The Retro Gents' big future looking back in Plymouth
DAVID BENASSI, famed for twice reaching the O2 finals of the UK Live and Unsigned competition, is in demand more than ever now having formed a band.
The Retro Gents describe their sound as retro-fusion, a mix of rockabilly, jive and indie.
That's not surprising given the playing styles of the component participants.
While David writes with an acoustic guitar, his preferred style is drum'n'bass.
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Guitarist Cy Brandl is a pretty cool jazz/blues man, drummer Jack Rosewarne-Hebb is 19 but he's into 1920s music and bass player Tom Lake looks and sounds like a member of Oasis.
Their set consists of everything from Everybody Wants to be a Cat from Disney's Aristocats soundtrack to Johnny Cash's Fulsome Prison Blues with plenty of David's original songs in the mix.
They performed 21 shows in July alone and return to Annabel's, one of their regular haunts, on Sunday for what promises to be a packed bank-holiday weekend show.
David admits to loving the way the band is sounding and the camaraderie of working with three other musos.
It happened almost by accident, though, as he is a professional solo entertainer who started life singing karaoke to Neil Diamond, aged 11.
"My mum ran karaoke sessions in Looe playing mostly swing stuff," the city singer/songwriter says.
"As a young lad I loved to join in with the likes of Sinatra, Nat King Cole, Harry Connick Jnr and knew about Michael Buble way before he became huge here."
At school at John Kitto Community College he had drum and bass lessons and formed a band and wrote songs. After school he went to Boston College in Lincolnshire and studied production and then did two years at Brighton Institute of Modern Music.
"When I left I became an entertainer in hotels, doing games during the day and full production shows by night. I did two years in the Canary Islands, which was great for confidence building."
That confidence led to a professionalism which, together with an ability to pen a good tune, stood him in very good stead when he entered UK Live and Unsigned. David romped through the various heats and reached the final on both occasions.
"Although I got a lot of good contacts out of the contest, it wasn't everything it was cracked up to be," he explains. "They relied on participants bringing lots of paying punters and I even saw someone ejected from the competition because they hadn't sold their allocation of tickets.
"Then the final featured celebrity guests who didn't seem particularly interested in what was happening on stage. And the winner was a Michael Bublé tribute act, which was a bit strange when the whole thing was meant to be about being original."
David went on to run an acoustic night at Cuba on North Hill where he met guitarist Cy, who was running a similar event at V8. The pair started jamming together and the seeds of Retro Gents were sewn. They found their drummer at a party, apparently banging a bucket with a spade and invited him to join, then advertised for a bass player.
"Tom came to a rehearsal and just fitted in straight away."
An item now for eight months, the band have already attracted an impressive local following and are support act of choice for Land of the Giants, with whom they have shared stages on numerous occasions.
They will be launching their debut EP at the end of September, and are planning a show on the steps at Kitty O'Hanlon's, when they hope Land of the Giants will return the compliment and play warm-up for them.