John and Matt Beninghof’s parents are not musicians but music was always a part of their home. Matt says his first memory of music is his parents singing them to sleep with Irish lullabies like “Over in Killarney” and show tunes from “Fiddler on the Roof.” The brothers also grew up with the sounds of Harry Nilsson, James Taylor, The Doobie Brothers and The Grateful Dead playing in the house.
During the formative years it was insisted that the boys either play a sport or take music or art lessons every season. In high school they both started playing guitar and John had a knack for it. Matt played some harmonica and guitar but didn’t get serious about music until college when he picked up the mandolin. He fell in love with the instrument, even writing a song about it called “Mandoline.”
Growing up outside of Boston and spending their summers in West Falmouth, the brothers found a home in the Cape Cod music scene. One night at Pie in the Sky’s open mic in Woods Hole they played a set and decided they had something special.
Matt was inspired by bluegrass and jazz where John leaned towards folk-rock and reggae. Through compromise they wound up with a sound they dubbed “beachgrass.” They started playing during Contraband’s set breaks at Grumpy’s Pub and soon had a small following.
After a stint in Boulder, Colorado, where they fronted a 13-piece band, the brothers wound up back in North Falmouth.
Inspired by their neighborhood beach they called themselves The Old Silver Band. “One other reason,” Matt told me, “and I don’t remember this exactly but John does, is that when we were little kids at Old Silver Beach our dad took us out to what was about chest-deep for him, dropped us in the water and said, ‘See you at the shore.’ [Matt laughs] That was kind of how we felt about music. We didn’t really know what we were doing. We still don’t read music. It was kind of like sink or swim. It was the same with the business and marketing side of it, we learned on the fly.”
Matt has a passion for art and designs flyers for their band as well as other acts. While Matt is a natural at working the crowd and building the energy, he says John brings great rhythm, harmony and songwriting. “He has a really unique way of fingerpicking syncopated rhythms on the guitar. He has these wonderful harmonies as well. I remember driving to high school we had two tapes, Reel Big Fish and Phish. John would harmonize with all the songs. It got to the point where if I was alone I thought there was something wrong with the stereo, then I would be like ‘oh wait it’s just that John isn’t here!’ ” Eight years ago they started a Sunday night residency at The Landfall in Woods Hole. Originally they played as a duo but surprise guest appearances were the norm. During this time they recorded an EP at local musician Dan Byrnes’s studio. They played all over the Northeast, building a loyal following. A few years in, drummer Charles Walton joined them, broadening their sound, and they recorded a live album.
As members had kids, other projects and careers, it was decided that Old Silver Band would pare down to Sunday nights at the Landfall and sporadic winter gigs.
John is currently working on an album and performing as a solo act. Matt has been taking time to learn slide guitar, pedal steel and recording in his home studio.
“I was really excited to record a song with both Matt and our younger brother Bubba,” John says of his solo project, “ ‘Berry’s Dream’ is a tune I wrote when I was 16. It definitely throws back to a time in our lives we look fondly upon; that is what we can remember of it! It also features backup vocals from Isel Garcia-Renart and her mother Nikki Patton on cello. The family vibe will be really strong on that one!”
Once or twice they thought it would be their last summer but this year seems as vibrant as ever. Local musician John McNamara rounded out the rhythm section on bass and Matt has amassed a pro stage lighting and projection system to visually enhance their performances. This Sunday will be their last Landfall show of the season but as long as there are steel strings and Cape Cod nights, the brothers will always find harmony.