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

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 Image by David Cavan

The last thing many people want this year will be Christmas music, but Benjamin Amos’ downbeat take on some seasonal standards is the odd tonic we might not have realised we needed. Ben’s new album, Joy, is stylistically something of an extension of the guitarist’s quietly expansive input on Nel Unlit’s Wake For The Dreaming album earlier this year, while his naturally rusty vocal tones add an element of authentic Yuletide melancholy. But there are more upbeat moments too: So I Saw Three Ships has a jaunty Simon and Garfunkel feel to it, while his reworking of Good King Wenceslas is built around a slightly skewed beat. “I didn’t put loads of thought into what it would sound like because the main purpose was to use this as a way of getting back into writing my own stuff. With those two tracks in particular I had quite a lot of fun. I wanted to build a beat using just percussive sounds from mustard seeds, claps, shouts and my kitchen table. So, I built the beat first and then just started playing over the top.”

I asked Ben if there is a fine balance between staying true to the origins of the songs and being inventive at the same time. “I think melodically Christmas carols are written beautifully so it was more the arrangements of the tracks I wanted to mess about with. I also tried to create one little hook that wasn’t originally in each song. That helped me to then get more creative and forget the traditional arrangements each carol has.”

While it must be discombobulating enough to record Christmas songs in Spring, let us not forget that this year all creative roads led to lockdown. “In the first lockdown I thought it was a great chance to get creative. Within a month I had recorded all the songs. My favourite covers album is the Sufjan Stevens Christmas album and it became a reference point as people started to tell me I should release Joy. I think because lockdown itself was so crazy, Christmas tunes in late Spring didn’t feel as mad as it normally would.”

With lockdown as challenging as it was, Ben played everything himself and even enlisted his mum to do the cover art. “I played, recorded and produced it by myself and then Rob Irish mastered it and put it all together for Butterfly Effect. I asked my mum and an hour later she produced the front cover. I love lo-fi music. You can hear a babbling toddler on my knee whilst doing vocals, I’m drinking coffee and eating cookies between takes and you can hear my wife calling up the stairs at times.”

Ben is keen to press ahead now the creative juices are flowing again. “That’s the coolest thing for me personally; you can be creative in the weirdest, strangest times. The idea of Joy was to put a bit of fuel into the tank and see if I could finish [another] album that I’ve been working on since before Nel Unlit, and I have nearly finished it. I’d love to put it out by the end of 2021 and I don’t see why not.”

Benjamin Amos releases Joy on 1st December via Butterfly Effect Records



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