Ignant Benches was founded in 2014 by Chula Vista 8th graders Anson Kelley (guitar, vocals) and Andy Tistoj (guitar), who wanted to play that year's school talent show. Subsequent gigs were scored in 2016 at the Casbah, followed by multiple appearances at Soma through 2017, after the band was joined by bassist Isaak Jejjoni and drummer Mauro Rocha.
"Technically, our first show was at our middle school talent show," Kelley told the Reader. "There's cringeworthy video footage of that on YouTube, but our first real show was at Soma, over near the Sports Arena. We were opening for a bunch of heavier bands, so we were very out of place. And it might have been riddled with mistakes, but it was a big step for us in making the jump to small venues."
Like most groups, they started as a cover band. "Since the very beginning of Ignant Benches, the Strokes and Arctic Monkeys have been some of the biggest influences to our music," says Kelley. "We've got to try not to let those influences rub off too much on us though, or we'll relapse into being their cover band again."
They ranged in age from 15 to 17 when they made their first professional recordings with Brian Karsig (Louis XIV, Nervous Wreckords) in early 2018. "I like the perspective and freshness young artists have," says Karscig, who has also produced for locals like Anya Marina, the Silent Comedy, Transfer, Apes of Wrath, Republic of Letters, and Subsurfer. "I learn a lot from them."
"I remember one of our first recording sessions last winter," Karscig told the Reader. "I overheard Andy tell Anson that he's getting up at 5am so he can use the shower this time. I asked what they were talking about, and they told me their home was flooded by the recent storms. Everyone had to move into a hotel room with just one bathroom. It sounded like such an inconvenience, but they just kept on working, not even bothered by it. Well, they at least didn’t show it."
For their initial recordings, "These guys played everything themselves on the recordings we did," says Karscig. "I'm really impressed by them...it reminded me of some of the bands I was in when I was younger. I just wanted to help with what they already have going for them."
In July 2018, Ignant Benches were invited to open for Foster the People at a Soda Bar party, after Foster the People played Mattress Firm Amphitheater with Paramore. It wasn't their first time in a venue where they're technically not old enough to enter.
"Most of the time, we try to play all ages venues or house shows," says Kelley. "When we do get the opportunity to play local bars, we usually have to wait outside for a couple hours until we play, and then immediately leave the bar when we're done. It's fun. We did this at the Casbah, and also Brick By Brick."
Initial singles like "You Gave It Your Best" have a retro-British glam vibe with underground garage accents, the kind of dirty rock and roll that many tastemaker blogs would have you believe is all but dead, a cynical stance Kelley takes issue with. "If not rock, what else would we be? Should we go follow the trend and become SoundCloud rappers? No. That's not who we are or what we want to do. We want to make rock music, so we're going to make rock music. Maybe that'll change over time, and that's perfectly fine."
"People should make the kind of records they want to make, regardless of anything like this. Jazz could be considered dead, but people still put out great jazz albums. And there are always people bringing the past back to life, reviving old styles of music and blending it with new. Rock will never die if we continue doing these things."
After opening for Foster the People and several Louis XIV reunions, their debut full-length was released on Spotify in summer 2019, with a support tour running up the coast and back down through Iowa and Nevada.