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Meet Lexy Benaim - Lead Singer of Harlem Shakes

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harlem shakes.jpg
Photo by Andrew Droz Palermo

Photo by Andrew Droz Palermo
Calling me from an In n' Out Burger somewhere in Northern California, Lexy Benaim is happy. He's on tour with fellow Brooklynite up and comers Passion Pit, his band has been listed as one of the bands to watch by Paste magazine, and most importantly he's got his hands on some animal fries. Life is pretty good. Harlem Shakes'debut disk, Technicolor Health, is brimming with sunshine and catchy pop hooks without being overly sweet. It's the kind of album you would want on a bike ride along Venice Beach or on a picnic in Griffith Park. Between mouthfuls of fries, Lexy was kind enough to answer some of our probing questions.

Harlem Shakes - Sunlight

When did you first start singing?
I was around ten or eleven. I always sang, but that's around the time I started making up songs and singing them around the house. I met our drummer, Brent, in high school and we started forming all sorts of bands. Every week we would have a new band with a new name. That was half the fun of being in a band was coming up with funny names.

What was your favorite name?

The New York Knicks.

Are you a Knicks fan?
(laughs) Yes, unfortunately.

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So how did this current line up come about?
Well the drummer and I went to high school and college together. In college we met a couple of dudes and then after college we met a couple of more dudes. We had a fluctuating outfit for awhile there with a lot of members shifting around, but this has been the lineup since 2006.

Why are you called the Harlem Shakes?
You know we didn't think all that hard about the name. We used to play dance hall music, but have since reformed. I dunno, it just kinda worked.

Did you have any Caribbean influences for your song "Strictly Game"?

I'd say the Latin Mojo setting of the drum machine was the main inspiration.

Does your drummer ever get jealous of the drum machine?
No, he actually is the one that uses it the most.

In "Sunlight" you talk about a "a coat of many colors," is that a biblical reference to the story of Joseph?
You could read a biblical a reference. I really want people to interpret my songs the way they want. But yeah, it's an idea that just kind of occurred to me.

What do the lettersTFO stand for?
I shouldn’t say. It's actually The Fucking Ocean, but I feel like it could stand for a lot of different things. Like I said I like to leave it open for people to interpret.

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What was the worst show you ever played?
We were playing on top of a hay loft in New Haven and the ground came apart. These huge bails of hay just fell apart and the whole thing collapsed.

Was everyone okay?
Oh, yeah everyone was rescued. Everyone was safe. We managed to recover all of our equipment too.

What was the weirdest thing you ever saw in the audience?
I once saw a naked man who had the legs and torso of a goat.

A satyr?
Yeah, a satyr.

Where were you playing?
That was in Delphi.

That’s hard place to find.

Yeah, it's not on Google maps.

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Harlem Shakes - Strictly Game

Do you have any strange promoter stories?
Oh yeah, at our first show ever with this lineup we totally got hosed by the promoter. His name was Nicky and he dressed like he belonged on the Sunset Strip circa 1987. Anyway when the show was over he took all of the proceeds and left.

What an asshole.

I know!

If you could change just one thing about the music industry what would it be?
I have an honest answer that I don’t feel comfortable giving. So I'll give you a dishonest answer that I’m formulating right now. Okay, I would reverse the percentage between band and the label. Most people are shocked when they find out how much the labels take.

So what would you think would be a fair rate?
I'm not sure what would be exactly is fair. I don’t know. I'm not the person to ask. (laughs) I think labels should be enslaved to the band.

What is your favorite thing to do in LA?

I just love LA, so...maybe visiting my cousin Johnny in Sherman Oaks. Oh, and I love going sailing on the La Brea tar pits.

You must not get very far.

No, not very often.

What do they say about the Brookyln music scene that is completely untrue?
That’s it exists. There is no music scene. People just go on tour. They aren’t staying at home and influencing each other. The bands from Brooklyn have very broad and varied musical influences, but Brooklyn usually isn't one of them.

If you were booking one party in Heaven and one party in Hell who would you have headlining?
Oh, what a good question! Do I have to pick a singer that can actually get into Heaven?

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No, I think God would allow the damned to play in Heaven for the night.
Hm, okay. I think I would pick the comedian, Bobcat Goldthwait to play Heaven. I think he'll already be there though, so there won't be any need to expedite him. For Hell are we supposed to give the damned something to comfort them or something to make them suffer?

I hadn't thought about it. I suppose whichever you want. It's your party.

I think I'll give the damned souls some solace then and send Ella Fitzgerald to go play that party.

Aw, that's good to hear. Well, thank you for talking with us, Lexy.

Thank you!

Be sure to check out the Harlem Shakes who are sharing the stage with Passion tonight at the Echoplex or tomorrow night at the Glass House.