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The Bruno Brief: Live music is back

Live music returns to campus in this week’s episode of The Bruno Brief. Student group Sounds@Brown hosted its first in-person event Sept. 30, featuring four student performers. We spoke to performer Gus Benson ’24 about the return to live music and what it felt like to play for his peers.

Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or listen via the RSS feed, and send us tips and feedback for the next episode: herald@browndailyherald.com. The Bruno Brief is produced in partnership with WBRU.

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Welcome back to The Bruno Brief, a podcast from The Brown Daily Herald and WBRU. I'm Corey Gelb-Bicknell. 

Last week, live music returned to campus. We talked to musician Gus Benson ’24 about his performance on Thursday at a concert hosted by the students group Sounds@Brown. This interview was recorded the day after.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

This next song is an original that I wrote, like, two years ago or so.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] So you want to be free / I'm not here to stop you, I don't disagree / There's plenty of fish in the sea / You say that's not what you mean …

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Gus, can you introduce yourself to the audience?

 

Gus Benson 

Absolutely. My name is Gus Benson. I'm 20 years old. I'm a sophomore at Brown, and I'm ready to rock.

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Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] You can write your ticket to my heart / Your signature's been written on it from the start / You can write your ticket / You can write your ticket / You can write a dream into my mind / Baby if you want it, you already got it alright / You can write your ticket / You can write your ticket.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Tell us a bit more about your musical history.

 

Gus Benson 

Sure. I like to think of myself primarily as a guitarist. For my whole life, I've always been singing in a fairly untrained way, up until high school when I started doing some musical theater. Around the same time, the guitar and vocal situation kind of fused together. And I was also learning a couple other instruments just for fun on the side. And that's when I started writing songs kind of seriously.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Yeah, tell us a bit more about the band you're in right now.

 

Gus Benson 

Yeah, I'm in a band called Falling Walrus. We fluctuate between being a five-piece and a seven- to nine-piece, funk/pop/alternative band. And we do not have any officially recorded music out on any of the platforms. But that's what makes us so special, because everything we do is impromptu and only happens once.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Have you guys, as Falling Walrus, been able to play a lot in the last year and a half? What's it been like since freshman year?

 

Gus Benson 

We unfortunately have not been able to play that much together. Over the pandemic, when we were all separated, we started working on some songs that we compiled virtually. During the summer of 2020, many of us were hanging out together on a road trip out west. And so we did a lot of busking and played a couple little small shows, doing a fun little improvised acoustic set during that road trip.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

So it's just you and the band out on the street playing these acoustic instruments for passersby?

 

Gus Benson 

Exactly, yeah. I was playing the mandolin. Jesse Adelstein and Ford (Shaper) were playing the guitar. And then Alden (Forbes) was also singing with us. And it was tons of fun. And we were wearing cowboy hats and trying to really adopt the culture. And surprisingly, the general public was totally digging the tunes. It feels like a somewhat country and rustic, Western vibe, the town of Telluride. And so I think that's why they took kindly to our acoustic setup.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

I see also on Spotify that you've been releasing a few songs, not as the band, just personally. Tell me a bit about that.

 

Gus Benson 

I've always had a dream of being a musician professionally. And the logical next step in that progression, if I even wanted that to ever possibly happen, was to start putting out my own music. And so I made the decision to start doing that last year, and I worked with my friend Jack Riley, who produced my first single called Write Your Ticket, and that was put out in January of 2021. A couple more songs are on the way, which is really exciting and fun.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

It sounds like a very prolific time for you during the pandemic. So let's fast forward a bit. Sounds@Brown was last night. Was that your first show back in person on Brown's campus?

 

Gus Benson 

Technically, on campus, it was my first show. But earlier this summer, I played a show in Pawtucket at The Met. And then we also played a show a couple weeks ago with Chance Emerson and the Matlock Twins at The Met — that was with Falling Walrus. That was Falling Walrus's first return to the Brown music scene since the pandemic, but both of those were off campus and so this was the first time that I was able to play at any on-campus venue since, who knows? March of 2020?

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Here's Bruno Brief producer Katy Pickens at the show.

 

Katy Pickens 

I am sitting in the Alumni Garden and people are starting to trickle in. The setup is really cozy. There are string lights and everyone brought blankets to sit on and there's a general feel that everyone's excited for live music to be back again. [To Gus] How do you feel about performing live?

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

I can't wait. I think it's really exciting to get back to performing live in front of people after so long of not being able to do so. I'm definitely kind of brushing off the rust and trying to work some old muscles that haven't been worked in a while. But I'm looking forward to it a lot. 

Alrighty. What's up everybody? How's it going tonight? [Cheers from the crowd] I love to hear it. Not the most enthusiastic, but Mercury is in retrograde, so I understand.  This song is an original that I wrote over my gap year in Santa Cruz.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] Driving out on Highway One / Thought about a different sun.

 

Gus Benson 

It felt great. Honestly, it was really, really fun. The audience was super energetic.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] Can't you see? / The anguish eats away at me / The clock says 2017, but damn the clock is slow.

 

Gus Benson 

I usually like to gauge the success of my performances based on how much fun I had. So I think, comparatively, this was definitely a high note.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] Bought myself a hand-shaped surfboard that I never thought would see the light of day, until you came / Until you came.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Katy Pickens caught up with Gus after the performance.

 

Katy Pickens 

So how was the show?

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

It was rad. It was so much fun.

 

Katy Pickens 

Was it a good return to live music?

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

Such a good return to live music. It was a bigger turnout than I expected, especially on kind of a cold night. 

 

Gus Benson 

I played a cover of Emily King's song “Georgia,” in which I forgot some of the words and fumbled a little bit on that song. It happens, it's part of performing. And it was kind of funny to just be back and dealing with that because virtually, those are the types of things that you can kind of edit out. And those are the things that make live performances so raw and real.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

How did the crowd react to that?

 

Gus Benson 

They were very kind and they cheered me on.

 

Gus Benson (via Sounds@Brown) 

[Singing] Oh since that moment. I can- f*cking hell, I don't know the words. [Crowd cheering] Wondering about you, always.

 

Gus Benson 

And so it really goes to show what the- it was kind of a microcosm of the Brown student body, which is very supportive and a little giggly as well.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Who else was performing last night?

 

Gus Benson 

The other performers were Ellie Tapping '24, Tara Mandal ’24 and Laura David '24 (Herald senior staff writer), and they were all incredible. I think this show in particular, because it was at Brown, very much felt like a return to the Brown music scene, which, before the pandemic, felt pretty centralized. During the pandemic, it felt super scattered and all over the place, in fun ways, and then also in some frustrating ways. But this felt like things really came back together.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

That sounds really exciting. And so looking ahead into the future, what are your plans? What do you see as what's next on the docket?

 

Gus Benson 

I guess this is the first time that I've spoken about this in a more public and on-the-record way. This will be a fun little practice in accountability. But I'm working on a small acoustic EP that I hope to put out, ideally — actually, loftily — before 2022. And then I'm working on a couple of other little singles.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Okay, so let it be stated here today that there is a potential album coming out — a small acoustic EP — by the end of 2021.

 

Gus Benson 

Indeed.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

Is that at all inspired by the busking that was going on last summer?

 

Gus Benson 

Definitely, to some extent. As a matter of fact, I think the album cover is going to be a photograph that my friend Anabelle took of Jesse, Kieran and I busking in a cave in Colorado.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

That sounds great. Well, I'm very excited. I will add busking to my vocabulary. It was great to have you on the show. Gus, thank you so much.

 

Gus Benson 

Thank you, Corey. This has been awesome.

 

Gus Benson 

[Singing] So you want to be free / I'm not here to stop you.

 

Corey Gelb-Bicknell 

This has been The Bruno Brief. Our show is produced by Livi Burdette, Ben Glickman, Max Karpowich, Katy Pickens and me, Corey Gelb-Bicknell. If you like what you hear, subscribe to The Bruno Brief wherever you get your podcasts and leave a review. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next week.

 

Gus Benson 

[Singing] That will set you free / You can write your ticket to my heart / Your signature's been written on it from the start / You can write your ticket / You can write your ticket.

This transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

____________________

This episode was produced by Olivia Burdette, Ben Glickman, Corey Gelb-Bicknell, Max Karpawich and Katy Pickens. 

Music:

Write Your Ticket by Gus Benson

You Came by Gus Benson




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