Brendan Benson Interview
On the eve of 10th October, I witnessed something truly special. Brendan Benson and his band graced the stage of Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton, and treated the smallish crowd to a set of sparkling pop gems, laying waste to the fact that winter is around the corner. Before the gig, I was lucky enough to meet Brendan and spend ten minutes with him talking about all things musical. The results are below...
How are you finding the current UK tour?
It’s good, it’s going well. We’ve played here [Wolverhampton] before, a few times I think, at the Little Civic and with Keane. It’s all become a blur.
Have you had a favourite crowd so far?
Up north is always fun. Scotland’s fun, Liverpool, Manchester… those are big crowds.
Do you have a favourite song off the new record, ‘The Alternative To Love’, to play live? Also, do you have any particular old favourites you like to throw in?
Not really. If I had to say, I guess, ‘Between Us’ I like a lot. Old favourites? ‘Cross-Eyed’.
A lot has been said in the press of your close friendship with Jack White, of the White Stripes. What is the status of the proposed project you are collaborating on?
It’s coming out in, I think, May or June next year. We’re going to do some touring on it.
Do you have plans to tour with it in the UK?
Yeah, probably. Nothing’s really definite yet. It’s called Raconteurs.
Did the cult success of ‘One Mississippi’ and ‘Lapalco’ hinder or help in the process of writing and recording the new album?
No, not really. I don’t pay attention to that. I think ‘cult success’ is sort of a euphemism for ‘not being popular’ - it’s, like, a nice way of putting it. Still, it doesn’t affect the way I write music. I don’t try to write songs that would be popular, I do what I like and what I think sounds good.
Do you write while you’re on tour?
Yes. It’s kind of difficult. I jot down ideas and stuff, and I might record a little idea.
When can we expect a new solo Brendan Benson record?
I’m going to start working on it after this tour. I want to finish it before we start up the Raconteurs just because I don’t know what will happen with that thing, touring could be a while or not. I want a record ready to go.
You have a MySpace webpage (www.myspace.com/brendanbenson). Do you use the Internet a lot to communicate with your fans?
I look at that webpage sometimes but it’s not something I really concern myself with. I don’t want to put a whole lot of stock in what people say, especially on the Internet where no-one’s accountable – everything’s anonymous, you can say whatever you’d like whether you mean it or not, and you can be malicious if you want. I just can’t take the chance to look at that stuff too closely or take it very seriously but, occasionally, I’m curious so I do look. Luckily, I haven’t come across anything too terrible. The way I communicate with fans, I think, is through the live shows. It’s not always the case. A lot of the time people come to the shows and don’t express much interest, which is funny because they’ve paid the money and they’re watching me but it’s like I don’t get anything back. There seems to be more talk on the Internet, that’s when people really start to express themselves. It’s kinda silly – dancing would be nice!
You’re being supported on this leg of the tour by OK Go and The Cinematics. Did you choose the bands personally?
I didn’t, no, but I knew of OK Go. I don’t know how that was decided but I agreed to it – they’re cool.
Your music is influenced by many classic songwriters and bands – e.g. The Beatles, ELO, Brian Wilson, etc. Are there any contemporary bands that you’re interested in at the moment?
I like Calexico, The Strokes, The White Stripes, Maximo Park. I think Franz Ferdinand are really good, and The Fiery Furnaces. It’s kind of random. I don’t actually know too much about new music. This might sound surprising but I don’t really have an outlet for it, or an inlet I guess.
Do you find that if you really get into a new band then it distracts you from your own writing?
No, not at all. It’s inspiring usually. If I hear something that I like then it will usually just inspire me to write myself. There’s so much out there that’s not very good that it gets discouraging. I think, ‘Can anyone relate to this?’ but then you hear something new on the radio and it just gives you hope.
Does the fact that you haven’t achieved major mainstream success ever affect you at all?
Occasionally, it’s frustrating but it doesn’t affect my path. There are a whole lot of musicians that are unheard of and aren’t being recognised that are amazing, and I just keep them in mind. It seems like such a sad state of affairs but it’s not. You just have to search for good music.