There’s nothing old fashioned about Plymouth-based five-piece The Retro Gents – as John Govier found out when he spoke to them after they appeared on his Saturday Morning Show.
They’re what I’d call a great party band. Playing songs you’ll recognise, mingled seemlessly with their own original material. It’s music to enjoy. Music that makes you want to get up and dance.
Trombonist, Tom Boutwood, is the newest member – although you may already know him from his time with ska band Too Hot.
The rest of the guys have been together for about a year. Lead singer David Benassi and guitarist Cy Brandl were both running open-mic nights at the opposite ends of the city and after their paths crossed a few times, they decided to form a band performing some of David’s extensive back catalogue.
They stumbled across drummer, Jack “The Jackal” Hebb, playing a wok and a bucket at a party in a barn! (Probably best just to leave that there!)
For a short while they performed as a trio before deciding they needed to add a bass line and Exeter musician Tom “Cat” Lake answered their online ad.
Benassi is the leader of the band. “Not that we’ve asked him to be,” jokes Jack, “but he’s a great front man.”
A Labour of Love
As with many musicians here in the South West, this is a labour of love for The Retro Gents, juggling their gigs and late nights with holding down work and studies.
Jack’s at University, Tom L works in a Plymouth sport shop, Tom B is a company manager, David works in a phone shop and Cy is ‘between jobs’.
“I’m trying to decide exactly what it is I want to do,” he says. “I’ve had multiple jobs in the past from acting to teaching guitar, restaurant and bar work to heading up a team that fits microchips to recycling bins.
“Musicians aren’t necessarily the richest people,” adds Cy, “It’s more about the music than making money.”
I have to say I really like The Retro Gents. I like their music, but I also like the fact that there’s not a pretentious bone in their collective body. They arrive, they set up, they play, they have fun – and that is such an important factor in live music as far as I’m concerned.
You’ll usually find them performing in pubs and clubs across the city and they’re hoping for more festival gigs next year.
They’re spontaneous too. “We never write a set list,” Cy tells me, “we tend to judge the crowd on the night.
“There are moments where one song will obviously flow into another, but we don’t think about it consciously.”
“Sometimes Dave looks around to the rest of us and says ‘What next?‘ and we just sort of know instantly what to do,” adds Jack.
A Bigger Sound
So how will the addition of the fifth member change the dynamics to the band?
“Having ‘T-bone Tom‘ with us means we can offer a bigger sound. It also adds another visual element to our stage show, it’s a very visual instrument and he’s a very competent musician,” says Cy.
“It also takes some pressure off me. I don’t really like playing distorted guitar, I like playing a clean sound but up until now I’ve had to bulk up the sound as, sonically, my instrument is really the only one that can really do that.”
“We know that we can start to push for slightly bigger gigs now too,” adds Jack.
To try and pigeonhole The Retro Gents into a particular genre of music is not easy. Rockabilly, blues, gypsy jazz, country and funk all spring to mind – but these five guys are all that and more, they’re entertainers. They’re fun!
Go and see them if you get a chance or check them out on the Retro Gents Facebook Page.