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Three Bens: Ben Pals.

10 March 2003 | 1:00 am | Paul Rankin
Originally Appeared In

The Kids Are All Right.

The Three Bens play the Arena on March 14 and the Troccadero, Surfers Paradise on March 15.

At the tender age of 21, New York based Texan ‘anti-folk’ artist Ben Kweller has already fronted a teenage punk rock band (from which he earned the misnomer of ‘the next Kurt Cobain’), toured with the likes of Juliana Hatfield, Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando, and The Strokes, and released a solo album that has earned him unexpected international recognition. With so many aspiring musicians of the same age still bashing away at their instruments in garages around the world, it's not hard to see that Kweller has attained hero status in the eyes of said musicians.

“You know I think about that,” says Kweller all the way from El Paso Texas. “You know, in my day when I was younger, Nirvana was the big band and they were out and they were the alternate rock band, and now it’s crazy because the fans of mine, like a lot of them don’t know about Nirvana really. It’s strange like how all of a sudden the generations are changing and I’m in along with some of those bands that are now the new crop, like the Strokes and the White Stripes.”

What was it like being called the next Kurt Cobain?

“That was pretty much like the worst thing anyone could say, but you know I didn’t let it bother me, I didn’t take any of that stuff seriously.”

On to song writing, how does the song writing process work for you?

“Well the music comes first for me. Usually I just sit at my guitar or my piano and just strum a chord progression until I come up with the melody and I just sing words that don’t make any sense and then once I stumble upon words that I like, I’ll write them down and put it together like a puzzle.”

Do you ever have a definite theme in your head before writing a song?

“At first I don’t have anything, sometimes I like to sit down and I’ll say, okay, well I wanna write a love song about this guy and a girl left him, you know whatever, but most of my song I don’t know what they mean until like a month later when I start analysing it. I just sort of go with what feels good, and it sort of comes naturally, like the issues come out subconsciously. I just get moved by the music and then just spit out whatever words come to me.”

Is it hard to pour your heart out into a song as a solo artist?

“I think it’s actually easier, because when you’re in a band it’s kind of weird when you write a song that’s really personal. You know I just need to represent myself and get out my feelings as a solo artist, because it’s just me, and every song is sort of a diary. So in a way it’s easier for me to be open than in a band.”

After his split with Radish (the punk rock band that had first earned him a record deal) Kweller moved to New York and made an acoustic album called Freak Out, It’s Ben Kweller, which eventually found it’s way into the hands of Evan Dando. With the Three Bens tour coming up, I ask if Kweller met Ben Lee through Evan Dando.

“Yeah exactly, he introduced us. The second that I meant Evan he said, ‘you gotta meet my friend Ben Lee, you guys are gonna hit it off,’ and we did. He had us sitting at the same table at Evan’s wedding and we just totally hit it off and became really good mates. And then I met Ben Folds and then we decided well fuck, all our names are Ben and we all like each other so lets like form a little band and see what happens.”

So it was a group idea?

“Well it was our idea, but it was also our fan’s idea. On our websites, a lot of our fans would say, ‘you know you guys should play together,’ because they knew we were friends, and we thought well yeah we should, it’s kind of obvious and it would be fun to do.”

How is the show going to work on stage? Are you going to play separately, or together with a mix of material?

“We’re just gonna be a trio. Me and Folds play drums, so we’re gonna switch around instruments and just back each other up on each others songs. We have four original songs that we wrote and recorded. It’s a whole new band man. We’re gonna take turns playing solo, but we’re gonna come out together and end together.”

What else can you say about the tour?

“We’re gonna rock out, and we’re gonna soft rock out and we’re gonna… freak out. So you definitely better come out.”

And lastly, what does your album title, Sha Sha actually mean?

“Sha Sha means everything and nothing all at once, it’s just sort of something you can say like oh, fuck and I love you, you know what I mean?”