In the beginning there was Pizza. Right after the hurricane, when the people of New Orleans big banged all over the country, new little planets started popping up all over America. My friend Chuck Dass began his orbit around the DC suburbs. By the end of 2006, the moons and planets aligned and a whole solar system formed. One of those rocks was the twopiece known as Pizza. Chuck and Mike Benish practiced at his parents’ garage in Sterling, Virginia. I loved this band. But eventually, a ginormous asteroid hit their planet and all life died… a.k.a. Chuck moved back to New Orleans, got married and bought a house. So Pizza transformed into a three-piece, keeping the name and putting out a handful of tapes, LP and EPs… then evolved into Teens In Trouble, changing their name but not much else. Same line up, more songs… Still loving this band. Last year they gained a new member, and with a slight instrument change, have now matured into Passing Phases! Big surprise, I love them and their album, Endless Autumn, too. Here is some of me and Mike Benish’s banter.
Besides your show, what are three things you wish to accomplish during your visit to New Orleans?
Mike Benish: Drink NOLA Brewing Company beer, have a cookout, hang with Chuck Dass.
There is definitely a strong connection with the personalities of New Orleanians and Virginianytes. Why do you think that is?
I’m not sure but New Orleans has definitely felt like a second home because of our friendships. I guess it’s like a love-at-first-site thing. It just clicks.
Endless Autumn seems to be a concept album that’s theme is changes—or passing phases—in a positive way as well as a depressing way. Is everything okay in your personal life?
Everything is good. At the time I was going through a breakup and trying to figure some things out, but that’s a part of life and you have to appreciate what change can bring you.
Was your new tour 7” recorded on a reel-to-reel?
Yes, we recorded with this guy Nikhil who lives above a bar. He has an 8 track tape machine. He did the album too.
You remind me of Steven Malcaus. Does that offend you?
Do you mean Stephen Malkmus?
No. Steve Malcaus, some guy I went to grade school with? Yes. Malkmus
I admire both of those guys.
For a living you make beer. How did you get started doing that?
Before that I worked at Starbucks and hated it. When the brewery [Lost Rhino] opened I went there and asked for a job, said I would do anything. Turned out my dad coached one of the managers in soccer when she was a kid and she hired me on the spot. The company was so small at the time, I got to help with everything from making the beer to bartending in the tasting room, having no experience with either. I guess it just happened, and I love it.
Outside of Lost Rhino, do you make beer on your own?
No. I tried a couple times but I figure to get good at it you have to invest more time and money than I’m willing. The job suffices my interest in making beer. I like to do other things outside of work.
About how many songs have you written in the past five years?
[I] probably average 10 to 15 songs a year.
Why are you so lazy?
I’m not, it just takes me a long time to do things. I’m slow.
Well I bet you’re the best lover.
No one’s ever said that to me. I hear “good effort.”
Who is your favorite person in New Orleans?
Ha ha, that’s not fair. I think you’re the best cook.
Who do you think made me ask you that question?
Bingo. Who is cooler, Mike Watt or Kim Deal?
Probably Kim Deal. Mike Watt’s interesting but is probably too intense to hang out with.
I can see that. But Kim will probably never want to do anything… just chill at home.
Who’s cooler, Kim Deal or Kim Gordon?
Right now… Deal.
Do you ever get bored playing rock music?
No, do you?
I get bored doing anything for a long time. But then I take a break and then get right back into it and end up loving it again. How do you think the Skins are going to do this year?
If RG3 is healthy, we will go to the Super Bowl.
I will drive to Sterling if that happens.
And stay here until they are no longer the champions.
Rent’s too high over there and I hear the catfish po-boys have tilapia in them over there. What happens after we die?
I assume we get to travel through space and alternate dimensions. And hopefully travel through time.
That sounds a lot nicer then what Rummel taught me.
He’s a dead Catholic archbishop, but it’s where I went to high school. Recording can be kinda stressful. Do you have a specific food you eat or activity you do that calms you down and helps you make a better record?
I haven’t figured that out yet. Usually drink coffee but I don’t know if that really helps… Last recording went well and I ate chili; maybe that’s the key.
Is there anything else you would like to say before we check out?
Thank you, Eric. I look forward to touring with you. What’s your favorite NOLA Brewing beer?
Irish Channel Stout! It is fucking incredible. It’s on draft at Mick’s.
Let’s hit that up!
Passing Phases play the Prytania Bar on Tuesday, May 14th at 9 p.m. with Natural Blonde, the Rooks and Adults. For more info, check out sterlingvarecords.wordpress.com