We recently caught up with our old buddy Ben Marwood to chat about his upcoming UK tour, the first in three years, his new album and how much he enjoys coming back to York…
Hey Ben! Glad to see you back in action! How does it feel to be gearing up to get back on the road?
It feels about 60% excitement, 20% nerves, 20% not wanting to pack. Seriously, the tour is three weeks away right now and I’m already mentally preparing for the big decisions like: how many pairs of jeans do I take? Have I got the t-shirts-to-CDs merchandise ratio right? Truly, this is an insight into a glamorous life.
Non-Canon and Helen Chambers are on board for this run of shows. That’s a pretty impressive line-up. What made you choose that specific line-up for the tour?
Well, it was Non Canon’s idea if I’m honest, and I just nodded very enthusiastically. Non Canon, can I call him Barry instead?, is one of my best friends in the whole world and he took on the booking responsibilities for this tour. We both have known Helen for a while from our shows in the North and we’ve always spoken about one day pooling our resources and hitting the road together. I’m so, so excited it’s happening. I haven’t played most of these places in so many years.
You’re coming back to York on this tour, of course. You’ve had some pretty special shows here over the years, including a number of sell outs. Do you have any specific memories that stand out?
Oh loads – York is superb. I’ve met some incredible people there. The first time we played, which was probably seven or eight years ago now, there must have been something huge on at the racecourse. Everyone was dressed up, the sun was out, and the feeling right away was that it was a great place. I did entertain the idea that maybe York is a city of people who like to dress up really posh all the time, but our Travelodge was next to a bar selling alcopops for £1 so that dream was shattered that evening. Since then I’ve been back many times, and once accidentally wound up in the pedestrian maze known as the Christmas market.
Do you think having to take time out has had much of an impact on your career overall? Do you see this tour and the new album as a fresh start or is it picking up where you left off?
I think unavoidably it’s caused a slight problem with momentum, in that momentum with touring and recording keeps you front and centre in people’s minds. I get pretty nervous when I wonder if anyone is going to come to the shows and buy the new album but I guess that’s just natural. I’m not sure if this whole upcoming tour feels like a genuine fresh start because a large part of the set remains intact, but it definitely feels like another chance, one I wasn’t sure I’d get, and so on..
You’ve got a new album about to come out, what can people expect from it?
Love! Loss! Death! Rabbits! I’m really, really pleased with how Get Found has come out, but I guess it should be good given the amount of time it took to get it together. What can I say about it? At forty minutes long it’s the longest of my albums and that probably reflects both my maximum attention span for albums and also marries up nicely with my morning commute, totally by accident. When I decided it was time to try and record this album and I knew I couldn’t make it in a conventional, hire-by-the-day recording studio, I cobbled my pennies together and bought a new assortment of home studio hardware so I could work on it from home when I felt up to it. The freedom that comes with not working to the clock made a huge difference, so hopefully I’ve done myself justice – I pretty much put the majority of my spare time into it for a few months. The loud parts – you know, the drums and electric guitars and anything else that would get me a letter from the council – were all done at a local studio (White House, here in Reading), a lot of the friends I roped into it did their parts in their own homes, we had it mixed in Portsmouth at a place called Old Blacksmiths and then it went off to New York to be mixed.
Have your experiences and battles with illness over the last few years helped shape the album?
Three ways, mainly: first of all, I spent a fair amount of time lying down and managed to suss out in my head some of the ways I could arrange the songs. Secondly, lyrically there are a couple of songs in there which refer to illness (but only a couple) and thirdly, I compiled a kind of bucket list of things which I’d always meant to commit to record and hadn’t gotten around to. There are a bunch of them on this record, from recordings of me as a child to a song which is 50% backing vocals and there’s even a couple of points which I play piano. That last bit might not sound like it’s extravagant enough to make a bucket list, but I don’t know how to play the piano so it was ambitious enough for me. There are still a load of things I wanted to crowbar in that I haven’t been able to though, so I guess I should probably start planning for album four, right? One of the things I wanted to put on was the sound of an ambulance siren but how do you capture one of those? Hang around busy junctions and hope you get lucky? That’s going to be a tough one to explain to passers-by.
Having toured the UK quite extensively, you must have come across a lot of brilliant underground acts that we’re not aware of. Who should we be checking out?
Well, I haven’t been around the country for so many years so I’m fairly out of date, but local to me I’m really enjoying the work of Quiet Quiet Band lately, who are currently holed up working on a new album and whose rhythm section I stole for my own album. Also, out towards Oxford there’s a band called August List who are also about to release a new album, and there are a bunch of excellent performers and songwriters around like Grant Sharkey (double bass, socio-political commentary) and Nick Parker (acoustic stuff, good old fashioned verse-chorus-verse), as well as my touring partners Non Canon and Helen Chambers. I went to a show on International Women’s Day the other week, run by the excellent organisation Safe Gigs For Women, and saw Misty Miller play. She was astounding.
Hollywood decide to make Ben Marwood: The Movie, a biopic about your life. Which actor gets the starring role?
Can I split the role? Like the Bob Dylan movie I’m Not There where they had six different people playing aspects of Bob Dylan? I can’t decide whether to give it to Reece Shearsmith, but I would also like to invite Kristen Stewart to audition for the role. I think she gets a bad reputation for her awful nonsense character in the Twilight films, but I’ve heard her awkward mumbling and she’s 100% qualified to be me. If they’re not available: I guess H. Jon Benjamin (Archer/Bob’s Burgers). Or Morgan Freeman. Or..
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add for anyone checking this interview out?
Yes! If ever they make a Hollywood biopic of my life please go and see it, even if it doesn’t feature any of the above actors. I don’t think I’m qualified to give life advice, but do enjoy yourselves, laugh a lot, do things you enjoy, be as happy as you can possibly be and also buy ten copies of Get Found as soon as possible. See you soon!
We’re proud to be putting on the York date of Ben’s UK tour on 12th April at The Fulford Arms. Tickets are available here.