Nico Caro on guitar and vocals, Ryan Skinner on guitar and Aeden Lebron on drums are Benchmark, a band that began when Caro and Skinner were juniors at Valley Central High School in Montgomery, New York in 2015.
Caro met Lebron at Orange County Community College (OCCC) a few years after he and Skinner started writing music; after talking to Lebron, he realized, “oh, this kid knows music.”
Lebron didn’t yet know how to play the drums, so Caro gave him his set and the three ended up playing a show a month later. It was kismet. Since then, the band has been playing all around — they frequent and are a cornerstone of the New Paltz DIY music scene.
In the early days of Benchmark, Skinner said, “we tried to be pop punk at first in 2015, with lots of power chords.” When talking about their writing style, Caro cited early influences like Title Fight, Turnover, The Story So Far, Mom Jeans and ‘90s alternative music in general. Skinner even commented, “I think it’s far too kind, but people say that we sound like Weezer sometimes.”
The first (EP) that Benchmark released was Blossom, Bloom in June 2018. It is a six track record that includes songs like “A Life Without Color.” When they play this one, the crowd gets hype. They know the lyrics and sing along. It’s remarkable. The boys describe this record as more “rocky, punchy and indie punkish.”
Now, Benchmark has entered a more mature and complex stage, especially when it comes to instrumentation and lyrics: “our first EP was singing about girls or being sad, but now our songs are a little bit more deep,” Lebron said. Admirably, Caro and Skinner made a pact: they challenged themselves to avoid writing lyrics about relationships and instead they aimed to write about their lives and things that they experience.
All of the Possible Outcomes is the second EP that Benchmark released in April 2019, almost a year after they put out Blossom, Bloom. It is another six track record that definitely shows change and growth. It’s a lot more indie and this time they used more pedals to create different effects (“Because we had more pedals,” Caro said).
On Saturday, Nov. 2 Crossroads, a popular New Paltz venue that often hosts local DIY events, hosted Homeyfest: a DIY music festival of sorts in which 14 bands, Benchmark included, from places local to New Paltz and far out like Philly, came together on a beautiful fall day and made lots of music. The energy from when Benchmark played was unforgettable. There was a genuine euphoria and love of music when they went on, and many even knew the words to some of their songs.
Benchmark truly has a growing following, especially in New Paltz. They debuted a new song that Caro wrote about his many health problems that he says he gets for no reason, a perfect example of the maturing sound of the band. They stray from writing about girls and relationships to topics that are less superficial and more personal.
It is clear from watching the boys of Benchmark play that they make music with passion, love, care and collaboration. Their writing process goes a little like this: Skinner usually comes in with a [guitar] riff, one of the many, the numerous, the copious riffs that he has recorded on his phone. The band takes the riff and finishes it together. Otherwise, Caro will come in and say something along the lines of, “alright guys I got a song, tell me if it sucks.” He plays through it and they come up with a complete song together.
Skinner puts it best: “when Caro comes with stuff, they’re more full. Mine are like a puzzle piece that we solve together.” Their process is efficient: Lebron recalls that “it can happen really quickly sometimes too. The other day we wrote a song in under 10 minutes — Skinner came up with something and we jammed.” This particularly collaborative way of going about writing music is evident in why they have such a put together, unique sound.
The material that Benchmark is working on now is “a mix of both of our previous EPs, and has more of a mature sound than Blossom, Bloom. It has the punchyness and heaviness that Blossom, Bloom had, and it also has more complex stuff. It’s hard to play,” Skinner said. On Sept. 20, they released the single: “On the Way,” which is a precursor to the Long Play (LP) that’s set to come out in early to mid 2020.
Benchmark loves coming to play in New Paltz. Caro has noticed how big the scene is getting, especially over the last year and a half and he sees it being like the next Philly. He also likes how a lot of the bands are friends, they get along, they don’t step on each others toes, they just want to make music and hang out. He likes the New Paltz crowd, touching on how open people are to all sorts of music. He’s excited to come back with Benchmark and play again:
The weekend of Dec. 7 is a Benchmark takeover: Sat. Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. they will be playing at Sanctuary, Sun. Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. they will be at Snug Harbor, and Mon. Dec. 9 at 8 p.m. they will be at Crossroads.
This winter Benchmark is touring with Senior Living, follow them on Instagram @benchmark_band for more information on new music and shows. Their music is available on Spotify, Bandcamp and Apple Music.