Benefits: "Our music is exciting and passionate"
Benefits is a band which was born out of Brexit as a product of a polarized nation struggling with itself and rapidly reaching boiling point. Kingsley Hall is the voice of the discouraged, the downtrodden and the ignored, denouncing the racists who pollute both political discourse and everyday life. Kingsley Hall and his bandmates, brothers Robbie and Hugh Major, express their frustrations through their debut album NAILS. This work gives us an introduction to the first four years of the band tracing the evolution of the project so far and hinting that it is far from over.
During their concerts, Benefits create an overwhelming wall of sound; a rib cage noise invoked by synths Robbie and Hugh Major. One of the great additions that Benefits made to their live shows was drummer Cat Myers (Texas, Mogwai, Honeyblood), since she has given the band energy and a very high level to their live shows.
A few days before appearing at one of the most important festivals in the United Kingdom such as the Glastonbury Festival, we had the pleasure of being able to interview Kingsley Hall.
– First of all, we want you to tell us, How did Benefits come to be and what aspirations did you have when you started this project?
We started the band in 2019 and to be honest we had no aspirations at all. Zero. We were just four friends who enjoyed getting together every Thursday night in a practice room to make a lot of noise with drums and guitars. The songs were all very short, loud and fast. There was no real style to what we were doing, just energy and power. The lyrics I was putting to these songs were angry. I think we were all frustrated with something in our lives and needed a release. Maybe it was the state of the UK, our hopeless politicians, maybe it was our personal state, I don’t know, but the practice sessions acted as therapy for us.
When the pandemic happened it meant we couldn’t get together and practice anymore so the band had to find new ways of being creative. The sound of Benefits developed during this time, I couldn’t stop writing lyrics and Robbie and Hugh were sending me a huge amount of amazing electronic music – drones, beats, distorted noise. All recorded in their bedrooms and homes. We pieced it all together and started to create new music.
– Benefits started out as an indie band. After Portishead’s Geoff Barrow saw them at the band’s concert in Bristol, you signed to Invada Records for their debut album NAILS. What change have you noticed when working with the Invada Records label? Do you think this change will help Benefits develop its vision?
When we want advice from Invada Records or Geoff we ask for it and they help us out. The band had completely developed and moved away from the “indie band” style long before we’d met Geoff. Lockdown was the thing that altered how we sounded. It was a fucking horrible time so we did whatever we could to create something amazing as a distraction from the horror and bullshit.
We’re a very focused group who are very clear with our own ideas and Invada realized this – they didn’t bring Benefits in to change us significantly, they brought us in because they believed in what we were doing. The most significant thing that has changed with Benefits since signing for Invada has been that we’ve got a new drummer, Cat Myers. Our previous drummer quit just as we completed the album and we realized that if we were going to progress as a live act we needed someone to take the songs we’ve recorded and push them on to another level. Cat does that, she’s amazing and fully understands what we’re about. We’re looking forward to writing the next album with her.
– You have just released your debut album ‘NAILS’ and it has been praised by many magazines. Did you expect this deserved recognition from the press?
No, we didn’t expect the reaction it has got from the press at all. I thought we may get a review in one of the big music magazines, maybe NME if we were lucky, and that would be it but we’ve had so many now you lose count. It’s overwhelming. You need to understand that this album was written in bedrooms and kitchens in our homes with no studios or engineers. It is a zero budget album. We’d make these songs after work in the middle of the night with little sleep on our laptops with cheap microphones. We didn’t have any rules as to how we were writing and recording, we did it all on instinct. So it seems very strange to see our work reviewed next to albums by famous musicians who have spent a fortune on studios and recording. Good music doesn’t need to be expensive or polished or pristine. I think our music is exciting and special because it was made with passion, not money.
– At what point in your life were you when you began to devise and work on this album? Did you have a fixed idea of what you wanted to convey on this record?
There was never a fixed idea of how to piece this all together. We write in a very abstract way, we don’t sit down together and discuss what songs we want to write. I wrote the lyrics on scraps of paper or noted them down on my phone at work in the factory or when I was out jogging. I’d get home and try to create something from them. There was never an intention for them to be linked by a narrative.
The link is that they’re full of fury. They’re songs that are angry at what the world has become. I want to believe a better world can exist in the future but I’m losing hope. I have a young daughter and I’m worried about the world she’ll be living in when she’s older. It’s insane that we’ve fucked it all up so much. Fed up of politicians with personal greed and power on their agenda. I write about the world I experience around me and it’s not always pretty. It’s important to be honest. I will never understand how artists can exist in this time and not be furious.
– How did it feel to receive the support of Sleaford Mods and that an artist of the stature of Black Francis was surprised by your song ‘Flag’?
Getting recognition from ANYONE is important to us, they don’t have to be famous. We appreciate every single person who connects with our music. But people with a bit of fame and influence can open doors that are otherwise slammed shut in your face and when you’re an unsigned band with no money that can never be understated. So because of Sleaford Mods and Yard Act liking and tweeting about one of our early songs, it caught the attention of Modeselektor in Berlin and Black Francis in America. The NME and Elijah Wood picked up on us too, then Geoff Barrow from Invada, then artists like The Bug and Billy Bragg in the UK. Geoff was instrumental in us signing for Invada and getting our album out and Billy booked us for his stage at Glastonbury. Social media is a very strange thing but without it we would be nothing. Of course it’s absolutely amazing to be acknowledged by these people, they’re my heroes, they’re artists whose music I’ve danced to in discos and whose albums I own and love.
– You have a handful of festivals to play; How do you feel about playing a festival as big and massive as the Glastonbury Festival?
For us Glastonbury is the Champions League Final of festivals. It’s huge. It’s amazing that we’ve been asked to play. We’re simultaneously the best and worst band for Glastonbury. The message in our music will hit home. The anger, the belief in a better world, empowerment, that we can all support each other. The style of our music will disrupt. We’re loud, we fill our sets with hardcore blast beats and punishing noise. We’re not an easy listen, but if you give us a chance, you’ll find it to be uplifting. It’s the Champions League, but we’re an underdog, we’re a tiny team that has battled to get as far as it can in the competition. We will give it everything we’ve got.
– For the audience who haven’t seen you live yet, What can they expect from your concerts?
Our shows are often described as intense. Our album is the starting point but we take it all somewhere else when we play live. We tend to improvise and fire ideas off each other as we’re playing so some songs can be significantly different to how they sound on the record. We want our shows to be impactful. There’s nothing more boring than watching a band play exactly the same songs in exactly the same way as they do on their album. We may not be to everyone’s taste but I’d hate to think we were boring. If you want a standard indie rock band you can dance to then we’re not the band for you. If you want to be uplifted by noise and inspired by anger then you’ll be ok. We’re not a band to be fearful of, we’re on your side. We’re the good guys.
– Do you plan on playing here in Spain in the near future?
We’ve not been asked to play in Spain yet!! But we’d absolutely love to play there soon. You may think that our songs are specific to the problems in the United Kingdom but when we’ve played in other countries like France and the Netherlands we’ve met people with similar concerns and anger. The world doesn’t have to be like this, we can make it better if we help each other out.
Interview by : J. Lucas and J. Emilio