Ben Franklin and The Electric Keys is a new student band channeling its members’ diverse tastes into colorful indie rock.
While the band has seen a number of lineup changes, the band’s core consists of Ben Flood, a junior majoring in music, Franklin Bade, a junior majoring in philosophy and Veronica Liszewski, a junior majoring in art history. Flood and Bade, friends since middle school, have each been making music for years, but coming to Binghamton University motivated the two to start working together.
“Both of us really want to form a band when we got here just because there’s not a huge music scene at this school,” Bade said. “We were talking about it last year and it’s just really hard to find good musicians to play with, so it was in the works for a while.”
When the two friends met Liszewski, the band began to take shape. While the musicians say they are still searching for their sound, their ambition has landed them some nearby shows, including slots at Oak Fest and the Food Co-op’s first installment of its new Tiny Desk-inspired concerts.
Liszewski serves as Ben Franklin and the Electric Keys’ singer and lyricist, while Flood and Bade provide backing instrumentation. The few live shows the band has played rely more on covers, but the few original songs they play reveal Liszewski as an emotionally dynamic songwriter. Her lyrics veer from blunt mantras (“This life is all we have”) to poetic explorations of coping with anxiety (“The seasons are changing / And I just can’t catch the wind”). She said the process of crafting these lyrics comes from a more personal place outside of the band’s traditional practice.
“When I write songs on my own, it’s mostly just guitar and words so I just start off with poetry and start writing based on poetry from the past,” she said.
Beyond the songwriting, both Bade and Liszewski accredit their band’s appeal to their eclectic tastes and the way they apply them to their songwriting. Bade described their sound as “alternative folky fusion.”
“We all have different music tastes,” Bade said. “I’ve been listening to a lot of old folk artists like Doc Watson and Elizabeth Cotton. I also played blues for the first five years of my life, which definitely influenced my playing. Ben [Flood] loves jazz. He’ll even listen to metal sometimes, that guy’ll listen to anything. And Veronica knows every indie artist under the sun. Finding a common ground has been an interesting experience because different musicians have different lyrics they gravitate toward and the way we approach it is someone’ll write a guitar and then each person does their part. Veronica will make the melody and the lyrics and I’ll make a guitar part. It all comes together naturally ”
The Electric Keys have also seen its share of lineup changes, with new additions Sarah Coffey, a senior double-majoring in music and English, Ben Peterfreund, a sophomore majoring in sociology and Mark Poggioli, a junior majoring in biochemistry.
“Each time someone new enters the band you have to think about what they are capable of, what can they do and where their interests lie,” Bade said. “For the two new members, we just taught them everything we’ve done so far. So we just started working on new stuff, and we’ve got a lot of exploring to do. We just did our first straight blues song.”
Liszewski said she feels optimistic for where Ben Franklin and the Electric Keys are headed. She said both she and Bade view the band as daring and unafraid to tackle as many genres as it takes to see what will truly define their sound.
“I don’t think we have a defined sound yet,” she said. “We still have a lot to work out. Since there are so many of us in the band, I’d be interested in figuring out different harmonies to do — but we haven’t tried that yet.”
The band relies solely on their Instagram, @ben_franklin_theelectrickeys, to communicate online and remind followers of upcoming shows or any music being released. As of publication, the band has no original music available online. However, this may change soon as Liszewski said the band hopes to release a record by this coming fall.
“Our next thing is that once we write more songs, then we’ll do an EP,” she said. “There’s more to come in the future for sure.”