French Cassettes, Ojai, Andrew St. James tonight at Slowdown…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 8:57 am June 25, 2024
Ojai at O’Leaver’s March 18, 2024. The band plays tonight at Slowdown w/French Cassettes.

by Tim McMahan,

Barring the threat of “baseball-sized hail,” as currently forecast (at a 10-30% chance) by the National Weather Service, I’ll be at tonight’s French Cassettes show at Slowdown’s front room.

In case you missed it, French Cassettes frontman took the Ten Questions survey last week (read it here, and watch their classic Union Pacific railyard video). Omaha indie-rock trio Ojai is one of tonight’s openers. Fronted by singer/songwriter Michael Hulstein, the band just dropped a new video, directed by Tony Bonacci (The Headliner), shot in locations around town. Check it below. 

Also on the bill is San Francisco singer/songwriter Andrew St. James, who’s touring with French Cassettes. I think his last album was 2021’s Light After Darkness.  $15, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with French Cassettes (@ Slowdown 6/25)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 10:44 am June 19, 2024
French Cassettes play at Slowdown June 25. Photo by Marisa Bazan.

by Tim McMahan,

Hailing from San Francisco, French Cassettes give a nod to The Beach Boys and Magnetic Fields as two “apparent influences” to the music on their third LP, Benzine (2024, Tender Loving Empire). Their dedication to well-constructed indie pop, however, is also reminiscent of acts like Whitney, Guster, Ben Folds and (a less earnest version of) Okkervil River. 

Singer/songwriter Scott “Benz” Huerta is the trio’s center-pivot, having formed the band (originally a four-piece) with guitarist/bassist/keyboard player Mackenzie Bunch back in 2006. The current iteration is rounded out by new drummer Rob Mills. While Huerta’s voice has that classic indie frontman croon, it’s Bunch’s harmonies that give their songs extra lift. 

Huerta agreed to take on the Ten Questions gauntlet in support of the band’s June 25 show at Slowdown with Ojai. But before we get to that, a quick story that involved my former life at Union Pacific Railroad: 

It was January 2015 and in an effort to attract young recruits to consider railroad careers, Union Pacific attempted what can only be called “a social media experiment.” The railroad’s Corporate Communications department created a video series, developed and filmed by videographer/musician/all-around-good-guy Django Greenblatt-Seay, wherein small national indie bands performed songs safely within the confines of a live rail yard. 

French Cassettes was among the bands involved in that experiment. They were shot performing their song, “Radley,” at Union Pacific’s Oakland Intermodal Terminal. The final product is linked at the end of 10Q, right after an 11th question about Huerta’s memory of the project.

Please to enjoy…

What is your favorite album?

Scott Huerta, French Cassettes: i by The Magnetic Fields is definitely #1.  And I know this is cheating the question but I feel like I have to honorably mention:
Discovery – E.L.O. 
Comfort Eagle – CAKE
Room on Fire – The Strokes

2. What is your least favorite song?

I don’t like pickin’ fights so I don’t go around saying this, but “Piano Man.” I like Billy Joel I just don’t really want to hear about a guy who plays piano for 5-and-a-half minutes. Maybe I just don’t get it. 

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

This is a TalkBoy.

Singing harmonies with talented singers. I’ve wanted to have that since my grandma showed me Beach Boys when I was super young. As fun as it was layering a bunch of my voice with my TalkBoy, I prefer being in an actual group. 

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

I got a bum knee and my amp weighs 40 pounds. 

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Legal: green tea boba

Illegal: pickin’ fruit from trees hanging over people’s fences 

6. In what city or town do you love to perform (and why)?

San Francisco of course because it’s home base. Anywhere in Central Valley CA. We played Sacramento the other night and talk about a good-time-havin’ rowdy bunch.  New York and Denver are always really kind to us and like to sing the songs. 

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

A long time ago we played a blood drive — us in a parking lot with 100 folding chairs set up and not a single person showed up. The staff felt bad and made all the employees watch. Then as a peace offering, they gave us a tour of the blood bank and I almost passed out halfway through. I learned that day that I’m not a blood person. Nice folks, though. 

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

We’re not doing that bad, I’d say. I live pretty modestly so that helps when it comes time for bills. But especially recently we’ve been blown away by the support from our fans. That being said, there were definitely days where I was eating cans of tuna for breakfast lunch and dinner. But I don’t mind – I love tuna. 

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I attempted to be a child actor, but no one showed up to my first class, not even the teacher, so I took that as a sign. Also I was 30.  There’ve been a few others. Carpenter, mechanic, mailman in Ireland. 

I wouldn’t want to work in a kitchen only because I move pretty slowly and everyone would hate me; I got too thin skin for that. 

10. What stories have you heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Sorry, I’m sure you get this all the time but honestly just what Toro y Moi sings about in his “Omaha” song. I’ve learned Omaha is one of people’s favorite cities to say out loud, very beautiful word. Basically, I’ve got much to learn and I plan to soak in as much as possible while we’re there this tour. I bet it’s my kinda place. 

Extra Question: What do you remember about filming the Union Pacific rail yard video?

I remember it was very early. And they told us legally we had to wear all the gear. But mostly I remember the comments on YouTube, so good. “What does this band have to do with trains?,” “music’s not as bad as I expected.” They get even better. It’s worth checking out when you have time. Union Pacific let us keep the wardrobe and I used the glasses as goggles for cutting onions, which did not work at all – do not recommend. 

French Cassettes play with Ojai on Tuesday, June 25, at Slowdown. Tickets are $15; showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.