Happy Release Day to Mr Ben & The Bens

Happy release day to Mr Ben & The Bens who release their new album ‘Life Drawing’ today! Read some kind words below and then listen till your heart’s content 💙

“One-man band Ben Hall stands in a proud line of beguilingly eccentric British popcraft that runs from Syd Barrett and Kevin Ayers to Euros Childs and Gruff Rhyss… With a voice that can shift from Harvest-era Neil Young to Ray Davies there’s a quietly gorgeous quality to everything he touches.” Uncut Magazine – 8/10

“The songs are sincere, effecting and idiosyncratic in their detail… A gorgeous album of beautiful, bittersweet songs worthy of your attention.” NARC. Magazine – 4 Stars****

“We’ve been big fans of Mr. Ben & The Bens since we first caught them in Leeds a couple of years ago. Recently we’ve been more than taken with singles Watering Can and Beast in the House.” Backseat Mafia

“It’s a perfect mix of optimism and crushing reality.” For The Rabbits

“As woodwind, brass, and twilight-hued guitars shuffle along, its apparent that Mr Ben & The Bens have a knack for making anything and everything sound delightful… even wistful swathes of melancholy.” Secret Meeting

After the celestial adventures of Mr Ben and the Bens’ previous issue, band-leader Ben Hall finds all the magic he needs on earth with his new album. On 2019’s Who Knows Jenny Jones?, Hall plotted the story of a young, shy Pitsmoor woman who returned from an alien encounter newly armed with serious disco-dancing know-how. Released on Bella Union today, Life Drawing looks closer to home – Sheffield and thereabouts – for 12 brightly plaintive, character-driven vignettes, set to warm, acoustic, indie-folk-pop backdrops after its predecessor’s close encounters of the synth-driven kind.

A “cloudy thread of narrative” is present, Hall explains, but this time it’s left open for listeners to map routes through it. “The idea with the title is that the songs are character sketches, and their stories coalesce in a place that has a bit of all the towns in the North of England I’ve lived in. Bits of myself in the stories came out unintentionally, so I’d like it if the listener could find those semi-truths from the songs and place them into their own experiences.”

Mr Ben & The Bens share ‘Watering Can’

Having last month announced the release of their new album Life Drawing, available 10th July via Bella Union, and shared a video for lead track ‘Beast In The House’, today Mr Ben and the Bens share a new track titled “Watering Can” from the LP. Of the track bandleader Ben Hall says:“Watering can is a gently-swaying brassy ode to small town life. I took up gardening recently as our band obtained an allotment and I loved the image of a watering can becoming a metaphor for good intentions. Lyrically the track deals with the themes of lost love, claustrophobia and aspirational dreams that somehow never seem to be realised. The song is the finale of the new album and I wanted it to be that very specific combination of uplifting melancholy.”

Additionally, Mr Ben and the Bens have announced news of their rescheduled Spring tour with all the dates moving to September and some new shows being added… Full dates HERE.

Vibrant invitation to start exploring arrives with album opener ‘On the Beach’, where Hall’s tender vocal and dreamy organ provide simpatico companions to a wistful tale of a visit to a beach charged with memories – one of many evocative locales on the album. ‘How Do You Do?’ brings to mind Belle and Sebastian at their dreamiest, while seeding enviro-metaphors – suns and moons, storms and tides, rain and snow, “Whatever the weather may do” – that figure strongly throughout the album’s every-day rhapsodies.

Plenty of melodic sticking power propels the urgent ‘Danny’, where beaches and seas provide backdrops for a character study about someone reaching out for connection. At the opposite extreme, the gorgeous ‘Astral Plane’ is a sweetly psychedelic lament, images of waves and shores lapping gently against the tale of a “barely functioning” character. ‘Faithful Hound’ is a country-sad ballad, ‘Minor Keys’ a retro doo-wop-ish reverie about a character blithely “at sea” and wasting the day away, all set to a waltzing-Wurlitzer melody. 

For Hall, Life Drawing is a rich, rewarding step forward in a still-young career. With the exception of Zac Barfoot on drums, Hall is the sole player on the album’s lovingly layered recordings, his first in “a proper studio – analogue gear, proper piano”. David C Glover and Paul Gregory also contributed as, respectively, producer and mixer at Tesla Studios, while the band’s live line-up is fleshed out by Barfoot, Lauren Paige-Dowling (bass) and Tom Diffenthal (guitar/keyboards). Members of the close-knit Bingo Records community, the bandmates co-habit in Sheffield and moonlight in each other’s bands – “A nice family vibe,” notes Hall.

Since their 2017 emergence, Mr Ben and the Bens’ supporters have included Clash and Marc Riley; in addition, they’ve provided touring support to – among others – British Sea Power. Stretching back to his recording origins in a Lancashire barn circa 2012, Hall’s own musical history ranges from lo-fi acoustic folk to the skewed electronic experiments of Jenny Jones, with influences including Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, English folk music and Belle and Sebastian. “I like how their approach was actually punk but with an emotional sensibility,” says Hall of the latter. “That totally resonates with what I’m trying to do.”

Before Hall tours Life Drawing, a combined launch party and exhibition will take place in Sheffield, in a true DIY spirit. Describing himself as a “self-sustaining artist”, Hall makes his own oil paintings and ceramics, one of which features on the album sleeve. “The cover is a carved slipware plate that I make. It’s a super-old technique, so they look like old museum artefacts that have been unearthed. I like the idea that the archaeology side to the art is a nice metaphor for digging out stories to make into songs.” On Life Drawing, every picture tells a lovingly excavated story, rendered with hand-crafted charm and beauty.