MY THOUGH, he’s quite the singular talent, Benjamin Lazar Davis, isn’t he?
The multi-instrumentalist and composer (look, these tunes are so much more than plain written), whose day job sees him locking down the tunes with Okkervil River and Cuddle Magic, besides working with Lip Talk, Joan as Police Woman, &c &c, is to release only his second full-length collection of future indie, self-titled, in a fortnight.
It’s been a long time in the simmering, getting the flavours just right; a first taster, “What If I?” arrived as far back as last December – elephantine in gestation terms. It was the blue-eyed modern R’n’B of February’s “I Bet You’re Fucking” that really got tongues wagging, with its brilliantly expletive, bruised hook. Easily the most occurrences of the F-bomb in a song since Super Furries’ “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck”, and just as insouciant and captivating.
His latest single is poised at the intersection where Sufjan meets the cutting surface of future R’nB. It’s got the lines of the future we’re eternally promised – you know, crisp white linen and cuboid furniture, maybe jetpacks.
Ben explains the song’s genesis thus: “‘Snow Angels’ started off as a riff Will Graefe was playing during a break on a session I was producing for another artist, and I started to sing over it.
“Later when Will and Sarah (Lip Talk) were working on lyrics together, we started singing about someone moving to LA, and the other person not being able to follow them out there. This was before I actually started to split my time between NYC and LA.
“In the end I did follow my relationship out here. It features me on my parents’ Steinway upright with duct tape on the strings under the hammers, Lars Horntveth on reeds synths and pic bass, and Luke Moellman on pump organ and mixing!”
Yep, Ben can call on names such as the Jaga Jazzist founder to kinda pop by and help out.
It’s all about the creation for Ben, the pieces slotting together at exactly the right time, in the right way – a process which an artist of any stripe will know too well.
“In order to write, I have to trust the process, in part because the process is always all over the place,” he explains.
“It’s like those plastic marble tube mazes you made as a kid. You get everything set up, you know which instruments are in the studio, you know who’s there to help, and all those restrictions. Then you drop the marble in. You don’t know which route it’ll take, but you know that it’ll be cool when you see it on the other side.”
And it’s the other side of now where we’re very much headed on this record; Ben takes inspiration from musics as abstruse and discrete as the charts, folk rock, experimental music, indie; Frank Ocean was reportedly a big inspiration for this album, which you can really hear in that soulful vocal and stripped back arrangement.
His core band on this outing are Lake Street Dive bassist Bridget Kearney, Rubblebucket bandleader Alex Toth, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros pianist Mitchell Yoshida.
“I wanted to make a record that didn’t have a lot of drums, so I sent a list of songs that really captured that well, like ‘White Ferrari’ by Frank Ocean, ‘Death with Dignity’ by Sufjan Stevens, ‘Twice’ by Little Dragon, ‘Everything Means Nothing to Me’ by Elliott Smith,” he says.
“I’m really interested in melodies, especially how they can direct the rhythm of a song. I wanted to play around with that here, and I think they understood that really well.”
Pure future pop? Step right this way, please.
If you’re Stateside you can catch Ben at a clutch of dates in support of the album in a duo situation with Bridget Kearney; those dates are:
Thursday, November, 18, Brooklyn, New York, The Sultan Room;
Saturday, November 20th, Upper Jay, New York, Upper Jay Art Center & Recovery Lounge;
Sunday, November 21st, Portland, Maine, Portland House of Music and Events (HOME), and
Friday, December 10th, Hollywood, California, Hotel Cafe, with fellow 11A artist Will Greafe.
Click through on the venue hyperlink for tickets and more information.
Benjamin Lazar Davis’ Benjamin Lazar Davis will be released by 11A Records and Reveal Records digitally, on CD and on vinyl on November 19th; you can get your order in at Bandcamp, here.