Together Pangea's Danny Bengston on Why You Have to Separate Art from the Artist

Together Pangea want to take you on a magic carpet ride
Together Pangea want to take you on a magic carpet ride Derek Perlman
Sophistication and silliness are present in equal measure on Badillac, the third album by Together Pangea. It's the garage band's only album for Universal Music Group's label imprint Harvest Records. On the standout track “Sick Shit,” you can hear tight melodic arrangements underneath lead singer and guitarist William Keegan’s screaming, “My dick is soft!”

The above description really doesn't do the song justice. The track might mark the moment when the quartet, including bassist Danny Bengston, Erik Jimenez on drums, and guitarist Roland Cosio, actually started to take their craft seriously.

That's partly why it's worth investing in a physical copy of the 2014 masterpiece. Just be sure to bring some cash with you to the band’s show at Rebel Lounge on Sunday, September 17, because Badillac is out of print. If there are any left in the band's inventory by the time they arrive in Phoenix, you'll want to pick up a copy.

Sure, you could easily listen to the record on a streaming service, but the little sonic details get lost even on the best audio equipment. You could wait and see if the compact disc and vinyl version of the album go back into circulation, but according to Bengston, there are no plans for their former label to reprint Badillac anytime soon.

Together Pangea doesn't own the album, Bengston says. Universal Music Group does. Which means whenever the band go on tour, they have to push for the label to re-release it so they can sell the record at the merch table.

Though working with a major label afforded the foursome the opportunity to pay their bills and get a new tour van, Bengston thinks not owning the rights to an album that still sells well is a huge drawback. You can feel like a cog in a corporate wheel.

“With a major label, the people who are working for them don’t care that much,” Bengston says. “They are just working on a record that they think is cool and need to care about for a certain amount of time. Once it’s done, it’s done. There is not much heart in it.”

Another shift in the group's attitude began when Together Pangea worked with The Replacements' Tommy Stinson on the critically-acclaimed EP The Phage. It continues with the group’s latest record, Bulls and Roosters. Bengston says Nettwerk, the Canadian label releasing the album, put some real care behind the band’s newest release, which came out in August of this year. (Warner Music Group is Nettwerk's distributor.)

Keegan has stated the record's theme is about how people should not look to entertainers for answers. Bengston tells Phoenix New Times that he's unsure what Keegan meant exactly. But for him, Bulls and Roosters is about finding out your idols are not who you hoped they would be.

That realization came to Bengston while reading John, Cynthia Lennon’s tell-all about her ex-husband and Beatles member John Lennon. The portrait Cynthia painted of his hero broke his heart.

“You have to separate the art from the creator,” he says. “It doesn’t excuse the shitty behavior.”

But people can change for the better. Bengston knows he has played shows where he was so wasted he could not stand up. Other times, performances ended after three songs because Keegan would start climbing the rafters.

“It didn't seep in until afterward that it was a career and people were paying money to see us,” Bengston says. “[Music] was a party to us and we did not take it seriously. In every aspect of the band now, we know this is our lives and we are more grown-up about it. It’s a lot less juvenile than it used to be. We’re not looking for the after-party after the show.”

Bengston is sober now. “Kenmore Avenue,” a jangly breakup single from Bulls and Roosters, was written while he was in rehab. It was one of the first songs he had written for Together Pangea (Keegan is typically credited as songwriter). His treatment was paid for by MusiCares, which is part of the Grammy Foundation. He thinks this is why he was allowed to bring his guitar and one of those weird oval-shaped '90s boomboxes with him when such luxuries are denied by those seeking freedom from addiction. Ironically, he heard the lyric "she said that living with me / is bringing her down" on The Beatles’ song “Ticket To Ride” and it inspired him. 

“I had just gone through a pretty gnarly breakup,” he says. “[The song] just happened all at once. The lyric informed the song.”

Despite his initial resistance to treatment, Bengston looks back on it as the best thing that ever happened to him.

“I’ve learned that I’m a drug addict and an alcoholic and I cannot do that anymore,” he says. “Rehab is a lot like going to high school again, but for fucking up your life. That’s what rehab is like. You talk about your experiences with addiction. Honestly, it was great.”

Together Pangea is scheduled to perform Sunday, September 17, at The Rebel Lounge. Tickets are $12 to $14 via The Rebel Lounge's website.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil