Ben Kweller: Imagine
So alt-country darling Ben Kweller was supposed to call me up yesterday to chat about his impending tour of Australia, but thanks to a variety of reasons, it never happened. Luckily, I've spoken to the dude before and he's pretty chilled out and lovely, which is why I know he won't mind me writing up an interview that is entirely fictional. Plus, it means I get to ask him all the questions that you just don't get time for in your standard fifteen minutes?
Jonno Seidler: Hey Ben. How's it going?
Ben Kweller: I'm good man, thanks for asking. I'm just sitting at my piano, eating an orange.
You know, that's really funny. The last time I interviewed you, you were doing exactly the same thing?
What can I say; I'm a creature of habit.
Can you play me something so I know you're not bullshitting me?
Man, I would never [plays the opening to Lady GaGa's 'Poker Face] See?
I didn't know you liked Lady GaGa, Ben.
You're a hoot, man. What are you doing coming back to Australia so soon anyway? Don't you have like, a kid now? Whatshisname?Dorian?
I actually have two kids now. Judah was born in April.
Mazel Tov! Can I say that? I mean, I figured what with the 'Judah' and all?
It's cool. Dorian's middle name is 'Zev' which means 'Wolf' in Hebrew and I have a hard time explaining that?
To everyone. Anyway, I'm coming back to Australia because I need money to put them through pre-school.
That's a lie.
Yeah. I'm not very good at lying. I don't know, I just really like Australia. Isn't that such a typical, snobbish rockstar answer?
Well I've heard that about six times this week. But you actually love Australia, and we love you. You've been down here more times than John Farnham has retired.
Don't worry. He's retired. So because we have unlimited time together, I've got some stuff I really want to ask you.
About the new record.
No, about your first record, Sha Sha.
Even better. Shoot.
Ok, here goes. When I was in highschool I dated this really cute, sort of awkward but lovely girl called N, and she introduced me to your music. All we used to do was lie in her bed and make out to that song 'In Other Words'?
You have to tell me her name.
I can't. We have things in Australia about privacy and shit. This transcript is going to be published and I don't want to cause her undue embarrassment.
Two things. One, this conversation is not real. Two, I wrote a song about a girl called Lizzy and I'm now married to a woman called Lizzy.
Your point being?
The name is important. It situates you, it tells you where you were, how you were feeling, what she did to your head?
Her name was Nicole.
That's a nice name.
I hate you for making me do that.
You'll thank me on your wedding day.
We're not getting married!
What was the question again?
[Sighs] Well she-
Nicole. Yes. Nicole was really enamoured with that song and also with 'Commerce, TX', which is weird because that song really isn't romantic at all.
It kind of is. It's a romantic ode to slackerdom.
She used to giggle every time you sang about about your pet hedgehog. We don't have hedgehogs here.
Oh, I didn't have one either. It sounded pretty cool when I wrote it down, though.
So I guess the burning question is, how much of your words are centered on real life? I mean, if Nicole and I had been married, our song probably would have been 'In Other Words'.
How old are you, man? 23? Never say never, is my motto. Look, you're not the first person to tell me that they've been deeply affected by that song. I know full grown men who still cry when they hear that 'It starts stopping, when it stops stopping' bit in the outro.
Are you crying?
That's the first time I've heard you quiet in fifteen minutes.
[Sniff] It's your drawl, your accent. When you say the words like that, even though you're not singing them?.Jesus.
I think we've both established he's not in the picture here.
So what the hell was with that line about the butterflies?
[Sings] "The butterflies are passive aggressive and put their problems on the shelf but they're beautiful.."
Yeah, that. What kind of a chorus is that?
The kind that Nicole knew off by heart?
You should write a book. I'd love to see what didn't make the cut if lines that long become refrains.
What about our patron saint, Bobby Zimmerman?
Oh man. We're not going to have a conversation about Dylan, are we?
You steer the ship. You're the interviewer.
Who steers the ship in your relationship? I mean, given that you wrote her a song, Lizzy must totally be wearing the pants, right?
We're equals. That's what real love is all about.
In that song you used the word 'Dayenu', which is Hebrew for 'Enough'. I still remember how weird it sounded hearing a Texan speaking Yiddish. Nicole didn't even notice until I told her.
You're still hung up on her, huh.
Not romantically. I guess it's just that things were simpler then. We were in school, I couldn't drive?
Cars ruin everything. They destroy expectation. That's why we moved back to New York, where it is literally impossible for me to get a car.
So what's the new album like?
Dude, it came out last year.
I know, but I'm a music journalist now. I don't have time to lie on teenage girls' beds and listen to records anymore. I picked up the last three but I missed the most recent one.
Given how attached you are to Sha Sha, you probably won't like it.
It's very country.
Like Bright Eyes?
Like Ryan Adams?
You're right. I won't like it.
Have you ever seen me play before?
Nah. Nicole saw you with The Bens [Folds and Lee] which is when she first fell in love with you. It's a constant talking point whenever we see each other now.
Seeing me play?
Yeah. You're like the only thing we have left in common.
That's strange but also quite poetic.
I should probably go?
You were never here, dude.
Ben Kweller plays the Factory Theatre October 3rd.