Interview with Ginkgo Balboa

Divine Magazine
Divine Magazine 15 Min Read

Ginkgo Balboa was founded by Mike Bednarsky and Ben Masbaum in 2019. Ben is the quiet genius responsible for the band’s genre-bending sound, and Mike is the sultry singer and scribe who gives a face to the name. Bring together Ben, the multi-instrumentalist, with Mike, the wordsmith, and you have some cool indie-ish that really bumps.

With 8 singles between 2020’s debut EP Ginkgo Balboa, and the band’s forthcoming EP, Balloon Duty, Ginkgo Balboa has developed a following in praise of its nuanced, contemporary sound, which is rooted in catchy synth keyboard melodies, intricate guitar trills, and the pinballing of Mike and Ben’s distinctive voices.

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Photo Credit: Shaun Michael Chilton

What sets your music apart? What is unique, or at least uncommon?

Ben: For better or worse, I think our music has the tendency to bend genres itself. That doesn’t make us entirely unique, per se, because many bands have done that before us, but I feel like GB, in particular, lives in a genre field that doesn’t have a great deal of overlap and I think that’s one thing our music offers. We’ve said before “If you don’t like one of our songs, skip to the next. You might actually like that one.” Do you like R&B? Try “jackie macmullan.” Do you like clubby dancy music? Try “Beach with My Lover.” Perhaps you like something a little more experimental. Then “IDK You Dog” or “God Save the Beauty Queen” is your jam. What about the introspective shoegazer? Well, “Good Night in the Middle of the Day” might just be the cure for what ails you. “But Ben. I’m sick of hearing all this new music that’s all snapped to the grid and pitch corrected. Where’s the personality?” For you, I would recommend you skip to “Department Store Chic.” I like to think we have something for everyone.

Mike: Well said, Ben! Yeah, there’s something for everyone when it comes to our body of work. You know those bands that you gush about, 10 years after the fact, and gush about how underrated they were? Or worse, the bands who are socially accepted as historically underrated and never truly get their due? I think we’ll be one of those one day. (Laughs). Also, Ben and I are like fire and ice. We’re two magnets, repelling each other, in the sense that our guidelines for an ideal song are opposite, usually. But we find our way to make it work and it usually results in something accessible and acquired, at the same time.

How do you feel the Internet has impacted the music business?

Mike: I think that the Internet has made it much more difficult for talented artists to get noticed. There were always tens of thousands of bands, singers, rappers, etc., trying to become successful, but developing a platform was part of the challenge. Nowadays, everybody can play the part if they want to, and sometimes, just working hardest on social media presence is what earns you attention, whether you’re even talented at all. Sometimes, I find it discouraging and overwhelming beyond repair, but the sentiment to discover new, enjoyable music is the same as it’s always been—and that’s a feeling I wouldn’t help but chase, no matter when I had the privilege of being born. I know that much.

Ben: I think a story of how the Internet HASN’T impacted the music business is a much shorter story. Everything seems pretty rapid, right now. Kind of a bit of the old “try it all, and see what sticks.”

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Photo Credit: Shaun Michael Chilton

What is your favorite song to perform?

Mike: My favorite song to perform is “Something Animal.” The production of the studio recording is tight and simple, and we aim to replicate that design on stage, too. I love the meaning behind my lyrics, and how raw they are—that helps me to sing them passionately, night after night. I also enjoy the notes I sing and the key in which they’re in. It’s a comfortable zone for me, vocally. It’s easy for me to get in the pocket and stay there.

Ben: I’m a fan of newness so a fast answer would be whatever our latest freshie is. But if I narrow it down, I can’t say I would be able to break a tie. I do love playing “Something Animal,” especially when I can get it right. It may or may not seem like it, but that’s a difficult song to play. I think some of the other guys in the band feel the same way. There’s something about that song that just has a couple screws loose. That’s what I like about it. Because when we hit it just right, that song fucking hits and it feels great. But also, “jackie macmullan” has got to be the absolute most fun song for me to play live. I get to noodle around a little bit during that song both vocally and on the keys. Another song that we’ve had to modify, slightly for live shows. On the studio recording, there is a heavy autotune plug-in for effect. Not something we do all the time (but I’m not ashamed of what I like). I’ve experimented with autotune in rehearsals but ultimately decided to go all natural for live shows. I have a lot of fun sort of mimicking, with my voice, what it might sound like with any pitch correction.

Which famous musicians do you admire?

Ben: This probably falls in line with one’s influences. In my case, I consider Thom York (songwriting, obviously, right?) and David Gilmore (guitar chops) to be at the top of the list of artists whom I admire personally. Also, Rob Crow (songwriting) and Mike Patton (just his overall vocal range) are two guys to whom I’ve always looked up. In fact, I’ve been vocally compared to him (Patton) before, even though you probably won’t hear that in GB. I consider it a ginormous compliment. I’ve met Rob Crow a few times (not that he would remember me or anything). We had really good conversations about music and such. I feel like his and my influences have a lot of overlap. And last but not least, I admire the Ween “brothers” for their ability to bend genres with their music and still intrigue their fans with all of it.

Mike: I usually manage to have different music heroes every decade. For example, I used to resonate with Noel Gallagher, of Oasis fame, quite a bit, and Adam Duritz from the Counting Crows, but in the past 10 years, it would be the late Elliott Smith (his writing and humility), Alex Frankel of Holy Ghost! (his overall indie pop star package, especially his lyrics and vocal melodies), Ryan Adams (his songwriting, pop sensibilities, voice, and ‘80s power-rock revival sound of most of his recent records, easily my vote for one of the best songwriters today), and Ryan Kennedy, founder and singer/guitarist of Horsebeach (I just love everything about that band).

What is one message you would give to your fans?

Benjamin Masbaum: Don’t wait. If there is something you like to or want to do but are waiting for the right time to introduce it to the world and think that it’s not quite ready for whatever reason, get that thought out of your head. It’s destroying you. Perfection is rarely ever achieved the first time and, in arguably most cases, your first time is absolutely a failure. Put it out now and use your failures as learning tools. Perfection will eventually come. Or it might not. Perfection is really subjective, isn’t it? Sometimes, what some think is “meh” others can’t stop gushing over, but regardless, the concept still applies.

Mike Bednarsky: A message in general? Yeah, what Ben said, but I’d apply that logic to pretty much everything in your life. Ask out the girl. Visit the continent. Call your mother. Apply to your dream job. Put yourself out there. And practice gratitude, especially for what you usually take for granted. Your health, your friends, even your credit score, if it’s where you want it to be. (Laughs). Life is short, as they say. Drink it in, but know when to take sips instead of gulps. It’s all important.

Do you sing in the shower? What songs?

Ben: If you put a song in my head, I’m singing it everywhere. You know the song “I Can’t Wait” by Nu Shooz? That hook haunts my waking hours most days. BTW, keep your ears peeled for a Ginkgo Balboa/Nu Shooz cover in the very near future.

Mike: Maaaaan, we would cover the ish out of that song. But yeah, I sing in the shower, too, usually my favorite songs that I wish I had written. Singing in the shower used to be a cry for help though, growing up. I would sing in the shower hoping that my parents would hear me, decipher the lyrics, and acknowledge my broodiness, and then proceed to ask how I was doing. But instead, they would just applaud that I was in fact projecting my voice. Music is serious business with my family, so… wait, did I just write all that out just now? Ignore the buzzkill. (Laughs.)

If you were to write an autobiography, what would the title be?

Ben: “If It Weren’t for that Asshole at The Bar.”

Mike: I already have one, sort of. It’s listed on streaming platforms as an audiobook, so let’s call it an audio autobiography. I talk about my life, mostly my philosophy on dating and relationships. It’s called “Perpetual Lover: Michael James Bednarsky in His Own Words.” Ben’s rolling his eyes or shaking his head, maybe both, as he’s reading that, probably. (Laughs).

You are a new addition to a crayon box.  What color would you be and why?

Mike: I would be the first crayon that changes color, as you use it! My favorite color is red, and I also think a shiny chrome would suit me well, but I can’t choose just one color. Socially, a chameleon, capable of relating to different types of personalities, so let’s have my crayon reflect that.

Ben: Whatever color says, “Come here. No, go away. Wait, come back. Leave me alone. I love you.”

Which are cooler? Dinosaurs or Dragons?

Ben: Easy! Dinosaurs! Dragons are make-believe, and I can pretend up waaaay cooler things than some dragons. Sorry.

Mike: He’s not wrong about dinosaurs being cooler. But now I want to see what mythical creatures dwell in Ben’s imagination. Actually, that might be scary AF, so on second thought…

If you were talking to a younger version of you, what advice would you give yourself?

Mike: “No, Mikey, don’t eat that!”

Ben: Fuck your friends’ opinions. Who cares if they think that the girl you have a crush on is a poser? Go ask her out dude. Besides, I’ve seen who she ends up with and, believe me, that’s worse than your friends’ lack of approval. Also, lay off the LSD until you’re in your twenties. You’re soon going to have a bad trip and it’s going to change you.

After making a splash with the buoyant single “Tie Me Down,” Los Angeles-based indie alt-pop duo Ginkgo Balboa continues its journey into its alluring new era, returning with its latest single “Palm Trees.”

Capturing the glowing warmth of a bright, sunny day, “Palm Trees,” tells the story of two lovers pretending to be on the lamb. With its alluring bossa nova influences, the song serves as an effective reminder that we can share the most intimate and romantic moments with another person anywhere and at any time, even when the setting isn’t the most ideal, because it’s love that creates the magic, not the perfect place or circumstances.

Palm Trees” is the second single off Ginkgo Balboa’s EP “Balloon Duty,”

Ginkgo Balboa Balloon Duty
Balloon Duty

For more information about Ginkgo Balboa visit

https://songwhip.com/ginkgo-balboa

https://www.instagram.com/ginkgobalboaband/

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