Ben Berger and Ryan McMahon are a big deal and you might not know it yet. The production duo is two-thirds of Captain Cuts, they just signed to Warner/Chappell Publishing, and they produced the debut, hit EP for Smallpools, one of this year’s highest-flying rookie acts.
Take a moment and get to know these guys. For one, they’re an absolutely wonderful pair of personalities. Second, they’re incredibiltiy talented and ambitiuous. It’s a recipe for imment stardom if we’ve ever seen one.
Los Angeles shaped their work style.
Ben Berger: “Growing up in Los Angeles, I think we were definitely concert-going kids and part of the music scene growing up here. But I think that what Los Angeles affords for music making is the ability to have your own space and to really hunker down in that space and make music without interruption or distraction.”
Creativity comes naturally.
Ryan McMahon: “We like doing a bit of everything, from writing pop songs, to developing artists from scratch like we did with Smallpools and Eddie Gomez—you know, building a sound with a group is really fun for us. But it’s also really fun to try to write the catchiest song that you can."
Berger: “There’s obviously just not enough hours in the day. Obviously, we love what we get to do here. It doesn’t ever feel overwhelming—I mean, the stresses of deadlines and stuff done, but you know… It’s still just fun at the end of the day.”
Discovery feeds them.
Berger: “I want to be the first person to hear something. I want to see a YouTube video when there’s 20 views that blows me away."
Playing “producer” is a lot like throwing a party for complete strangers.
McMahon: “In a lot of these sessions we only get one day with an artist or a writer and you kind of have to sort of establish a vibe and connect with people right away in order to open up creatively and actually write a song together. I think we’re pretty good at doing that.”
Berger: “If we can host a party and write a song at the same time, then it’s a good day.”
Helping new artists find their sound.
Berger: “We’re deep right now in the Smallpools thing, which we’re very excited about. It’s a group that we got to work with from the very beginning. We’re creating a sound together and those guys are unbelievably talented. … And then we’re working with other artists who are already signed and we’re just getting the opportunity to do some songs with, like Becky G. She’s amazing. We’re in the middle of doing a couple songs with her that we’re really excited about.”
Crafting pop songs isn’t easy at all.
McMahon: “We’ll start from scratch pretty much every day. We will sometimes have a little track idea or a couple chords on piano.”
Berger: “Starting from scratch can be a weird, scary thing sometimes. … There’s kind of something fun in that moment of, ‘Who’s going to put themselves out there first?'’’
Foundation is important.
McMahon: “We’re of the minds that if it doesn’t sound good just on accoustic guitar or piano, then the song’s not very good in the first place."
Berger: “We work six or seven days a week. 18, 19, 20 hours a day. It definitely doesn’t feel like we’ve 'made it' in anyway yet. … We don’t ever want to settle. We’d almost rather rewrite something 40 times until it feels right than to just settle for something for the sake of moving on.”
But most importantly, they’re having fun.
McMahon: “We don’t want to take ourselves too seriously. We feel a lot of people take themselves too seriously, but we’re doing something ridiculously fun. That’s the whole thing. We’re just having fun and we want to spread that feeling.”