Justin Benlolo never went to college, but he wasn’t immune from the pharmaceutical crunch that can envelop so many students.

“A bunch of my friends did (go to college/university) and throughout their time at the school, I’d seen a couple of friends go down because they got prescribed, basically prescription meth,” says Benlolo, frontman for BRKN Love, who penned the song “Flies In The Honey” about his experiences. “They stopped sleeping, stopped eating. They became addicted to harder drugs and it was pretty sad to see. 

“It was also interesting because all these students knew the doctor to get in contact with,” continues Benlolo. “It was almost like a drug dealer doing it legally with a loophole in the system. It’s hard to walk away from a friend when they’re in too deep but being around them is just as hard. It was definitely tough but we persevered and everything is a lot better now. But this was a stab at that industry and these doctors who are just handing these things out like candy. I just needed to write a song about it, I guess.”


ED Magazine spoke with Benlolo—on behalf of about his newly dropped full-length album— and how rock is a long, long way from being dead.

ED: After wrapping up a tour of the Midwest in the US in December, you’re now touring Canada—you’ve done all this without a full-length album available—how have your shows been received?

BENLOLO: It’s been good, just based off of the success of the single “Shot Down.” People come to the show just expecting to hear that song, which is great, but it exposes them to the rest of our stuff. We have four songs out, so people can check it out on Spotify and all that, but I think what it really does is people are more intrigued to hear the rest of the set because they know that one song so well and people have been pretty excited. We haven’t had anybody throw tomatoes at us yet, so it’s been alright.

“There’s a (strip club) in downtown Toronto called Zanzibar we’ve been to a couple of times. I was talking about this with my band earlier, if they’re playing my song, do I have to pay for the dance or do they pay me?!” – Justin Benlolo of BRKN Love

ED: Your full-length, self-titled album was just released on Valentine’s Day, how many tracks are on it and how would you describe the range of songs included in it?

BENLOLO: There are 11 songs on the record. I like to think it’s pretty diverse. If people are expecting to hear “Shot Down” 11 times, they’re going to be disappointed. We gave ourselves the freedom on this record to expand on the next one if we wanted to go somewhere other than hard riff rock. Maybe we can go in theory an alternative direction, there are subgenres of rock that we mixed into the concoction of this record. It’s pretty diverse. There’s a power ballad on there, there’s some mid-tempo stuff, and of course there are some slamming songs as well. I just think it’s a good mixture of rock ‘n’ roll and I think everybody will enjoy it.

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ED: You’re in your early 20s, the band is driven by you—you write the songs, the lyrics, etc. At what age did you start playing and writing music and what inspired you to pick up the guitar and start writing songs that eventually led to this band?

BENLOLO: I started playing when I was 9 or 10, I was a music theater kid in school. I didn’t actually start creating my own music until I was like 12. I didn’t pick up a guitar until I was 11. Before I picked it up, I didn’t have any catalyst to turn ideas into songs. When I picked up the guitar, that’s when I started doodling around with ideas and writing riffs, all that stuff. That was largely due to my uncle, who was a great musician himself. He was always at my house growing up. Pretty much every day, 5 o’clock, he’d walk in through the door. He always had a guitar at my house and we’d always play together and he would show me basically all the great music that ever existed. He got me into old stuff, the new stuff, just everything I needed to know. It was really attractive to me. I caught the music bug because of him.

One of the tracks off BRKN Love’s debut, full-length album “Flies In The Honey” is personal for frontman Justin Benlolo.

ED: People in the media are trying to tell us rock is dead. This is clearly not the case—what other current rock bands would you tell people to check out to prove rock isn’t dead. How would you describe your specific approach to writing and playing rock music?

BENLOLO: Right now there are tons of bands killing it. Right now we’ve got Royal Blood, Highly Suspect, Rainwolf, Nothing But Thieves—I’m not a huge fan, but Greta Van Fleet is like the biggest rock band in the world right now, as far as new bands go. There are so many great rock bands killing it and people are coming out to see them. They’re thriving. I don’t know what people are saying about it being dead. The way we write songs … I guess it’s just saying what you need to say. I’m not trying to write songs that are out of reach for most people and I’m not trying to write songs I won’t connect with. I just try to write what’s real to me and do what I like. If I like simple rock and simple melodies and catchy hooks and all that, not writing super (progressive), intricate parts. I want people to be able to digest the tunes pretty easily. I don’t want to be super complicated so we narrow our outreach on who’s going to understand what we’re doing.

ED: If you could pick any current rock band to open on tour with, who would you pick and why?

BENLOLO: I would probably pick Royal Blood. They’re so cool and young and they’re doing something fresh in a sort-of-familiar way but still with enough modernness to it that it feels new. I feel like everything they stand for and what they represent are the good things in rock and what we should be celebrating. They’re taking the genre to a better place. It would be an honor to play with those guys.

ED: What bands had the greatest impact on you growing up and which bands’ influences do you think are reflected in your songwriting the most?

BENLOLO: A lot of the bands that inspired me in the first place aren’t bands that I go back to. When I was younger, the band that kind of started everything for me was Kiss. Now, it’s mostly Soundgarden, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin.

ED: Your track “Flies In the Honey” is going to be promoted to thousands of DJs, entertainers, nightclubs, club owners—would you enjoy walking into a strip club and seeing girls dancing to “Flies In the Honey” and Toronto is known as having nice clubs, have you had a chance to visit?

BENLOLO: It would be awesome. There’s a place in downtown Toronto called Zanzibar we’ve been to a couple of times. I was talking about this with my band earlier, if they’re playing my song, do I have to pay for the dance or do they pay me?!

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