A Chat with Ben Leven (13.04.20)

Credit to Albert Wehr

All the way from Vienna, Austria, indie-pop artist Ben Leven (BL) takes time to speak about his single ‘Double Time’, musical career and some other stuff. Here is what this insatiable Austrian had to say:

OSR: What inspired you to become a musician?  Where there any other career options before music, like being a politician?

BL: Yes sure, when I was a little kid I wanted to become a stuntman. Later I planned to study physics which I did for one year; way too much maths for my taste. So, I finally decided to study graphic design. I think the music my parents were listening to influenced me a lot – Pink Floyd, Genesis, Dire Straits, Beatles and Queen have been my starting points. Early I began to dream about playing on big stages. 

OSR: How would you describe your latest single ‘Double Time’?

BL: An energetic pop song with a chorus that truly stays in your head. Starting low and ending high, I describe my nights in bed unable to fall asleep while I “just can‘t take my eyes off her”. The song evolves from acoustic guitar tunes to wide backgrounds underlined by an intense groove.

OSR:  Do you feel ‘Double Time’ has a different sound from your previous works? It seems more “pop” than 2018’s What Lies Behind.  What inspired any evolution in your sound?

BL: As for the sound, I‘m often inspired by a song that I hear. When it comes to songwriting I often have one little melody or phrase and the rest forms around it. While the song develops a certain sound takes shape. When I started producing ‘Double Time’ I thought it could be a typical pop song and perhaps find its way to some bigger radio stations, so I tried to achieve a certain pop sound. I always stay in my sound universe and take my inspiration concerning sound design from other contemporary productions. So, I would say it‘s not one song, thought or experience that inspired this song. It‘s more like, “oh I like that sound, let‘s stick to it and finish that song.”

OSR:  ‘Double Time’ has a music video.  Can you tell us about it?

BL: I‘m always thinking in pictures when listening to music. Thinking of a music video for ‘Double Time’ I saw colourful flashing lights and a man running through streets at night. I combined that with the moment that inspired me to write this song, so there are two sceneries in the video. Me laying in bed unable to fall asleep and me running through the night. We did some performance shots in that second setting as well.

OSR: What was the recording process like for ‘Double Time’ as a single and video?

BL: Songwriting and producing go hand in hand most of the time. It’s a steady process that starts with a voice and a guitar track. I’m mostly working alone so I can take my time and try different things, turn them around or throw them away. I played all the instruments and did the mixing.

When we decided to release ‘Double Time’ as a single in February, it was already December. I had only two months for producing the video, so it wouldn’t exist without the help of my little brother Albert who did all the camera work. I told him about my idea of the running man and the coloured lights. We found the perfect spot at the Wurstel Prater, a popular fairground in Vienna, and filmed until they turned off the lights and my brother didn’t feel his fingers anymore. 

OSR:  Who inspired your music?

BL: Oh, there are so many, but I think the most influential artists are Sting, Peter Gabriel, Mark Knopfler and Phil Collins. I also listened a lot to of Queen. Roger Taylor was my role model when I started playing the drums as a kid. During the last years, I drew a lot of inspiration from artists like Coldplay and Ed Sheeran.

OSR: What do you do in your spare time?

BL: I love playing football. Since four weeks ago we aren’t allowed to meet at the court. It’s really hard, but, in fact, I have not got much spare time because I always find something to work on. When I’m done with work I’m tired and watch TV, that’s it.

OSR:  If you were to publish a documentary of your life what would you call the film?

BL: ‘Me and My Mind – Running In Circles’

OSR:  What is the concept behind ‘Double Time’ as a single and as a video?

BL: Positive, love, intense, colourful pop!

OSR:  What is the most exciting part of making an official video?

BL: The day it is released. After weeks of production, you‘ve spent so much effort, time and love to give your “baby” a proper visual identity; now, other people see and hear what you’ve been working on for so long. How will they react? How will they interpret the story and the lyrics? It‘s always most exciting when it comes to feedback and communication with my audience. My goal is to touch them somehow.

OSR:  What are your plans for the rest of 2020?

BL: I‘ll release another single this summer and will be working on my second album which I plan to release early next year. We don‘t know when it will be possible to give concerts again so there are no plans for this. I did my first live stream concert on Facebook two weeks ago and liked it very much. It‘s surely different to a gig in front of people in the same room, but it‘s also a good alternative to stay connected with my audience. I‘ll do that from time to time as we are not allowed to meet in public.

OSR:  Do you have any final message for fans and potential fans?

BL: We are facing what I call very exciting times. I don‘t think that it‘s time for fear and panic. We all should be very attentive and open-minded, there is great potential to learn a lot about our behaviours, politics, society and our lives in general. We should all use this crisis to evolve and learn instead of waiting and hoping for the best; that‘s one side. On the other hand, I suggest taking your time off-topic. One day a week with things and/or people that you love and no distraction by media and horror reports. Stay positive and focused! And of course, listen to (my) music!

Thanks to Ben for the chat! To engage with this talented man, check out his official website, Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Instagram.

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