My name is Dave Benton and I write the songs for the band Trace Mountains. I was born in 1991, I’m from Ridgewood, New Jersey, and I currently reside in in New York City. Since 2009, I’ve released records in various groups, including some projects that are ongoing (LVL UP, Yours Are The Only Ears). Repeating the process of writing and recording music has become an emotionally stabilizing ritual in my life, and I have been very lucky to share that process over and over again with some of my best friends; many of whom I met at SUNY Purchase, a liberal arts college in NY state that I graduated from in 2013. The scene there was vibrant and welcoming to me, both facilitating and inspiring the collaborative work I made in that period and beyond.
Near the end of my college education, I began acting on a latent desire to make something wholly my own. I had been collaborating for so long that I felt it could be invigorating to explore the world of sounds on my own again, as I had done growing up. This endeavor led to a batch of songs that can now be found on the compilation record Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs (2016), which also includes some newer demos and field recordings that prelude my first proper record, A Partner to Lean On (2018). Scrappy and lighthearted, the songs on Buttery Sprouts & Other Songs were first and foremost an exercise in learning to be pragmatically self-sufficient, while exploring new poetic styles and even finding a place for humor in the words. While my songs are usually attempts at candid & vulnerable storytelling, I’ve often tried to make room for a joke, or at the very least, playfulness in the lyricism.
Remaining in a long stage of gestation after the initial creative burst, Trace Mountains practiced and performed infrequently. I was preoccupied by the responsibilities of running a record label (DDW, a label I co-founded and subsequently left in 2016), and touring with my friends in the band LVL UP. Trace Mountains would get together with different groups of folks to perform locally and sometimes tour in the United States & Canada. One particular incarnation of the band (featuring Jim Hill and Liz Pelly), was documented in this heartwarming video filmed in 2015 at a house show in Allston, MA. We covered “Bucket,” a Jeff Mangum rarity that I was obsessed with at the time. Now, when I look back on that era in my life, it gives me a sense of just how grateful I am for these people and for the bond that music can bring. Moments like these come and go in an instant, and sometimes I’m unable to fully feel the impact until years later. One of the few things I know of music-making, is that it has brought me closer to the people I share the process with, if only for short periods.
A Partner to Lean On, the first proper full length from Trace Mountains, is both an extension of my initial excursion to explore the world of sounds in solitude, and a continuation of my lifelong relationship with music-making as a social process. The songs featured on A Partner to Lean On came about over the course of many years, featuring some ideas that pre-date even the earliest Trace Mountains release in 2013. There are also more current songs, written right up into the summer of 2017 when the record was recorded and completed, a time of extraordinary confusion & anger, when the refuge of listening to & creating music was needed more than ever. The way the work spans time periods is intended to be reflected in the record itself, perhaps not strictly linearly, but flowing from place to place, idea to idea, connecting memories, thoughts and things in a way that feels purposeful. It starts in the present, and branches out into different directions to hopefully arrive at a meaningful assessment of where I stand.
Unlike my older work, A Partner to Lean On relies on the talents of a group rather than just myself. In addition to co-producing a portion the record at Gravesend Recordings, Jim Hill played electric guitar and synthesizer. Rhythm section performances were provided by Kyle Seely (drums) and Nick Corbo (bass), and additional vocals were contributed by Susannah Cutler and Ben Smith. I played guitar, synthesizer, and recorded a bunch of other things, overdubbing at my home studio, and when the record was complete, it was mixed by the inimitable Mike Ditrio. It was then mastered by Paul Gold in October of 2017.