The Young Benjamins are one of the latest bands to come out of Saskatoon’s vibrant music scene of late. They recently released their first album, Less Argue, which combines energetic indie pop with song writing that reflects their Simon & Garfunkel inspired roots.
The band is led by Neusha Mofazzali. He is the son of Iranians who immigrated to England. They later moved from London to Saskatoon because of the recession. His father had the good fortune not to lose his job during the wave of layoffs, but decided to move to Canada because his family might have a better future here. They landed in Saskatoon, a city that is growing and has an expanding economy fuelled by potash and uranium mining, among other things.
They’ve now been here for about five years. In that time Neusha has grown fond of his new hometown and especially the music scene. “People are so supportive in Saskatoon and they make you feel wanted and they like your music so that you just keep going,” says Neusha.
Alongside starting a band, he attended the University of Saskatchewan and got a degree in politics. “Everything leads back to politics,” Neusha tells me over the phone. “I was going to do geography and then I heard about some issues going on in Iran, which is where my parents are from, and I got reading more about political change and revolutionary ideologies going on in the Middle East right now.”
The Young Benjamins began as a duo, but then the other girl involved in the band moved to Japan before anything got off the ground. “It was a duo but there were no songs recorded yet or anything, we only had like one show,” says Neusha. “It was just a beginning of the name really.”
After that Neusha carried on the name and the band has grown into a four-piece. Francophone musician Veronique Poulin (Vareo) plays violin, keyboards and provides vocals. She hails from Zenon Park, a small bilingual community in Saskatchewan. She got to know Neusha at an open mic night and then through jam sessions. Bryn Krysa, who was born and raised in Saskatoon, plays Bass. Bryn and Neusha attended high school together. Kuba Smigielsky plays the drums and has a jazzy style. He is currently working towards a masters in geology in Fernie, B.C. and is Neusha’s roommate.
Neusha took inspiration for the name Young Benjamins as a reference to the character Benjamin Braddock from The Graduate. For a period in junior high and high school he watched the movie at least once a week. “When Dustin Hoffman accepted his award at the Oscars, they announced him as Young Benjamin and it was pretty cool,” says Neusha.
The interplay between guitar, violin and vocals is the foundation of their sound, which can at times have a pop, indie, rock or folk feel to it. They have a broad range of influences ranging from classic rock, like Pink Floyd and Simon & Garfunkel, to contemporary Saskatoon bands like the Sheepdogs, Deep Dark Woods and Slowdown. “Honestly it’s like asking anyone these days what you’re listening to everyone will almost give you the answer of everything,” remarks Neusha.
Neusha tells me that he likes to listen to a lot of electronic music because it is quite different from the style of music he writes. It provides him with inspiration without running the risk of accidentally sounding a lot like whatever he is listening to. “I listened to a lot of Fleet Foxes for a long time and I started writing songs like Fleet Foxes and I was like damn I can’t keep doing this,” says Neusha.
Young Benjamins released their first record at the end of May called Less Argue. “It’s incredibly recent,” says Neusha. “We’ve been playing those songs for a long time so it was about time for us to get them out into an MP3 form.”
The band is planning to record and release more material before the end of the year. Over the summer they will be playing at numerous festivals including Sled Island.