heartening and validating. Yeah, I mean, this is an EP about women, and I think that we chose “king” because you know, I think so much of masculinity is putting up a face, and I think that socially we’re pushed to not show our emotions but obviously that whole song is about a man doubting himself and having a female person reassure him.
I think something really important that my mom bestowed in me was just to be there with your emotions, be there with your feelings, because they will make you stronger in the end. I think that the song is all about vulnerability, and that maybe the kingliness that we would want to encourage comes from vulnerability, transparency, and emotional openness. That’s what should be portrayed.
OTW: I love that. That’s how we should be portraying masculinity in 2019 and moving forward. That’s great.
Benji: Yeah, I think the greatest thing you can do is be vulnerable, right? Traditionally, masculinity is associated with bravery, courage, and all these really over the top things. Vulnerability is one of the hardest things to do, so is that not the bravest thing?
OTW: Your music really does escape any simplistic genre classifications, so how would you describe your music without using genre terms?
Benji: I love that question. I think we think of ourselves as wordsmiths a lot and just love words that are taken from off the beaten path. I guess, organic is a word that we like to employ to describe our music. Airy. Breathable. I think moving, as a multifaceted concept because that’s something we always intend, is for the music to always be emotionally moving but also to make you move or sway. I think vivid, I think colorful, I think cinematic. Those are all words that we would want to use to describe our music.
OTW: So, what is one thing that you hope people can take away from listening to this new EP?
Benji: I hope people take something from it. I hope they take a sense of calm, or take a sense of joy from listening to the music. Or they take a sense of, “Oh, that was novel, I haven’t that before.” But on an emotional tip, if they examine their relationship with anyone they care about in their life as a consequence of listening to our music, I would be super happy. But I think at the very least, just to connect with the music, and maybe lead that to connect with other people in their lives.
OTW: So I know you literally just released the EP and are probably still reflecting and basking in it, but do you have any plans for the near future?
Benji: Yeah, I mean we’re cooking on an album, and we’re just writing away, so you can expect a lot more from us this year in terms of music content. And then also our visual content, we’re really trying to work on, get some more music videos together. We’re working on the video for “Queen.” We’re also looking to see how we can further engage our fans and further connect with them, so we want to be a lot more active. You can just expect a lot more from us bonding with people in addition to a bunch of new music coming out.
OTW: On the connecting with fans front, I loved how you asked fans to share special memories with women in their lives.
Benji: Thank you, I really appreciate that. Yeah, I mean, we’re both community-orientated people. Max has a huge family that he loves and adores, and I grew up in a small town where I had a bunch of friends that I’ve known since I was six years old. So, I think fostering that into our music careers is very important to us and the best way to do that, you know. Social media can be such a wonderful, wonderful tool to jump off of to connect with others. We want to foster that.
OTW: Who are your Ones To Watch?
Benji: Oh man, that’s a big question. Japanese House is huge for us right now. Donna Missal is also huge for us. Big Jesse Reyez fans. I’m trying to think who else… there’s this group called Thirdstory, they’re sweet. The Marías, Jamila Woods.