INTERVIEW: BENEDICT HAWKIN | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Five months ago Profumo released their debut EP, the nuanced, witty and endearing Brutalism. Alongside frontman Jack Bates’ ability to weave a lyrically interesting narrative together, much of the EP’s sound was built on Benedict Hawkin’s guitar playing. Now he’s releasing his debut EP Ice Caves, which couldn’t be more different to his band’s work. “I wanted to do something a bit separate to the whole Profumo thing,” Benedict explains. “With this EP it’s just me and my lyrics, giving me the chance to have a bit more of a nerdy vision.”

For hardcore fans of role playing games (like myself), the references to Final Fantasy IX in the titles of Esto Gaza and Gift Beneath Mount Gulug – and the title of the EP itself – would have been enough to inspire a nerdgasm. But the geekiness didn’t just stop at JRPGs and fantasy; it also came from Benedict’s insatiable appetite for all genres of music. “I could bring in slightly weirder influences, like more classical and more jazz. We try to be eclectic in Profumo but I guess I just take that to the extreme.” And those influences are indeed very eclectic. Benedict references everything from Björk’s Vespertine and Grimes’ Visions to Kanye West, Sufjan Stevens, Run The Jewels, Taylor Swift and Joni Mitchell as influences on his work (just to name a few). “That’s kind of the ethos with this EP though, to draw on those diverse influences.”

Listening to Ice Caves is akin to taking a trip through Hayao Miyazaki’s mind if he’d grown up listening to Thomas Dolby

The result of this seemingly disparate set of inspirations is a four-track collection that’s curiously cohesive despite straddling a number of genres. Listening to Ice Caves is akin to taking a trip through Hayao Miyazaki’s mind if he’d grown up listening to Thomas Dolby. Callisto (described as having an “evil tropical vibe”) opens with sinister, muted acoustic guitar and a tiny smattering of discordant electronica. Esto Gaza might have the most traditional structure of the whole EP, but its deeply layered guitars gives it a haunting edge. And then there’s Gift Beneath Mount Gulug; Benedict says “we tried to make a real wintery theme, with a bit of pastoral stuff and flutes.” It also happens to have the collection’s most aggressive riff, a bit of harmonica, twinkling chimes and a stabbing synth. It’s occasionally surreal and brilliantly impressionistic.

Maybe it’s no surprise that impressionism as a musical genre has had quite an impact on Hawkin, due to how it evokes a firm sense of place. He recalls the theories of British composer, conductor and author Constant Lambert on the subject: “Impressionist music was like if you found a greenhouse which was attached to a vegetable patch and a gardener; that wouldn’t be weird. But if you found a greenhouse suddenly in the middle of a forest, completely isolated and alone, that would feel weird and would evoke a lot more from you.”

He links this to the uncanny worlds presented in Final Fantasy, but it also sounds like he’s describing the magical unpredictability of his own music. “Things feel out of place. They’re not aesthetically consistent worlds either. Things will appear out of nowhere. I like being transported,” Benedict says, and it’s difficult not to get spirited away with him.

Benedict Hawkin releases Ice Caves is released on 11th December, he plays at The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Friday 15th January.

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