You probably don’t really have time to read this. If you’re anything like me, you are currently in the process of having a hell of a lot to get accomplished in what seems like a ridiculously short span of time before school begins. Between registering for classes, getting moved into new digs, finding gainful employment and catching way too little shut eye, you are, I’ll wager, busy folk. And I’ll go out on a limb here and say that you could use a bit of you time.
Which, I put it to you, is an excellent reason to take a break this Friday night and catch acclaimed indie rocker Ben Kweller performing at the Viking Union Multi-Purpose Room, because Ben Kweller feels your pain. You see, besides being a badass songwriter (which he is) with a new solo album waiting in the wings (which he has), Ben is also touring like a madman, producing weekly music videos on YouTube and adjusting to fatherhood. Ben is, to sum things up, a busy guy as of late.
“I have to use my website to keep up with where I’m going to be,” said Kweller just prior to the sound check for the Houston concert that will kick off the U.S. leg of his tour behind his self-titled third album, due to hit stores in early November.
A lifelong musician, Ben has been writing and playing music since childhood, but the upcoming disc found him working well outside of his traditional comfort zone. Where 2004’s On My Way was about as garage rock as an album gets, consisting of four guys in a studio playing songs, foregoing luxuries like overdubs and retakes. The forthcoming disc swings to the opposite end of the spectrum for a tighter, more arranged sound, with Kweller playing every instrument and providing the vocals on every track.
“There are twenty different ways to climb the same mountain,” said Kweller of the contrast between the two albums. “[On My Way] sounded the way I wanted it to sound, and [Ben Kweller] is a different album that I wanted to sound different. The songs are more personal and autobiographical,” said Kweller, a fact that helped him overcome his initial reluctance to recording the album on his own, a move suggested by new producer Gil Norton. “I resisted it at first, because I love having others in the studio with me, but I ended up really glad I did it,” said Kweller of the new disc, on which he cites a “bigger, tighter, more produced sound,” than his earlier work.
It’s a departure that’s evident on the just released EP Sundress, a tantalizing taste of the new roads Kweller is heading down, roads paved in stately arrangements and big, lush pop numbers crafted with an unlikely ear towards the intimate and the everyday.
After spending the last year working in the studio on his new release, Kweller is hitting the road again with a vengeance. After a round of shows throughout Europe, he’s touring throughout the U.S. before hopping back over the pond for a series of concerts in the U.K., an itinerary that leaves me profoundly jetlagged just thinking about, but one which Kweller relishes.
“I’ve still got this fire burning inside me, and as long as I still have that drive to make music and bring it to people, I’ll be doing this and loving it, said Kweller”
Amidst the maelstrom of recording, releasing and touring behind a new album, it may seem a bit ludicrous to expect much more out of Kweller , but apparently he doesn’t think so, as on top of the interviews, the concerts (including a recent spot on the live music show Austin City Limits)and the endless motion, Kweller also finds time to release a free weekly music video on media sharing site YouTube every week, the “One Minute Pop Song,” which is just what it sounds like, an original song each week with designed to cram one minute of your life with pure pop goodness. Between these weekly tracks and the debut of the video for new single “Sundress” on MySpace, Kweller is making the most of the recent boom in social networking sites as burgeoning centers of pop culture.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Kweller said about MySpace and similar media and information sharing sites. “There’s never been an outlet for bands to get content to this many people this fast.”
While he’s elated to have the chance to produce bonus material for fans and keep them up to date on his work, Kweller is careful to not overload listeners with unnecessary info. “[These sites] are great for maintaining a connection with fans, which is great for me because I want them to know that they’re important, and they’re the reason that I’m doing this… but there are no tour diaries or things like that. I remember being a kid and dreaming about what my favorite bands were like…I think it’s important for there to be a little mystery to the music that you listen to.”