Record Overplayed
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Brendan Benson interview | Middlesbrough Empire | October 2002

"We’re all loopy! We spend a lot of time on the bus!"

Interview by Dawn / Photo courtesy of BrendanBenson.com

Brendan Benson and his band The Well Fed Boys are living proof that too much touring damages your health – as Dawn and Di discovered when they chatted to them before their Middlesbrough Empire gig…

"I don’t know where we are!" Eric, Brendan’s bass player, announces in his American drawl.

"I’d like to see a map actually!" says guitarist Zach. "Are we north of Birmingham?"

"Are we sort of middle and East?" asks percussionist and backing vocalist Chris. "How close are we to the water?"

I don’t think these boys have quite grasped the concept of being interviewed, since we seem to be the ones being interrogated!

As if reading my mind, Chris grins, "We’ll ask YOU the questions!"

"How many people are there in Middlesbrough?" enquires Zach.

"Where are the trash cans in this room?!" demands Chris, a glint in his eye as he holds up an empty banana skin.

I get the feeling that this interview is going to be a little off-the-wall – and the fact that Brendan himself is currently standing in the corner of the dressing room surveying the food on offer and questioning the inclusion of a bag of sugar makes me even more certain!

"Sorry – we’re all loopy! We spend a lot of time on the bus!" says drummer Matt by way of an explanation.

"Do you guys know the record?" asks Chris, making a valiant attempt to turn the conversation towards music. We do indeed – we just wonder if it’s writer and producer Mr Benson would like to tell us about it..?

"Oh, hello!" says Brendan, turning to face us in mock surprise, having already shaken our hands earlier. "How are you? I’m Brendan!" He offers me his hand with a cheeky grin. I humour him and shake it, then at last I manage to get him talking about his new album, Lapalco, and how it differs from his debut:

"The other record was made in a studio with a bigger budget. It was for a major label, but for this one I had nothing – I built a studio in my house and made it there. Otherwise I think it’s not so different to the last record. Maybe more of it is a little personal, I guess, ‘cause I did record it at my house."

The album was named after a street in Louisiana where Brendan grew up: "I just liked the name, It’s always stuck with me – just kind of hung around in my head."

Quite an intriguing name too, I suggest – particularly for us non-Americans: "Right," Brendan nods. "A lot of people are afraid to say it. They don’t know how to pronounce it."

There’s no stigma in the United States for mispronouncing!" says Zach.

"We’re really good at it. We’re not afraid!" laughs drummer Matt.

Thankfully, neither Brendan nor his Boys seem to have noticed that I myself deliberately avoided trying to pronounce Lapalco!

Brendan’s favourite song on the album is Jet Lag as he likes the lyrics, but I ask about one of my favourites, Life In The D: "It’s about my life in Detroit," Brendan explains simply, clearing up the mystery of what the ‘D’ stands for. "Some people thought it was ‘depression’ – life in the Depression." He and Chris begin to laugh as Chris jokes, "My life in the twenties!"

Although Brendan would place his music firmly in the rock genre, there’s evidence of different influences on the album: "That’s nice, I think," muses Brendan. "I guess that’s a good thing. I listen to a lot of different styles of music and I’m sure that has an influence – just like what I had to eat that day or… you know what I mean. All sorts of things. I like David Bowie a lot."

And, finally, what would Brendan like to achieve?

"Just some level of success that’s… y’know… comfortable. And just to keep going," he says modestly.

Huge thanks to Jim at Renegade, to Kriss Lee (the coolest tour manager ever!) and of course to the lovely quintet of Brendan, Chris, Zach, Matt and Eric. Brendan’s album, Lapalco, is out now. Visit www.BrendanBenson.com for more details.

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