New York

Brendan Benson ‘Fucking Clobbers’ Grade Schooler

by

(. . . .when he was also in grade school)

bren012.jpg
“I don’t take ’em out to eat, I ain’t here to trick or treat, I ain’t trying to fix your weave…”

Brendan Benson Download (via NME.com): “Spit It Out (Live from KEXP Session)

Singer-songwriter Brendan Benson is, by his own admission, not a singer-songwriter. But let’s cut the shit: This guy writes songs, and then he sings them, and a lot of them are pretty catchy. Let yr clubs be clubs, dude.

Now a long time ago this Michigan native had a record on Virgin called One Mississippi— good straightforward pop rock/roll mostly, but with Spice Girls mania in full schving nobody had the heart to tell him how good the album actually was (I’m told). Then there was another record six years later, Lapalco, which worshipped (to whose delight) at the semi-acoustic altar of bubblegum riff. And now there’s this new one, The Alternative To Love, a little more fleshed out instrumentally (Benson played and recorded all the parts) and a tad sharper lyrically, drawing comparisons to the Kinks, Elliott Smith, the Beatles, and “early Brendan Benson.” Sounds like a winner. Plus, the guy’s sitting on some Detroit’s answer to Nevermind shit which he recorded with the pugilistic Stripe, Jack White.

But relax! Riff Raff’s got Benson on the riff horn (a cell phone). He’s in London with his band– they’re friend-ringers, they got names, and you better believe they’re playing Benson’s songs– or else.

If somebody in your band messes up your songs, do you get really angry?

No actually, because I mess up just about as much. Although I wrote the songs and everything and played them, I’m really in no position to give orders when it comes to live. I’m still learning to do it. It’s such a different thing.

So nobody just started doing some huge riff and you had to beat the shit out of him?

No. There have been times like that. I get particular about certain things. But generally speaking, I want it to be like a band, so I want everyone to bring their own personality to the music. They naturally just are playing– it comes natural for them, what I’ve done. They’re not too far from it to begin with. I wouldn’t get some heavy metal guy to play guitar for me, because I’m sure I would have to reel him in a lot.

Jack White?

He couldn’t. There’s no way he could play in my band. I remember Jack playing with the Go, from Detroit for a little while. He was just a guitar player. He was taking a break from the White Stripes, he wanted to do something different I guess. So he joined up with the Go, and they fucking fired him eventually because he was too overbearing. He played the big riffs.

With all the label trouble in the past, are you worried a little about V2 dropping you?

I’d like to sell more records obviously, just because i think that would secure my position in the world, really, as a person making records. It’s never guaranteed that I’ll be able to stay on the label and make another record. It’s been my experience, that’s been the case for me. V2 is way smaller than Virgin, but I had no chance on Virgin. Unless you sell millions, they don’t want to have anything to do with you. When I was Virgin, it was the Spice Girls, I was competing with the Spice Girls. I wasn’t even competing. I was out on the road playing to 50 people, not even 50 people. And they were like selling more and more Spice Girls records and not really pushing my record or any of the baby bands that were on that label. I’m a priority of V2 in America, so I feel good about that.

Did Virgin suggest a Spice Girls / Brendan Benson collaboration?

No. They should have. I wouldn’t have done it. Really though I don’t care about the fame. I don’t care about being famous. I don’t think I’d like it. After seeing how it’s been with Jack, personally I don’t know if I could deal.

Are you afraid that you would start punching people?

I’m not very good at holding back or refraining.

When was the last time this happened– what did you do?

I’m being melodramatic, but I let my emotions fly. If I’m mad, if I’m pissed about something, I’ll say it.

How many people have you punched in the last five seconds?

I haven’t punched anyone since grade school. Some kid knocked my glasses off so I fucking clobbered him. I was just a scrawny nerd wearing glasses, and I remember this big kid, he was kind of a fat kid, and for some reason after school we got into a little scuffle and my glasses flew off and I just went fucking crazy.

Who was the funniest comparison you’ve received so far?

People say shit all the time. Well, the Beatles. That’s really funny. It’s so far from the truth.

You’re so much better than they are.

That’s right. People hear something sorta melodic. And if there’s harmonies involved, then it’s Beatles. You can’t sing and not be called the Beatles.

Who are some songwriters you really like that you think are as good as you?

I don’t know a lot of new stuff. I like this woman, I don’t know too much about her, her name’s Emiliana Torrini. Is she French? She sounds Italian. That record is amazing. Kaiser Chiefs? I think that record’s really good. They write some funny, interesting songs.

Who are songwriters you think are destroying music?

Too many to mention. There’s a song I keep hearing over here [in London]. I think it’s by the guy from Matchbox 20. That guy has a song that’s played over here constantly, and it’s just a waste. It has nothing to do with music or songs. It’s not destroying anything, just perpetuating things I don’t get– that super-pop, ultra-pop, R&B kinda stuff? Almost like brill-building music– just cranked out of a factory or something. I don’t think people care anymore. Music is incidental. It’s in the background, you hear it in a shop or you have it on your iPod. It’s not an album that you treasure and sit down and check out the artwork and all that. I do have an iPod. It diminishes the experience. You have a song among two or three thousand other songs. And you skip over it like a video game.

What do you think are the songs people are skipping over on your record?

I have no idea. I shudder to even think about it. Something being skipped.

The second song?

The title track.

Brendan Benson plays the Siren Festival at Coney Island July 16.

Most Popular