Showcase Interview: Ben Talmi

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Ben Talmi

Sticking his foot into singing, writing, TV & Film, and self-producing, Ben Talmi has done it all. From working with numerous bands like Tokyo Police Club, Wild Nothing, and Manchester Orchestra, former resident of Massachusetts now living in New York, Ben has just released his first solo project titled My Art of Almost.

BT: Congratulations on the release of your first official full length album!

Ben: Thank you! You know, it has been a long time coming.

BT: How long did it take you to complete the project?

Ben: Well, I made it pretty quickly, but I have been sitting on it for a bit waiting for the right time to release it. It really has been a two year process, which for me is too long. I write constantly, so I pretty much already have another record done as far as writing.

BT: Already?

Ben: Already! Not because I am necessarily faster than anyone else, it is just because the way records are released these days there is so much lead up time which is extra time to write, which is what I did.

BT: How does it feel to be a former band member to now a solo artist?

Ben: This is my first full-length solo record. I have been in bands my whole life so I have done tons of records, EPs, tours, but this is my first big solo project and I am excited for it.

BT: How long have you been solo?

Ben: Since 2015. I stopped playing in my band ‘Art Decade,’ who I have been playing with since I was seventeen years old.

BT: How did you end up separating from the band?

Ben: It was really moving to New York, figuring out a way to reinvent the band and seeing very clearly in that moment that it was over and time to move on to doing something new. Also, living in New York has shown me all of these new inspirations. I did not want to wait anymore, I just wanted to do something new.

BT: Do you still keep in contact with your previous band members?

Ben: Yes, definitely. There were so many different band members over the years that it is hard to say there is one band I keep in touch with, but there are a bunch of people I keep in touch with. Bands just run their course and it was a natural thing and I also feel like the economy of the music industry does not support bands anymore. It is extremely difficult to get 3, 4, or 5 people to live and step out these days in the hopes that it’ll work. You look at festival lineups today and it’s not bands anymore, it is more so artists. Headliners are Kendrick Lamar, Lady Gaga, and Beyonce. Of course you are going to see bands like RadioHead and the big legendary acts, but for the most part especially with the influence of artists like Lorde and all the superstar Djs that are one singular identity, it hasn’t formed the next generation to exist as sole identities that people can identify with each member as opposed to each band member having sole identities that people can identify with.

BT: Just like Migos and how Quavo has become such a phenomenon all over social media, he is now a meme, and how every joke made about them is how Quavo slips away to do features for other artists. When people want to interview them, there are just so focused on him, which sets him slightly apart from everyone else in the group.

Ben: Exactly. That’s when you know. When there are memes about it, it is official. Are they triplets, or are they just brothers, or related?

BT: They are just related. Back to your music, I am curious about your project title. Artists tend to go for the self-titled for their first project, but you have a title with a meaning. What made you decide to pick the title My Art Of Almost?

Ben: The title came from a friend of mine who brought it up to me. It really resonated with me because it summed up the whole process that I was going through and the entire theme of this record which is kind of an analysis of one’s artistic process and the repetitive nature of putting everything you have into something, really believing in it, and then seeing it fail ultimately. It feels like over and over again in my life I craved something I really believed in just for it to  fall short. Even if you succeed I know that there are shortcomings, therefore that name really resonated with me and where I am at with the creative process right now.

BT: For someone excited to listen to Ben Talmi’s first solo project, what sounds can they be excited to hear?

Ben: It is a lot of organic sounds that were twisted within pro tools. It sounds like it is in the digital realm, but it comes from a real analog or acoustic source. That was my overall concept for what the boundaries were that I set for this record. It sounds like a weird hybrid of acoustic and electrical.

BT: Was it difficult to completely self-produced everything?

Ben: Yeah because you can always go to friend or other musicians for suggestions and opinions, but the whole self-editing process it difficult. You have to trust your gut with everything, which can sometimes be easier than working with a producer.

BT: Did you have any other writers on the record?

Ben: It was mostly me, a couple lyricists here and there, David Monks from Tokyo Police Club, my friend Bryan Marrow, but for the most part it was me sitting alone in my studio doing it.

BT: Just to give our readers a little back story of who Ben Talmi is, how long have you been interested in music?

Ben: Straight out of the womb. I have never really done anything else except music since a really young age. I have pretty much been in bands and making records since I was really young like thirteen, yeah they were terrible, but i’d still do it all over again. I will also never stop doing it. I’ve also played in bands all of High School, College, and here I am now doing it even more than ever.

BT: For those who have not already heard the album, how do you expect this album to be perceived once heard?

Ben: I do not think it will be an obvious kind of listen, I don’t think people will be able to fit it in a specific genre easily, and I do not think it is challenging. I also do not think it is like listening to the latest RadioHead record either where you have to spin it twenty times before you can really understand it. But I will say, I do not think people will classify it as a pop record. So if anything, it is kind of something that you can listen to a couple times and pick up something new every time. Hopefully they will pick up on the theme of finding and defining one’s process. That is really my goal in writing, which was to analyze that whole theme and have it help anyone in any entrepreneurial field can relate to, not just art, but also creating anything of your own and launching it to the world.

BT: With My Art of Almost, how do you think this solo project will jump start your career and where do you see yourself in the next two to five years?

Ben: To the toppermost of the poppermost.

BT: I did read that you have stepped your foot into TV & Film. How did that come about? With the writing, singing, self-producing, and TV you are an all-around balanced type of person.

Ben: You have to be when in this industry. Even if you are a big star, it is tough to make a living with just making music. It started as me being the type of go-to stringer major kind of guy in my kind of college scene. I was making a lot of string arrangements for other bands like Tokyo Police Club, Manchester Orchestra, and Wild Nothing. That kind of string arranging world lead me to some directors who were making short films and TV shows, then one thing leads to another, and I ended up doing various projects from cooking shows, to full-length feature documentaries, and TV shows for major television networks.

BT: What is your favorite project of yours, so far?

Ben: Scoring wise, if it counts, Manchester Orchestra because I got to work with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. My favorite film that I got to score was probably Duke In The Buffalo which was a short film that was shown at Tribeca. That was the first time I got to hear my music in a movie theatre. That was amazing! That was a very gratifying moment. Even though I didn’t know anyone in the movie theater, except for the director who was on the other side of the theater with some fancy people, I just kind of sat back and hearing it for the first time was almost more special than putting out another record or playing another show. I felt like I didn’t need to impress anyone, I was not looking at Spotify numbers, or record sales, it was just the art that did it all.  

BT: Your record “I know It’s True” on Spotify  has over two million plays. How does that feel? That is huge!

Ben: It is crazy, but you know two million is like nothing in the grand scheme of things when it comes to streaming. I am not trying to take it for granted because it is so cool that there are two million individual plays on a song of mine, but if you look at other songs with hundreds of millions and billions of plays, well you know. I do not take anything for granted and I am very thankful for anyone who listens to my stuff and I think the streaming age is the greatest thing that has ever happened to music. The only downside of it is the over saturation. The question is: How will you ever be able to break through? But, thank you Daniel Ek from Spotify.

BT: Do you plan to make music videos for every song on the album?

Ben: There are four music videos out now. The music videos are probably all done for now, but I am playing shows and kind of letting the record live in the world while I focus on my next album now.

BT: You are working on your next album already?

Ben: Yeah! I go crazy if I am not working on music. I just do not find anything else in life very interesting. I have no hobbies, but I do love cooking.

BT: Do you like cooking and listening to music at the same time? Honestly, that makes cooking so much more fun.

Ben: Honestly I listen to Opera and Classical music because I work in a recording studio and I listen to Pop and Rock, Hip Hop, so when it comes to cooking I try not to listen to things that I am going to start analyzing. I also live listening to podcasts like Mark Maron and Ezra Klein where I can just drown out.

BT: When you listen to music, who is in your top 3?

Ben: Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead, and David Bowie.

BT: Which records do you seek inspiration from?

Ben: Kid A by Radiohead, but nowadays I listen for concepts. The more and more music that is put out there the more less common it is to hear a clearly defined idea communicated. Someone like Father John Misty is getting a lot of attention and it is probably spoken about too much, but his new record has a very clear concept to me and he speaks very clearly about that concept. I am able to listen to it and understand what he is saying. Some people like the idea of being able to put their own meaning to a song, but it is refreshing to say “No, this is just about this.” I am sure you can assign your own meaning to any song, but it is clear and concise what the writer is saying and meaning. That is my inspiration.

BT: Are there any artists you wish to work with in the future?

Ben: Paul McCartney, Thom Yorke, and Dean The Basset Hound.

BT: What are your plans for your already started second album?

Ben: I want everything on it to be a true performance. I am going to try and step away from sequencing and editing. I want everything to have it’s own unique place in the world because of it’s flaws really. That is my agenda. The album title is not to be shared just yet, but I came up with it on my own and it is a saying in the world that already exists. I will say it is a saying that our generation is really experiencing right now.

BT: Is your second album going to be 100% self-produced just like your first?

Ben: Yes, definitely. I want to go super inward. I do not want to work with anyone else. Well, I do not want to say absolutely no to anything, because you never know, but I have a vision and I have no interest in messing with it. I want to see it through with myself.

BT: How well does your family and friends provide as a support system for you?

Ben: I hope my family thinks I am successful. I still think I am struggling, but my family is incredible. They have always been 100% supportive whether it is just keeping me motivated with things that do not work out or anything like that. They live in Massachusetts where I grew up, but they are both hippies from the 70s. My dad was a film composer turn ballet promoter and my mom was a dancer/choreographer her whole life. They definitely understand my having a passion and relentlessly going for it regardless of the odds. They lived a life of the arts which inspires me still ‘till this day. They now run a business but it is still mixed with the world of art. To me, that it is a real reason for me to keep doing what I do. My album release party included my friends, family, Charles Fauna, and Sulene who are two phenomenal artists living in Brooklyn right now

BT: That concluded all the questions I have. Do you have anything that you would like to add?

Ben: Let everyone know that if Quavo leaves Migos, I will personally fill in for him. I think I would look great as their third member. I am a terrible rapper, but I can do it. My plan is now to be the third or fourth Migos member, depending on if Quavo stays or not.

BT: Will do, and thank you for your time Ben.

Last modified: June 13, 2017