July 16, 2015
Anyone who loves art has probably had an unsettling experience at a museum. From across the room, we see a painting so beautiful and seductive on the surface it almost commands us to look at it. We marvel at its light and lithesome colors. Then, we notice some spooky figure or a deeply unsettling shade in the corner of this picture. Our mood, once bright, suddenly takes an unmistakable turn for the ominous. If this visual idea could be turned into a musical one, the person to musically depict such works would be Benjamin Cartel. While his new album, Gothenburg, is both melodic and gorgeous, almost every song can creep you out a little, too...
July 9, 2015
Gothenburg is the debut album from Kaiser Cartel’s Benjamin Cartel and it’s a great collection of contemporary Americana style songs with subtle songwriting and very personal instrumentation. Featuring songs written over many years, it’s got a feeling of completeness, and on several levels these songs have already travelled, grown and matured along their own life paths before being recorded here...
November 7, 2014
On a cold, rainy autumn evening, the place you want to be is a Benjamin Cartel show. Opening for Larkin Poe at Café 939 last Saturday, Benjamin Cartel delivered some moody, relaxing singer-songwriter tunes that matched the rainy day vibes...
October 29, 2014
Hello MD! What’s the last thing a drummer says in a band? “Hey, how about we try one of my songs?” In my case, it’s actually one of the first things I have said in all bands I’ve ever been in. Perhaps that is why I now play in a band of my own....
October 23, 2014
What’s most striking about Benjamin Cartel is his thoughtfulness. Not in any sort of courteous way, although the songwriter was certainly friendly enough. Rather, it’s found in his approach to his life and music, a level of important consideration that marks each decision along the way...
December 27, 2013
You may recognize singer-songwriter Benjamin Cartel as one-half of Brooklyn indie-folk duo Kaiser Cartel. If not, all you really need to know is that Money & Love, Cartel's debut solo EP, is a rock-solid folk-pop creation. The six-song collection stands on strong guitar legs and fleshes out with Cartel's expansive vocals as he infuses slow-burning blues with elements of 1960s power pop. Some songs on Money & Love were written 10 years ago. Here's hoping that we won't have to wait quite that long for a full-length.
December 12, 2013
A fusion of home-grown and New York-based talent occurs tonight on the Aster’s small corner stage. Benjamin Cartel garnered fans for his role in Kaiser Cartel, but for him it was a mere pause in a long solo career. He’s back in the studio by his lonesome lately, having just released Money and Love, his first solo EP. Cartel’s style is a mix of vintage pop vibes (check out “No One“) and indie rock (“Money and Love“). The EP is patched together with songs he wrote before Kaiser Cartel took off and songs he recorded more recently, so his musical evolution is contained in one record. He recruited some of the Melismatics to serve as backing band and musical collaborators, who are unplugging for the evening and deeming themselves The Rising Tides (after the name of their latest album). Top notch music, up close and intimate. Grab a tumbler of wine and settle in. 9 p.m. $6. —EK
Aster Cafe, 125 SE Main St., Mpls., 612-379-3138, astercafe.com
A rock lifer who isn’t mired in ubiquitous AA stories or bad tattoos, Benjamin Cartel still sports the slick suits of his ‘90s power days in the underappreciated Heartdrops. He’s since done a lovely duet thing (Kaiser Cartel), and after all the rocking and road work he’s put in over the years, he has finally released the first proper Benjamin Cartel solo release, the Money & Love EP, six songs of the straightforward heartfelt songwriter stuff that comes from, well, all that rockin’ and roadwork.
Benjamin Cartel is playing on Thursday, October 17 at Union Hall; and on Saturday, October 19 at the Living Room.
4th August 2013
Benjamin Cartel interview + session
Nordic Vibrations @ Sunday Summer Sabbatical
Indie rocker Benjamin Cartel first came to PledgeMusic as a member of the duo Kaiser Cartel with Courtney Kartel.
Now that both are married and Courtney and her husband have started a family, Cartel is branching out for a bit to do some solo work, though he says he’s not leaving Kaiser Cartel behind. Get the scoop in our interview and then be sure to stop by Cartel’s PledgeMusic page!
After years alongside Courtney in Kaiser Cartel, this is your first solo release. What made this the right time to step out?
Before Kaiser Cartel had started as a duo/band, I was recording and performing on my own. Playing Benjamin Cartel music was something I had kept up during Kaiser Cartel, in a very low-key way. But I was always working on songs apart from my work with Courtney. Courtney and I had spent most of 2005 to 2010 together on the road or in the studio. In 2011, Courtney and I got married, and Courtney had started a family – things were naturally slowing down for Kaiser Cartel. And I had more time to focus on my own music in a more serious way.
Is it different writing for yourself than for the band or have these songs been waiting for a home?
Yes, it is different for sure. When I write with Courtney it’s always a collaboration of both our ideas for melodies and lyrics. But when I write alone, I will almost always write the entire melody and the lyrics all by myself. Sometimes I think it’s even tougher writing alone than writing with a partner. You can always check your writing ideas with somebody else, and you get the benefit of two personalities fueling a song. When I write alone, the challenge is to make my own personality engaging and dynamic.
The songs on the EP are are mixture of old and new songs. Some of the songs on “Money and Love” are brand new, and others are older songs that have been waiting for a home for many years. As long as I can sing a song that I write and feel good about it, it doesn’t matter where or when the song comes together on a recording.
For fans of the band, is this a side project? What does this mean for the band’s future?
For Kaiser Cartel fans, I have no plans to end Kaiser Cartel. This solo music is close to my heart and something I have been doing all along. I have never recorded music as Benjamin Cartel, so I am very excited about finally doing this. Whatever the future is for Kaiser Cartel, I will continue to write my own music. I love both projects. Neither of them are lesser or greater to me. They are different sides of my creativity.
It’s fun to hear what Kristoffer Ragnstam and Joel Lundberg added. With musical friends in various places, what made you choose to get them involved specifically?
To me, Kris and Joel are the X factor. They are the mystery element. Their production and music ideas are very different than my own. I enjoy being surprised by what they bring my songs. Kris and Joel are also my good friends, and I have known them for years. They have also been great supporters of Kaiser Cartel, and big fans of my solo music. I am big fans of their music as well.
I have friends in music all over the US, and in other countries, but Kris and Joel were more enthusiastic about working with me than anybody I can think of. When they added their ideas to my rough recordings, we both found it to be a natural fit. It’s a happy accident.
What can you tell us about Art of Conservation and their work? What drew you to support them with your campaign?
Julie Ghrist at Art of Conservation is a good friend of mine. She and I used to live in the same apartment in Manhattan years ago. We got back in touch when Kaiser Cartel put out our first album. Julie was very supportive of our music.
I love what the Art of Conservation is all about. They are helping Rwandan people learn about conservation of the environment, and educating about endangered wildlife of the Virunga National Forrest. They teach art, health and the values of sustainable living to people who live in a remote area and don’t have many opportunities to have that kind of education. It’s important work for Rwanda, and for the world, and I’m happy to be able to help them in any way I can.