Benjamin Cartel Incorporates Diverse Influences in His Music
As a child, Benjamin Cartel watched his aunts and uncles “singing and playing joyfully” at family gatherings, which “had profound influence on me. I thought every family was musical,” he tells Brooklyn Roads.
Cartel — a long-time Brooklyn resident, who has deep family roots here and currently calls Ditmas Park home — grew up listening to everything from pop and rock music of the ’50s through the ’80s to folk, reggae and jazz. During his middle school and high school years he discovered the Ramones and The Clash, going to all-ages punk and hardcore rock shows “since the age of 14,” he says. That experience was the impetus for what would eventually become his life’s work.
“Seeing kids my own age play their own music, make records, and tour in their own bands made me think, ‘I can do this too,’” he tells us. And when he performed in bands in high school, “It was like discovering you had a secret power that made you a superhero.”
After playing in groups for a number of years,” I began to realize there is nothing I can do as well and nothing I want to do more,” he says. “Nothing was more exciting to me as playing live music.”
Given his eclectic musical upbringing, it’s not surprising that Cartel tells us his new album, Flickering Light, is infused with a variety of influences. Among them are Brooklyn-connected artists Sonic Youth and the Velvet Underground, as well as The Replacements, The Clash, The Stooges, Bob Marley, Tom Petty, Neil Young and the Beatles.
“I don’t know if all these influences will be obvious to people who listen to the album,” he tells Brooklyn Roads, “but they are obvious to me.” Living in Brooklyn and “seeing what different people reflect in their music,” has also shaped Cartel’s musical creativity.
“If you go out and experience music in Brooklyn –– even in the streets and subways — you can’t help but be influenced. Living in Brooklyn gives you opportunities to see great music every day. When I come across excellent music no matter what the genre, I’m inspired,” he says. “The wonderful thing about Brooklyn is that great musicians from all over the country and all over the world come to perform here all year round.”
He also appreciates that, “There is no shortage of great venues. The bar is raised high; it forces performers and writers to be at their best.” His favorite place to perform?
“It’s probably more known as a comedy venue these days, but I still love playing at Union Hall. There’s an intimacy and coziness about that room that’s not like any other place in Brooklyn.” That being said, Cartel has his sights set on a bigger stage.
“I dream of headlining at Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park,” he says. Brooklyn Roads hopes he gets the chance to do that one summer in the near future.