Championed by the likes of Marc Riley on BBC 6 Music – who let’s be fair, knows a band when he hears one – Lancaster’s Mr Ben & The Bens might just be the best twee-pop band we’ve heard since Belle and Sebastian.
Last year’s Happy Shopper EP and their latest single, Nova Scotia, are wonderful snapshots into the mind of Mr Ben himself – Ben Hall – so, as the band are currently heading out on a UK tour, we caught up to find out what makes Mr Ben tick.
Here are Ben’s Sound and Vision choices:
Badly Drawn Boy – ’The Hour of the Bewilderbeast’
An album that really shaped my writing and recording is Badly Drawn Boy’s first album The Hour of the Bewilderbeast. My dad bought it whilst we were on holiday in Ulverston – I guess around the year 2000. I would hear that music through the walls at our house and subconsciously all those tunes are definitely etched onto my memory. Musically, the album is all over the place, which love. There’s 18 tracks and they all sound like they could’ve been recorded in separate studios. The song Fall in a River has this ace lo-fidelity crescendo throughout the song, and there’s a really brief folk song at the end of the track Cause a Rockslide, which just breaks my heart every time I hear it. The whole album seems like a kind of collage of ideas, themes and places rather than some grand statement. But more importantly the melodies are amazing and the lyrics are beautiful and funny and bittersweet. Just such a good record.
The Smiths – ‘Hatful of Hollow’
I definitely have some kind of basic Northerner theme running in this list haha, but when I got into The Smiths at the age of 16 I must’ve played this record for a whole year on repeat. Every song is perfect. Accept Yourself – it’s like so obviously tongue in cheek now, but as a teenager I was like sobbing to this song! I guess that’s what’s so brilliant about pop music is that interpretation and context are everything, and Morrissey poses all those ideas so well within these amazing three minute pop songs. Another great thing about this record is that it’s not a proper album at all, but as my first encounter with The Smiths, that never really occurred to me. I just loved it as a piece of work! All the live cuts from the radio sessions are unbelievably tight: very inspiring.
Vashti Bunyan – ‘Just Another Diamond Day’
I first heard Vashti Bunyan on the Prospect Hummer EP she collaborated with Animal Collective on. I’ve always been into folk music, especially the late 60s early 70s revival stuff, and this is one of my all time favourites. I grew up in a very rural area of Lancashire, and have always felt connected to music with pastoral imagery. This album takes it to the next level. The title track is an incredible tune with an other-worldly melody – a real classic. It kind of flopped at the time it was put out and for 30 years she didn’t really put anything out, which kind of adds to the mysticism of the record, but for me, without that context it’s just a magical album that I really fell in love with.
Richard Brautigan – ‘In Watermelon Sugar’
I love all of Richard Brautigan’s books but this one especially, re-read many times. It’s gentle, surreal, and taps into a bit of your brain you didn’t really know existed.
This is prime ‘Even Stevens’ era Shia LeBouf; I love this film. Stanley Yelnats for President.
Euros Childs – ‘Spin That Girl Around’
This song by Euros Childs is one of my all time favourites. So simple, melancholic and poignant. ‘Lights on in kitchens everywhere’ is the best image. Love it!