“It took so long to find a way to fill the silence”: Basking in French Cassettes’ Sunny, Spirited Third Album ‘Benzene’

French Cassettes 'Benzene' © Marisa Bazan
French Cassettes 'Benzene' © Marisa Bazan
Sweet, sun-soaked, and sweaty, ‘Benzene’ shines a refreshingly radiant light out into the world as San Francisco indie pop trio French Cassettes invite us to relax and join in their dynamic daydreams.
for fans of Passion Pit, HAIM, Medium Build, Bombay Bicycle Club
Stream: “Medium Horny” – French Cassettes




There’s something undeniably fun about French Cassettes’ third studio album.

It’s upbeat, energizing, and earnest: An invigorating collection of catchy songs that seem to sincerely want their audience to smile, and maybe a laugh a little, as we take in all that the San Francisco indie pop band has to offer at this juncture. Sweet, sun-soaked, and sweaty, Benzene shines a refreshingly radiant light out into the world as French Cassettes invite us to relax and join in their dynamic daydreams.

Benzene - French Cassettes
Benzene – French Cassettes
Oh, maybe I try
To impress you with my being a donor
Phoneless lust seems unsafe and unlikely
My neighbors need answers
Gimme the question
I’m more than lazy, but I’m less than exciting
And medium horny
You’ve a rolodex of holy women for me
I’m a Sunbeam so she must be lonely
I’m sick of bar banter
But attracted to the neon
Oh, maybe I try not to guess
So I’m just reading it over
Boneless thugs seem to hate and to like me
It’s not what I’m after
But it’s something I can lean on

Released June 7, 2024 via Tender Loving Empire, Benzene is bold, buoyant, and utterly charming. Arriving four long years after French Cassettes’ sophomore LP Rolodex, the California band’s third studio album is a passionate exercise in songcraft and unfiltered self-expression: For thirty-one exhilarating minutes, the trio of Lorenzo Scott Huerta, Mackenzie Bunch, and Rob Mills rise and fall together in worlds of their own design. Radiant melodies and candid, conversational lyrics make for a seemingly endless array of seductive soundbites that keep us hooked, effortlessly demanding (and getting) our undivided attention.

French Cassettes 'Benzene' © Marisa Bazan
French Cassettes ‘Benzene’ © Marisa Bazan



“We just for once had a ton of demos and scraps of song ideas on this hard drive, and it wasn’t a vision as much as we just wanted to figure out which ones made sense together,” Huerta tells Atwood Magazine. “It was really fun, and that never really changed. I like to think that each song kinda bends your ear in a different way. That wasn’t 100% intentional, but I like that on records. Compared to our previous records, I guess I’d say something similar in that we liked how this one is more sonically stretched out.”

The album title is based on Huerta’s nickname growing up, Benz. “My legal first name is Lorenzo, so the progression went Lorenzo > Ren > Renzo > Renzo Benzo > Benzo > Benz,” he grins. “Simple stuff, really. As far as Benzene, I didn’t even know what that was at the time I labeled the demos that, to be honest!”

“I wish I had a better explanation,” he adds. “I guess I should have Googled it first.”

Lately, I’ve been doing good lately
You said I’m crazy to leave
and trust me I wanna believe yuh
So don’t make me
But I was wrong
And you were wrong
And I was broke within half an hour
Baby let your love come down on mine
Baby let your love come down on mine
Like it used to, it used to,
it used to, it used to




French Cassettes 'Benzene' © Marisa Bazan
French Cassettes ‘Benzene’ © Marisa Bazan

Regardless of its other applications, French Cassettes’ Benzene is, without a doubt, an upper.

Whether Huerta is spilling his own internal monologue or crafting stories loosely based on reality, the frontman puts on one hell of a performance, singing with dramatic, yet relaxed, finesse; he’s hot on the mic, his voice big and bold, yet always at ease – a fine line many have tried, yet few have succeeded at balancing. Highlights range from the whimsical, psych-soaked, folk-pop reverie “Medium Horny” and the groovy “Baseball Bat” to the spirited, soaring “White Noise,” the gentle, aching ballad “Finally,” and the driving, restless “Eyes Glazed Over.” Huerta’s raw, feverish vocal eruption in “Normal Day” is sure to raise hairs and stir some souls, as is the gentler caress of the album’s closer, “Up2You.”

In short, this record is an all-hits, no-misses affair – and one that’s not to be ignored in 2024’s great, noisy onslaught of music!

“The opening track ‘Fast Held Hand’ probably gets to me the most,” Huerta says of his own favorites. “I woke up one morning for work and decided to call out last minute to spend all day writing and recording a demo for it. It was just such a great day during a string of off ones. I don’t usually feel like I’m cool enough to name drop a city in a song but I think I also am a fan of this song because I got to shout out my hometown of Ripon, CA.”

“There’s [also] a ballad on the album, maybe our first ballad actually, called ‘Finally,’” he notes, “and it has the line that goes, ‘do you think you need me?’ and on one of the original versions of the vocals, for whatever reason, I decided to go ‘n-n-n-n-neeeeed me’ and I thought it was pretty rockin’. Too rockin’, actually, because I realized it was a rip off of Axl Rose going ‘sh-n-n-n-knees’ on ‘Welcome to the Jungle,’ so I had to scrap it. Sorry everybody.”

As far as lyrics are concerned, he says his favorite line comes from the closing track, “Up2You.” “The very last line of the album – ‘My mother’s mother talks in Comic Sans, I will never not love her, I wish there were more e-mails to read.’ It’s about when I lived with my grandma who has since passed, one of my favorite people ever. She could be very passive aggressive and the one time she tried to ground me she did it over E-mail, on the desktop computer we both used. Not only did it make me laugh that we lived together and she e-mailed me, but it was extra hard to take seriously because she typed it in Comic Sans.”

French Cassettes 'Benzene' © Marisa Bazan
French Cassettes ‘Benzene’ © Marisa Bazan

Ultimately, Benzene is as memorable as it is moving, as uplifting as it is enchanting.

French Cassettes’ third LP is a dazzling, deeply human collection of songs whose tender lyrics hit home, while soaring melodies and rich harmonies invite us to lean into life and embrace the full roller-coaster of human experience. Each of these ten songs resonates profoundly on its own, but there’s no question that they’re better together.

Fell asleep, at least I tried
From the bottom bunk instead
of looking for reason to find your bed
Baby don’t wake me every time, no
You don’t have to wake me every time, no
I’d be out of season to decline
Sorry I laughed when you said
“I can’t wait to take it slowly”
When you know you know
These things they tend to grow
I’m happy even though
you’re spending all the time we wasted
– “When You Know, You Know,” French Cassettes

“I’ve heard all kinds of takeaways from people about our music, they’re all great,” Huerta shares. “I guess I just want everyone to know they can talk to me about it. As for what I’ve taken away from it, I’m just happy having any further proof that I can still write music.”

Just as the sun’s rays shown down on French Cassettes as they made this music, let them shine their sonic light on you now. Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside French Cassettes’ Benzene with Atwood Magazine as Lorenzo Scott Huerta takes us track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s third album!

Benzene is out now via Tender Loving Empire Records.

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:: stream/purchase Benzene here ::
:: connect with French Cassettes here ::
Stream: ‘Benzene’ – French Cassettes



:: Inside Benzene ::

Benzene - French Cassettes

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Fast Held Hand

I woke up just wanting to finish a song. I called out of the few plans I had that day just so I could write. I was lucky enough to even be able to do that. But my goal was to start an idea and finish recording it before I went to sleep that night. Somebody had recently played me a song on their guitar that went from G to E minor over and over again. The melody and lyrics drove the whole song and I was using that as my model that day. It was the first time in a long time I wrote about my true feelings toward people I really love. But for the bridge section I couldn’t help but include talking about some asshole getting bent out of shape over a bumper sticker on the freeway.

Eyes Glazed Over

I was pretending to be Paul Simon. There’s this video clip I’ve watched a billion times of him describing how he wrote “Mrs. Robinson” and I always loved the cool way in which he painted the picture of how it all came together. So naturally I picked up my guitar and started strumming a G chord to no end. Then I thought “maybe I should tell a story about an amateur boxer,” which is not smart because I don’t know the first thing about boxing. There weren’t many rules for this song, the chorus needed to have the phrase “lightning bolt” in it and it need a strong outro. Luckily I couldn’t sleep one night, so I paced around my kitchen at 4 AM thinking I was writing a future best man speech, but then I put a melody to it and it fit nicely.

Medium Horny

It may sound dramatic, but pretty simply this song wouldn’t have been if not for Johnny Marr. How he writes his guitar lines I don’t know but that’s what I was trying to do. I was in the middle of writing the song when I went to a friend’s house and they had Bill Evans on the record player and someone said “Bill does chord solo’s”. I didn’t even really know what that meant but I wanted to try, so that was the next section of the song. Another one of my favorite guitarists is Elliott Smith, he can do lead and rhythm at the same time in a way I’ve always looked up to. He inspired the outro guitar. I’ll never compare to any of these three people, but they helped me a lot on this one.

Baseball Bat

Mackenzie drove us to his studio in Oakland and on the way confessed to me that he had a song to work on. It came to him in a dream last night. I’ve known him since we were 16 and never have I heard him say that once. So I thought it must be pretty good. I hummed to myself and pressed record while he worked on the bare bones of the song. He came in and asked me “do you have any ideas” and I said yeah can you do this on the piano “BUM-BUM…BUM-BUM…BUM-BUM…”

White Noise

The original title for the demo of this song was ‘Bruce’ because I thought I was writing a Springsteen song. My goal starting out was to not overthink it and just make a straightforward rock song, but that didn’t last very long, and next thing I knew I was listening to three guitar tracks playing lead lines at the same time thinking ‘what have I done?’ Instead of reeling it back in I decided to just lean into it, and when I found myself playing with an electronic drum pad I knew I was past the point of no return.

When You Know You Know

I was listening to a lot of Bread and a ton of Barry White. Thanks to them it was the quickest song I’ve ever written. I’d never paid more attention to what kind of pick I was using on my guitar; I just wanted it to have that feathery strum sound. I had just recently been helping a friend on their song and wrote what I thought was a really great melody. They didn’t want it so I used it on this one. They finished the song, but I doubt they’ll ever know it.

Megabus

I have nothing against songs about buses, I just never thought I’d write one. I spiked a drink on a Megabus to Sacramento and the combination of cocktail and staring out the window for 2 hours wound up being this song. I think I admit a little more guilt lyrically in every song we write. I don’t normally feel comfortable writing country songs, but I imagined Dolly next to me singing harmonies the whole time and that was truthfully the only way I could finish this one.

Normal Day

‘Normal Day’ started as an excuse to not leave the house. I combed my hair that day which meant I was stalling. I had somewhere to be but thought I’d write a song first. I picked up my acoustic guitar and started thinking about Bob Dylan and what he’d do. I don’t advise that. I spent the next 40 minutes sitting on the edge of my bed picturing Dylan screaming “how does it FEEL” until I found my own lyrics. I sincerely thought about asking Rufus Wainwright to accompany me on the outro, but assumed he was busy.

Finally

I had a ‘Best Of The Beach Boys’ CD that my grandma gave me and I fell in love with Brian Wilson’s songwriting. Then I heard “God Only Knows” and I was mush. I was listening to that song on repeat next to Percy Sledge’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” when I wrote this song. Ballads don’t come easy to me so at the end of the first demo you can hear me say “finally” because I was just happy to make it through.

Up2You

I was thinking about The Flamingos when they sing the reverbed “sha-bop sha-bop” in “I Only Have Eyes for You”. I also was trying to write a Pixies song. About time. I don’t get many chances to shout out my heroes in songs, but I made room in this one. So if it wasn’t clear, thank you Grandmere and William H. Macy.

— —

:: stream/purchase Benzene here ::
:: connect with French Cassettes here ::

— — — —

Benzene - French Cassettes

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? © Marisa Bazan

Benzene

 an album by French Cassettes



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