Benoit & Sergio make 'Adjustments' to dance music culture

It’s not often today that a rising DJ team argues that it should get out of its own spotlight. But that’s precisely what the D.C. dance duo of Benoit & Sergio do on their loungey new single, “Adjustments.”

Atop some melancholy, tropical production that sounds like a vacation winding down, the duo claim that today's wave of pyro-shooting superstars has it all wrong: "Sometimes I think that DJs don't understand / that we've been waiting around all week for this / and sometimes I think that DJs don't understand / that we don't care about their cut-off frequencies or resonance / we just want to dance."


"Festivals and bigger dance shows have become arena rock shows, like a Steve Vai guitar solo or something," said Benjamin "Sergio" Myers, one half of the duo with Benoit Simon. "It's OK to let the music speak for itself. I guess that's almost a disco-era desire, you know?"

Humility isn't exactly a foundational value in today's decadent dance scenes. But Benoit & Sergio's growing quiver of handmade, sad-eyed tracks has quietly become one of the most promising catalogs in contemporary house.

Across a slew of the genre's best labels (Ghostly International, DFA and Visionquest among them),  singles such as "Walk & Talk," "Let Me Count the Ways" and "New Ships" have become staples, with choruses catchy enough to have real pop appeal. That the duo are playing the season's last Sunday rooftop gig of the Standard's summer Culprit Sessions seems entirely apropos.

The duo’s sound pulls a New Order-ish trick of sounding upbeat and hopeful, while the lyrics stay wan and disappointed. “Walk & Talk,” one of its breakouts, skips along on analog jitters and Daft Punk-y vocoders -- but the song is about a lover lost in a K-hole for days.

"New Ships" finds the pair contemplating suicide over a major-key synth-chord bounce; "Adjustments" is practically a grumpy letter to the editor of Mixmag that still manages to be perfect comedown music.

"Music is the best medium to be happy and sad at the same time," Myers said. "We like exploring that tension, where the lyrical content is heavier but wrapped in this optimistic groove."

As the pair prep tracks for a forthcoming full-length, they have plenty of reason to be both optimistic and a little heavy about the scene around them.

Now that DJs are the new pop-culture rock stars, and the underground has responded by going even noisier or more purist, where do a couple of unassuming guys who like both real choruses and weird slices of reverb fit in?

But their instincts have held up so far -- and as crowds inevitably overdose on EDM excess, backing off the spotlight might be a great way for them to move forward.

"We love dance culture. It's not like we're all, 'Ugh, the scene's going to hell'," Myers said. "But other things can be dancey and interesting than a 4/4 kick drum. You don't have to have this huge bass line destroying your intestines. The new album is probably going to be less DJ friendly and harder to mix. We love the scene, but maybe we want to tweak it a bit."