The route between punk-rock and acoustic folk is not necessarily the most well-trodden of musical paths, so it is always intriguing to come across an artist whose work transcends genres. Essex singer-songwriter Dominic Benjamin has fronted punk-rock projects Abusing Mary Jane, Forever After and Brave Vultures, touring the UK and Europe over the past couple of years.
Now, he is striking out on his own with a sound of an altogether different flavour and we’re excited to premiere his superb new song In The Morning, released on 4/11. We also caught up with him to find out more about the origins of his versatile music talent, and ambitious plans for a whole load of new songs over the coming months…
SYNC: Tell us a bit of the background to the Dominic Benjamin story and how your musical passion first developed…
DOMINIC BENJAMIN: I have always been into music from an early age, brought up with AC/DC blasting around the house from my Dad’s stereo. I started playing guitar at the age of 8 and started jamming in bands during high school. It was only when I decided to study music at college that I started taking it more seriously. Like most teenagers, I fell in love with grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Blind Melon and Nirvana, I idolised Cobain and the rest of those flannel wearing stoners. I formed my first serious band, Forever After, during college with some amazing friends on the music course. We were lucky enough to tour all over the UK and Europe, supporting some amazing bands and meeting some great people. As Bryan Adam’s would say, “those were the best days of my life”.
After the band split up due to our guitarist emigrating to Australia and other personal issues within the band, I was heartbroken. I still had the fire inside to tour and record, so I started another band called Brave Vultures. Unfortunately, due to a ridiculous number of member changes, Brave Vultures faded into nothing just after the EP release and a short UK/European tour.
SYNC: So after building up plenty of experience in bands, what has led you to striking out on your own?
BENJAMIN: It was during my time touring the UK as an acoustic two-piece for Brave Vultures with my best buddy Harry on bass (as our drummer and guitarist quit). I realised during the tour that I didn’t have to rely on three or four other guys behind me, to tour and make music. The response I got from that Brave Vultures UK acoustic tour was awesome and it gave me the confidence to say, fuck it, I’ve had enough of relying on unreliable musicians, I’m giving this a shot on my own.
Dominic Benjamin – In The Morning
SYNC: Musically, your new material seems like a real shift from that of the bands you have been a part of. How has your musical style – and own music tastes – evolved?
BENJAMIN: One hundred percent. I have always been a massive fan of the rock, pop punk, grunge genre and still am today. But in the last three years, I have really got into folk, Americana, and jazz music. I recently saw one of my favourite folk singers, Langhorne Slim live in London and it gave me goosebumps. It was just one guy, a microphone and an acoustic guitar. The venue was so calm and quiet, you could hear the hand dyer humming and the toilet flush – it was incredible. I have never felt energy like it at any concert. It was so refreshing and inspiring. So yeah, I think my own music tastes have evolved with my age. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy listening to Blink 182 and pretending that I’m 16 again… skateboarding and eating pizza has always been a great pastime for me.
SYNC: How would you describe your own songwriting process? Does it come easily to you or is each song a real labour of love?
BENJAMIN: It’s a tricky one really. I’m one of those songwriters that write the music first and lyrics second. To be honest, I wish it was the other way round, I’m sure it would be a lot easier. I tend to finish writing a song, book a recording session and realise that I’ve written it in the completely wrong key, so the vocal range is way too high when I try recording vocals. I tend to write about things that are true, like my life experiences, relationships and friends. Sometimes I write lyrics and think, “hmm, maybe people don’t need to know that!”.
I take a lot of my lyric influences from rock bands such as Deaf Havana and pop-punk bands such as the Wonder Years, but the whole theme is influenced mostly by singer-songwriters such as David Grey, Ben Howard, City and Colour etc.
SYNC: Given your plans to release a track a month for a year, what can we expect from some of your other material? Is there a signature sound or will the songs to come be full of contrasts?
BENJAMIN: Yeah, I’d like to say there will be a contrast but it will mostly be Folk, Acoustic Rock/Pop. I’m trying not to over-produce the tracks in the studio with loads of other instruments as I want all of these tracks to be easily performed acoustically. I don’t want to have to rely on anyone else. If someone says “Hey, can you play this show tomorrow?” I wanna be able to say yes without asking three other band members, who won’t pick up their phone or can’t get out of going out for a meal with their Mum’s sisters pet goldfish.
SYNC: Other than the steady stream of new songs, what are your plans for 2018? Any live dates in the pipeline?
BENJAMIN: I’m currently in talks with some promoters from the old Forever After/Brave Vultures days about going back out to Europe for a string of dates next year. I’m also in the middle of booking some very small and intimate UK shows in the towns of friends I haven’t seen in a while, and of course a bunch of local shows in Essex.