WORDS BY: SHANNON ROSENBERG
PHOTO BY: KATHYRN ISAAC
Local alternative pop band, Ben Fiore, tells all on how they came together, what inspires their music and how they’ve adjusted to screaming, crying girls.
1. What are your names and how old are each of you?
Ben Fiore: 24-years-old
Zach Hayes: 27-years-old
Ryan Burns: 23-years-old
2. Where are you all from?
Liverpool, New York
3. What instrument do each of you play?
Ben: I sing and play guitar, and do a little on the piano sometimes.
Zach: Right now I primarily play the cajon. Not many people are familiar with it but it’s a box drum. I also play handheld percussion instruments like the tambourine, and occasionally play guitar.
Ryan: I play the bass, and I also play a couple of songs on the mandolin.
4. How did you guys get the band together?
Ben: So I’ve been a local musician here since I was 15, so I’ve been playing around wherever forever, open mic nights, random bars and stuff. So one night at one of the consistent places I played at he (points at Zach) was one of the attendees at the show.
Zach: That’s a nice way of putting it. Basically I was drinking at the bar! (laughs)
Ben: He told me he had a cajon and I was like “Oh sweet man want to get together and jam sometime?” Then we just started jamming out together and I made him play at a release party with me one time only a month into knowing each other, at a bar in Liverpool called Sharkey’s and that was our first show.
5. How long have you guys been together?
Ben: Zach and I were together for a year when Ryan got a hold of me through a post I made on Facebook saying “hey I’m looking for bassist” and Ryan responded saying he’d like to jam and yeah we’ve been a trio now for four to five months.
6. What made you decide to get into music?
Ryan: In elementary school, we had to pick an instrument. So I picked the tuba, maybe I get a little bit of my bass from that. But I quit the tuba and picked up the guitar in high school. Then Ben was looking for a bass player so I went out bought a bass and an amp.
Ben: So basically Zach got a cajon and Ryan started playing the bass only so we could make the trio (laughs). I’ve been playing the plastic guitar since age 2, and my parents were like we should probably get him into music. So I started piano lessons at age 4, and started playing guitar at 14.
Zach: I played guitar for 10-12 years and just never really let anyone know. Then I started to play in open mic nights. The only reason I started professionally is because [Ben] approached me and said “hey want to tour some colleges and play some music?” and I was like yeah alright.
7. How did you guys decide to go by Ben Fiore?
Ben: Well, it just seemed best marketing wise. Because I had been a musician in the area for a while now and sort of built up Ben Fiore as a name, we kind of just decided to stick with it.
8. What were you doing before you got the band together?
Zach: I was actually in the process of taking over my father’s business. I ended up selling the business and then I decided to start making money this way.
Ben: I’ve always been in the restaurant business. I am still bartending part-time and doing this part-time. I would love to do this full-time.
Ryan: I was going to school at Syracuse and then I graduated last year and got a job at Upstate Hospital. I work in the operating room. It’s really stressful so they give you a lot of time to just vent, and so I play music with these guys.
9. How would you define your style of music?
Ben: Probably alternative pop.
10. Anything you’re currently working on?
Ben: Our new album coming out is called The places we will go. It should be coming out around the holiday season.
11. Tell us a little more about this new album.
Ben: It’s very poppy. We went in the realm of the hip-hop back-beats, almost like a One Republic/The Script kind of feel to it. It’s like an acoustic influence with hip-hop, kind of like what’s happening today on Top 40.
12. What about your previous work?
Ben: Our album Circles which I created with Zach is actually on iTunes now. That album is all cajon, guitar, and voice. I also did a live in-studio acoustic album, and that’s called Get Together. You can actually get that album on iTunes too.
13. What’s your favorite song to perform?
Ben: Actually “Curtain Call” is probably our newest favorite song to perform, which we performed here earlier.
Zach: Yeah, it’s strong. It has a lot of energy.
Ben: It’s a cool song to start a show or to start a set and get things going. It gets people’s attention. It’s almost like a Goo Goo Dolls track, meets Ed Sheeran mixed with Kanye’s new style. Curtain Call is insane. It sounds different on the track because we’re able to mix in so many elements, but people are always excited to hear us perform it acoustically too.
14. What type of gigs do you usually do?
Ben: We mainly play at local bars and colleges. When I was growing up I played at a lot of coffee houses. I actually played at Funk n’ Waffles before it became Funk n’ Waffles. That was where I played one of my first open mic nights. We usually play at Limp Lizard every week.
Zach: We’re like their unofficial house band.
Ryan: It’s good to have something constant.
15. What’s the best venue you’ve ever performed at?
Ben: We performed at APCA in Atlanta, which is a college booking conference. Thousands of students and professors go to it, and they hire you based on if they like you. It was crazy. That was the first time we performed in front of thousands.
Zach: We were just thinking… Well this is going to highly influence our career and our financial situation, so there is a lot on your shoulders when you’re doing that.
Ben: It was really fun though, afterward the adrenaline rush was insane.
Zach: Walking down the hallways, I mean some of the people performing are people like Lady Gaga’s backup singers, and they have all these large acts. These people kept mistaking us for these really big rockstars. So we’re walking down the hallway and they’re just like … (stops, and stares with mouth wide open) … TOTAL EGO BOOST!
16. What has been one of your craziest fan encounters?
Ben: The other day we were at Liverpool High School, where we all graduated from, and a girl came up to Zach and asked for a picture. You know because you usually get asked to take a few pictures or sign some autographs, and it’s funny because it’s like “We still live in Liverpool.”
Zach: Yeah it’s like, “I’m probably your neighbor. (laughs)
Ben: And she gets the photo and runs away crying! (laughs)
17. Any upcoming gigs, you want fans to know about?
Ben: We’re going to be at Al’s November 10 and December 1 from 9:30 p.m. – 1 a.m.. That should be a really fun show. Come check it out!
18. Where do you each draw your inspiration from? Favorite artisits?
Zach: (laughs) Well, I go through phases with music. But, one of big influences has been Sara Bareilles. She’s actually my current favorite and future wife! She doesn’t know it yet, but she’ll be real excited when she figures it out. But her songwriting is something I’m trying to model after. I probably listen to her for two hours a day.
Ben: I would say my top three favorite bands would be Goo Goo Dolls, Matchbox 20 and Coldplay. So we feature those styles in our tracks, although recently it’s been more One Republic or The Script. Songwriting wise, definitely Jason Mraz. I think I’ve seen the man around 18 times in concert, he is amazing.
Zach: Is that….
Ben: Yup this is my Jason Mraz hoodie I’m wearing. Hit me up brother (points at the camera.)
Ryan: I don’t know if I have a favorite artist. I like everything. I listen to everything from jazz to rock. I always need to be listening to something new. I like Frank Zappa a lot. But I do a lot of blue grass stuff to when I’m playing with the mandolin.
19. Who writes your lyrics? Where do they come from?
Ben: Well before I met them, I probably had 30-35 songs that I wrote by myself. And then “Places” I wrote with Zach and that was fun. That was made after a lot of beer and his brother wrote the song down, so we said we’d give him credit for it (laughs). One of our brand new songs with the mandolin Ryan and I wrote together. Mostly we figure out the music first and then the lyrics come after. A lot of my favorite songs are the ones that I wrote in half-an-hour or less. I don’t want to think about the lyrics too much. I like that I write my own stuff, and we’re able to share that with our audience.
20. What is the hardest thing you’ve faced as a musician?
Zach: You eventually have the worst performance you’ll ever have, and for me that performance came sooner than later. I played solo at an open mic night and at the end of the performance no one clapped for me, everyone was trying to break eye contact and I was like “These people are embarrassed for me!” This is an awkward situation between us, and that really took it out of me. As a musician, that was hard to come back from. I didn’t touch a guitar for six months.
Ben: Now people are running away from you crying.
Zach: I know! What is that!
21. Something cool that you’re fans don’t know about you?
Zach: I have an identical twin. He looks JUST like me.
Ryan: That’s a cop out!
Ben: Ummm… well when I have the house to myself. I run around the house with my guitar, with nothing on … singing. It has awesome acoustics. (laughs)
Zach: Are you chasing a cat or something?
Ben: Nope! I just get out of the shower and I’m like you know… chilling. It’s just relaxing. Wow, that was a good one. No one knows that … well except my dog.
Ryan: I don’t know! I mean… I guess I sleep in the nude. I just don’t like having any clothes on. Nobody knows! I hope … my roommates don’t know. Maybe I should tell them though.