Right, there’s this bloke, with a guitar, and he’s pretty good at writing songs and singing them at your face. He’s very nice and polite about it though. In your face, but not in your face. I’m a big fan. His name’s Ben Marwood, which you’ll have no doubt noticed from the title of this post, and the big picture at the top. Good work, 10 points to Gryffindor. He writes lyrics which describe your life, even if you don’t know it yet. And lucky you, he’s not long released a new album on the highly thought of record label, Xtra Mile. And even luckier, he has been very nice and spared some bit of his time to answer a few questions for me, about the new album and how to win the lottery (that may not be entirely true, but you’ve got to read it now, just in case).
Where are you, right now?
I am sat out in the garden. It’s rare that a day off coincides with sun. I’ve been out here most of the day. I spent a lot of time out here last Summer but then vacated in September when the spiders took over, then the shit weather meant complete neglect. A few weeks back I came out here when The Gods Of British Winter had finally buggered off, surveyed the mess and thought “yes, I am going to do the garden” and instantly with that statement I felt the last true grains of my youth fall away. Since bees are having a hard time I was going to make a great garden for bees, but only weeds seem to have thrived. Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat I have decided to dedicate this garden to the growing of weeds, have renamed it The Weed Garden and now I don’t ever have to garden ever again.
So, the new album has just been released. You’ve mentioned that the recording process for this one was very different from the first one. What was the reason for that decision? Money? Sanity?
Ah, crumbs. What a question. At this level money is always an issue but the winner of this question (if there is one, and there isn’t) has to be Sanity. I went all kinds of nuts trying to squeeze this album out, and it wasn’t even the fault of the album. After the first album came out (2011), between the first headline tour in January and the Frank Turner tour support in May I wrote ten or so songs for this album. So far so good. The writing process for me has always been pretty set:
Step 1: write song. say “yay, a finished song”.
Step 2: play song through about 200 times by yourself or in front of people until the nuances and the quirks kick in and the whole thing sounds ace
Step 3: work out how you record it
In August 2011 I moved into a flat with my brother where music was all but impossible. It was like one of those grand old Victorian houses built before anyone knew what a straight line was, converted badly into five or six flats. The walls were so thin you could hear next door snoring, and the girl who lived below us in the basement was such an intolerable shitsack. Any noise she could pick up on, there goes the pounding on the ceiling – I shit you not, once I drew her ire just by ironing, and once by clinking my cutlery on my dinner plate. My room was also the point where two flats met below us and two flats met above. I had the noise of up to four neighbouring flats in my room and couldn’t make any noise. Trying to write songs was like performing with ghosts in the room; ones you couldn’t see and who had physical forms close by but still so far away that you weren’t allowed to punch them in the mouth.
After a month or so I wanted to stave my own head in and it’s thanks to a wonderful few friends that I didn’t (also, now I think about it, the whole place was so badly built that if I had decided to swing by my neck from somewhere, I’d probably have accidentally renovated the place). I put a lot of work into album one and I couldn’t duplicate it for album two because THUD of the endless THUD interference THUD when I tried. So, step two was entirely cut out, some songs didn’t even get probably finished and all of them, barely formed, were recorded at great length and expense and eventually we made an album out of it.
Now I’ve moved house, started playing gigs again and have played through the songs from Back Down about two million times, I would love the chance to go back and try it all again, but it stands as a testament to a difficult time in my life like a child from an illicit affair. And I’m quite proud of the little bastard.
And rightly so, it’s a great record. The video for Lock and Key (which you can see below) is really very good indeed. What was the process of filming that like? Also, you make quite a convincing murderous psychopath, so well done on that.
Ah man, that was such good fun. I shot it with my good friend Ben Morse who came up with the idea and the plan and did all the cool stuff, and I just had to act like a murderer. As it happens that comes pretty naturally. At first it was odd having a camera in my face – it’s not like many people do that to me – and I was a touch nervous, but by the end of the day I was well up for being a murderer. I hope the rest of my videos involve me wandering around muddy forests at dusk with some fake blood. A lot of people have commented on how convincing a psychopath I make, and now I have to pretend like it was hard work. “Oh yes, it took a lot of practicing in front of a mirror and studying of horror films and such and such”, I say, whilst thinking “I’m glad no-one asked me to act like a non-psycho. With these eyes, teeth and hair, that would take real acting”.
What is your favourite Christmas special? (this question inspired by the title to track 3, “The Soundtrack to the Trailer for Your Miserable Christmas Special”).
You know what, I’m not sure I know of many Christmas specials that I’ve seen. At Christmas, instead of watching normal TV, my family and I tend to sit around arguing, opening presents, eating lots of turkey and then watching some nonsense on a Sports channel for no other reason than “SPORTS!!”. Still, the best Christmas specials are the happy ones. Not the ones that inspired track three (grey, morbid soap nonsense), more like.. er.. can I have Muppets Christmas Carol?
Do you take any inspiration from literature? What in particular do you draw on if so?
I always feel like a dimlord when I say this, but, not especially. I occasionally drop in references to books here and there, but for much better and appropriate use of literature in songs I recommend Retrospective Soundtrack Players’ new album ‘Catcher In The Rye’.
Honestly, I don’t read very much. I definitely can, I’m just a really, really tough critic regarding books and there are very few I make it past the halfway mark of without screaming “THIS MAKES NO SENSE!” at its unfeeling paperback cover of a face. I recommend House Of Leaves though, that’s probably the only book I’ve read in the last ten years which I would like to read again.
Finally, as a proud Welshman, I am intrigued by the final track on the album, Lake Wales. Any clues as to what that’s about?
Ah man, I feel like I’m disappointing you for two questions in a row! Lake Wales is not to do with Wales, but we can pretend if you like. Lake Wales is, like Yeehaw Junction which is also referenced on the album, a place in Florida. The song references a trip I took through there. My girlfriend, her parents and I took a road trip from Tampa for a few hours, past Lake Wales and into the middle of Florida where they bought her a puppy from a lady who looked for all the world like a pirate due to an eye injury she’d sustained previously. There was a dirt track, there were puppies all over the place, we saw a man nearby stood on his gatepost with a shotgun. It’s everything you know you want from an American road trip from the things you’ve seen on TV. I was terrified.
Actually, the song is not about any of that interesting stuff. But the dog is great. In the end we named her Tina after Tina Fey. Did you know Tina Fey is allergic to dogs? I did not. That means if I ever meet her I can’t say “HEY I know a dog named after you that you cannot meet. Hey, come back!”.
An imaginary Tina Fey runs off into the distance…
As Tina Fey disappears from view, either escaping from a mad dog or an Englishman, I’d like to thank Ben for giving up his time. The album is currently on rotation both in my car, and my brain, where it’s replaced Tape Deck Heart by Frank Turner, which is no mean feat. As Ben mentions in one of the tracks, there are no gimmicks left for album two. It’s just good songwriting. If you want to discover some new music this year, give Ben Marwood a listen.
Ben is on tour in June at the following venues, and I’d really recommend getting to a show if you can, it’s a lot of fun.
- Jun 01 LEICESTER Cookie Jar/Crumblin’ Cookie (14+)
- Jun 02 BIRMINGHAM The Railway (18+)
- Jun 03 YORK Black Swan (18+)
- Jun 04 DUNDEE Cerberus Bar (18+)
- Jun 05 EDINBURGH Pivo (18+)
- Jun 06 MANCHESTER Bay Horse (18+)
- Jun 07 CHELTENHAM Frog and Fiddle (18+)
- Jun 08 BRISTOL The Louisiana (16+)