As a former member of Springfield-based band Doubting Tom, local singer and guitarist Matt Fuller has had his brush with mainstream music stardom.
Back in 2005 that Valley band, with Fuller on vocals, made the voting ballot for the Grammy Awards in eight categories, including record of the year and best new artist. While the accomplishment didn't translate into any actual nominations, the experience was an invaluable one, especially for Fuller, who hasn't stopped making music since, both as a solo artist and as part of his new project, Benny Lava.
Formed in 2009 during an impromptu cocktail party jam, Benny Lava features the talents of Fuller and friends Tony Jillson (percussion, sequencing, samples, loops, vocals), Kirk Woodring (bass, backup vocals) and Robert Speth (keyboards, vocoder).
"The four of us started jamming for fun," Fuller says. "The entire party responded instantly to the eclectic beats and style and couldn't help but to dance all night long. We knew we had something right away."
Jillson agrees. Already no stranger to the local music scene thanks to his time spent in area bands The Ostrich Farm and Lucky Seven, the multi-instrumentalist maintains that Benny Lava's focus is always on the audience and making sure everyone at the show has a good time.
He says, "We hold strong to the premise that we will not play a song unless the song will get booties shaking on the dance floor. We do not discriminate against music. We love it all if it makes people dance, and we feature disco, pop, dance, hip-hop, rap, '80s and more."
Still, the choice to perform cover songs instead of original material has required an evolution of sorts. "I've been in many original bands and always loved performing my own material, but this project was all about packing the dance the floor and creating our own unique stamp on dance party music," says Fuller.
Or, as Jillson says, "I decided I needed to get paid for my efforts."
Though others may stake the same claim, Fuller claims that Benny Lava is the real deal when it comes to performing as a professional cover act in Western Massachusetts.
"We consider ourselves the Valley's premier dance party band, aimed at bringing something to the table that no other bands are doing in our area, and playing music that no other bands are playing," he says. "We want our audience to smile, laugh, sing along, have an awesome time, and leave with sore feet."
But what about the name Benny Lava? The band members crow that mere words aren't enough to do the tale justice.
"All shall be revealed on Youtube," says Jillson.
For more information on Benny Lava or to see future show dates, visit www.bennylavatheband.com.