Thursday, February 3, 2011

It's still Thursday in most timezones! So I'm keeping the half-promise I made here in the first instalment of this new interview feature. Benjamin Mabry sings and plays guitar on the outrageously wonderful Beta Radio, a band whose americana-folk debut from last year, of which I've raved about here before, has enchanted me endlessly to this day and that anyone with an interest in honest, beautiful music should listen to at the earliest opportunity (which is now, the album is streaming on their page that I've just linked to, so GO!). Ben is also an actor, and a generally wonderful person, wonderful enough to subject himself to this 10 hit torture with a smile on his face - thanks, Ben!

1. You committed the mistake of telling me you played in a pseudo-metal band when you were younger, so now you’ll have to spill all the beans on it. Details, Ben, details.
Ben: Hmmm, maybe that was a mistake! When I was in high school some friends and I started getting together on saturday afternoons, to hang out and play music. None of us liked most of the others taste in music. The stuff we listened to varied from guy to guy, i.e. Kiss, Rush, Journey to Rage Against The Machine, Simon and Garfunkel, to Jars Of Clay and even Limp Bizkit (remember we were American teenagers in the late 90s).  So after we all realized that we each hated most of the music that the other liked, the only thing we had in common was the Rap-Metal or Hip-Hop rock or what ever it was called back then. We were so bad, and we weren't even real Metal!

2. I’ve read that you met in 1998, so why did it take you and Brent 12 years to make a record?
B: Well, we've been playing together on and off since about 2000.  We were always creatively moving toward making music and sharing it, we'd write songs and play some shows, but writing and playing always got interrupted by school.  I left our hometown for college about five hours from home and Brent moved to go to school in Georgia, so we only had summers and holidays to get together. And when we would, we'd write some music, go back to school, come home after a few months and not like the old stuff we wrote, so we'd scrap it and write new stuff... I guess the real reason it took so long to record is because it took so long to find something we really liked.

3. Did he actually shoot any of those apples on the album cover, or is he just a make-believe bearded gunslingin’ William Tell?
B: No shots were fired that day, thank God.

4. Who are the seven sisters? Are any of them cute?
B: Seven Sisters is another name for the star cluster Pleiades. I found that I was writing a lot of songs with lyrics referencing the stars and heavenly bodies, all of which ended up on the album, so it seemed appropriate to reference that in the title. This is a pretty interesting article about the Seven Sisters.
[that's a 'no' for the second part of the question, then.]

5. Seriously though, some of the lyrics sound very affecting. Is it difficult for you to sing them repeatedly at shows?
B: Actually no, it's not. I definitely want the listener to have an emotional response to the content of the songs and to be affected by them and I think when you're listening to music that is written to be personal, it's easier to approach and relate to. I always keep that in mind when writing lyrics, but for me, I think I've sung them so much that now when I sing them live, I'm able to separate myself from them.

6. Everything related to Beta Radio looks great. I already asked previous victim of the 10 rounds Mike the same thing, but come on, who of you is the designer/photographer/generally talented graphic person?
B: Brent does all the graphic design, he is really great with all that.  Actually he is surely the best at design of everyone I know. Also, his wife and sister are professional photographers, so what would have probably cost us $3000 in design and photography, we get for free. 

7. The excerpts from your acting work that you have up on are awesome, especially Mustache Heat. Are we in danger of Hollywood stealing you from Beta Radio anytime soon?
B: Acting is something i've been doing even longer than music.  I mean, its something I pursue actively and enjoy, its a creative outlet just like the music is for me. So hopefully I'll be able to do both for a long time.

8: Could you call Sam Beam and William Elliott Whitmore and do a trifecta-of-folk tour around Europe? Please?
B: We'd really love that a lot.  Can you set it all up for us?
[anyone with this sort of power that's reading this - get in touch, we'll help!]

9. I’m the ultimate list-freak so there has to be a list-question in every interview - list 5 movies you could watch and 5 albums you could listen to over and over, forever.
B: Oh wow, I love these questions, and often ask the same ones myself. 
Movies would be in no order:
1.    The Royal Tenenbaums
2.    The Shawshank Redemption
3.    O Brother, Where Art Thou?
4.    Forrest Gump
5.    No Country For Old Men

And music will be harder, cause my favourites are always changing, but for now they are (again in no order):
1.    The Decemberists – The Hazards Of Love
2.    Sufjan Stevens – Seven Swans
3.    Simon And Garfunkel's Greatest Hits
4.    Nick Drake – Pink Moon
5.    Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise

10. Assuming you don’t get picked to play the next bad guy serial killer in Dexter or something, when will the next Beta Radio album come out? Not in 12 years, hopefully?
B: Ha, yeah we were thinking about just releasing a record every decade or so, that seems like a reasonable idea right?! So I guess you could expect the next one sometime around 2021. Actually we're writing more stuff right now and have already started recording at home, so hopefully we'll have something to show for it before the next decade!

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