LA Music Review | Art, stories and advice
Relaxing and exceptional!
Hi Benjamin, welcome to LA Music Review! Tell us a little bit about you and your music.
Benjamin Stranger is a Nashville-based indie rocker who bends the genre into his own sound. Creativity is everything to him, and this is apparent in the talent of the people he makes music with, teaming up with others in spaces from music to video production. Of his music, Stranger says it all comes down to, “Stringing together ideas, chords, melodies, words, images and rhythms into structures that perform the mystical magic trick of drawing meaning and genuine human emotion from counterfeit, made-up, inauthentic means.”
“I was obsessed with music from a very young age, always whistling, and first loved Michael Jackson and The Beach Boys as a baby. Paul McCartney was my first live concert experience in about sixth grade, which set fire to a Beatles obsession that continues today.
Artists like Dylan, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and PJ Harvey—the solo songwriter/performer archetype—initially inspired me to try writing songs, but I’ve taken refuge in bands as much as I’ve done solo work. Now I’m inspired by songwriters like Adrienne Lenker from Big Thief and Dev Hynes from Blood Orange. I love both writing alone and co-writing with others, solo performance and band performance.”
Start streaming “Misshapen Identity” here:
Congrats on the release! What was your inspiration when you were writing this project?
Released on July 10, 2022. Stranger handles quite a bit himself, including his own lyrics. He notes of his creativity, “Whether making music, songs, screenplays, prose, poetry, videos or films, it all relates to the drive to write as far as I’m concerned.” And once he begins to create, he goes to work collaborating.
The starting point for the new single ‘Misshapen Identity‘ is my main collaborator, Trace Faulkner, who wrote most of the music and suggested the punning title. We shared the same workspace at the time, and he wrote and recorded a demo one morning, leaving a note that said, ‘It’s called Misshapen Identity. Go.’ By the afternoon, I had written the lyrics and melody around that titular idea, and that demo went on to be the basis for the finished track we recorded with John Meehan at Sundial Sound. Faulkner was taking a page from the David Bowie/Iggy Pop playbook—during the making of The Idiot and Lust For Life, Producer Bowie would sometimes write the basic tracks with title ideas in mind for Pop to write and sing.
Lyrical inspiration for the song stems from my mysterious family history (something Faulkner knew, cleverly), a tangled story that both explains and further obfuscates my own sense of ‘misshapen’ identity, informing the fractured lines and snippets of narrative that (to me) reference a range of influences from ‘Eleanor Rigby’ to the paintings of Francis Bacon. The sound of the single is a deliberate mixture of analog and digital sounds.
It’s the first time I’ve ever used overt vocal manipulation (Autotune, Melodyne, Eventide Harmonizer) as a creative tool on record. There is a conscious dialogue between digital synthesizer riffs and analog g
What is your vision for this song? What lessons would you like to impart with your audience?
Music in particular gives me a license for self-expression and self-exploration. Some specific songs are the most ‘personal’ artistic work I’ve done, namely ‘Barely Born,’ recorded in collaboration with my side project The Lonely Bastards (released 2020), and my most recent solo single, ‘Misshapen Identity.’
While these songs (among others) most definitely relate to specific stories and conditions of my own identity, whose details have unfolded oddly, painfully, and mysteriously over the years, relaying those details would do a disservice to the work and ultimately lessen their impact.
In short, songs like these may start ‘being about me,’
but the goal is to expand them outward, making space for the listener to insert themselves and their own experience, hopefully leading to a more re
What is your favorite part of this body of work?
The final icing on the cake was having Bee Taylor‘s voice join mine for the outro section, reciting the first verse and bringing the song full circle. Bee’s been a friend and collaborator on numerous film, music, and video projects over the last few years. She was a big fan of the song when I sent her an early mix and was gracious enough to lend her distinctive voice, adding another, deeper layer and a balancing element to the complex character of the tune. She’s the Harry Nilsson to my Judee Sill.