Ben Chandler's new EP Transitions, is out now! We chat to the musician about the release and more.
Image: Carlos Moreno
Acclaimed musician and producer Ben Chandler recently treated fans with the release of his highly anticipated EP, Transitions. Providing authentic takes and views of the world around him, the release traverses different palettes of sounds, fusing together influences of classic rock and DIY alt-pop.
Featuring the singles Stoned, Addicted 2 U, Red Line and Strawberry Candy, the musician brings superb lyricism to each track, whilst his vocals captivate listeners attention for his very first note on Strawberry Candy to his final on Let You Go. The versatility of the release and its genre-defying soundscapes create a mesmerising realm in which anything goes. Chandler creates his songs from scratch, inspired by heavyweight acts such as Tame Impala and Tyler The Creator. This avenue of creating allows the musician to maintain complete creative control of his music, before bringing in other artists and producers for any final edits.
Chandler’s unique, multi-faceted sound was born of countless teenage hours spent in his Pittsburgh, PA bedroom, experimenting with guitar, drums, and piano. In 2015, he moved to Naples, FL where he placed himself within the citys thriving local music scene, alongside like-minded artists as Dominic Fike. Chandler made a name as a gifted producer, recording early demos with Fike, Nate Traveller, and many more. His unique approach to creating and unparalleled musicianship further further proved himself a remarkable artist in his own right, having released his debut self-titled EP in February last year, followed up by a sophomore release, Sweet Dreams, Sweet Heart, last April.
Transitions is out now! Read our interview with Ben Chandler below.
Tell us a bit about how you began your musical journey…
I started making music when I was really young, I’d say about five or six years old. I would play on my dad's drum kit he had from the late 80’s and eventually it turned into a fun hobby for me. When my older brother turned sixteen he got this beautiful fender strat in a sunburst colour. I was so jealous. I instantly asked my dad to teach me to play guitar and everyday I played and played. It turned into an addiction honestly, I started in the end of sixth grade/beginning of seventh. Once high school rolled around I started forming small little bands with kids from school. It was dope, we just posted up in my basement and messed around with the kit, bass, vocals, and guitars. It was honestly a lot of fun and what made me fall in love with creating music. Later on I started to record my own stuff, writing mediocre songs at fourteen/fifteen and recording them through Audacity. If you’re familiar with that program, it’s not the best when it comes to making music. I posted a couple demos on Soundcloud just for the hell of it. I moved to Naples, Florida when I was seventeen with my family and in search of musicians such as myself. I later on peeped the scene going on here and made friends with local artists such as Dominic Fike and Nate Traveller. I bought a one way ticket to LA on my 22nd birthday in 2020 right before COVID hit and started to shake hands with A&R’s and showing my demos. Now I’ve released what is now Transitions and I am so excited to release this project I just finished literally last night.
Congratulations on the release of your new EP, Transitions!
The release covers an array of topics, with authentic takes and views of the world around you. What prompted you to explore these themes?
Making Transitions was honestly a project where I made as many songs I could and then picked through the one’s I enjoy and think would fit well in an EP format. Most songs are based off of emotions, but I honestly get my themes from the sounds of the music. For example, when I made Strawberry Candy the beat to me was sweet, like candy. I formed my ideas around that and tried to capture what I felt into words and melodies. That’s usually how I work. For songs like Red Line and Addicted 2 U I was very excited and happy with the emotion of love in my life at the time, so I wrote about how that made me feel. Being addicted to someone who I love and expressing my emotions on that.
The release blurs the lines of genres, traversing different palettes of sounds, that fuses together influences of classic rock and DIY alt-pop. How did you arrive at the genre bending soundscapes present on the EP?
I like a lot of music, going from Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder, to The Beatles, Tame Impala, The Strokes, Frank Ocean, Tyler The Creator, Rex Orange County, Pink Floyd, and even some rap such as Quasimoto/Madlib, Childish Gambino, Drake, and Brockhampton to name a few. I think having a wide palette of musical taste can benefit an artist in creating their own sound in such a positive way. The more music you have to draw from, the more ideas and inspiration you have. With this EP, I wanted to combine my love for Indie/Indie Pop, Classic Rock, and a little bit of RnB into one. Red Line showcases both Indie Pop and RnB in one. The Chorus has a very Indie feel but the verse has an upbeat cadence, similar to something you would hear in an RnB or rap song, and that's what I love about it.
I’ve always made music from scratch. The DIY fuse comes from reading about Tyler The Creator and Tame Impala. They make their songs themselves and to me that’s so important. When you do it yourself, you're going to capture the sound YOU want so well. Working with others is great, don't get me wrong, I love working with other artists/producers. But when I start my demos, I’m usually 95% making it by myself.
You began working on the collection of songs in 2019, through to 2020. How did the release evolve and progress over time from its initial starting point?
All of these songs started out as bedroom demos. I shipped them around to some A&R’s and I found that Atlantic thoroughly enjoyed them and believed they were something unique and special. Once I had that in place, I worked alongside Mike Freesh who is an incredible mixing engineer and producer. We kept most of the songs the same but just added some nice accents/textures to spice things up a bit. We changed the original drums for Strawberry Candy and completely remade Let You Go besides the guitar part, that chime you hear during the chorus, as well as the pitched background vocal in the chorus. It’s totally worth refining your craft, even when you think there’s nothing more you can add. There’s always room for either improvement or revision.
Is there anything that didn’t make the final cut that you think may have a life of its own further down the track?
There were these two demos I made called Away and Rest Of My Life that I had originally planned for this project. They’re dope songs, but they didn’t really fit in with all of the others, so I’ll definitely have those tucked and ready to go when they fit in. I think projects are like puzzles, you have to right the pieces in the right spots to make everything fit.
You’ve released some great visuals throughout the EP’s rollout! How important are the visuals to you when it comes to conveying the story and meaning present on the track?
To me visuals are a little extra cherry on top with the music. I think they’re important with the first single or two off of a project for marketing purposes and such. Honestly I didn’t really think a video for every song was necessary but it was my first time doing this sort of rollout so I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try. I think everything looked pretty good though. It definitely helps with bringing the music to life visually, but you also have to correctly capture that. If you have a video that just doesn’t fit the song or isn’t needed, then focus that energy on a video that will.
You co-produced the EP with Mike Freesh. What was that collaborative experience like and what do you think he brought to the project?
I think it was much needed. Most of the songs had to get an extra boost and working with Freesh definitely brought everything to the next level. Going back to what I said earlier, refining is so important. Making sure everything sounds full and every instrument/sound plays it’s part correctly is such a necessity in creating music.
If you had to pick one song off the Transitions to play to someone who had never heard your music to make them an instant fan, which song would they be and why?
I think I would choose Red Line, it's short and sweet. The chorus is very catchy and I think the cadence of the verse can make even hip hop fans find something they enjoy in it.
What messages do you hope listeners take away from the EP?
Progress and believe in yourself. I’m here to progress myself as an artist and become the best I can be when it comes to making music. I used to be so shy and insecure about releasing music, I later realized how simple it really is. If you like a song you made or some form of art you’ve created, put it out into the world. The internet has so many people on it, there will be people who enjoy it. You just have to find them and realize that it’s not that big of a deal. Growing up with the internet I know how harsh and toxic it can be but at the end of the day, I’m just some guy making music that I think is dope. And I think everyone should do the same with whatever art they create. Do it for yourself. You can’t get better at something if you don’t put it out there and see the feedback.
If Transitions was a piece of visual art, which artwork would it be and why?
I would like to see it as The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Hokusai. The way I see it is it’s a wave of something big coming. I’m just getting started, and I’m so thankful for all of the great feedback I've received off of this project that was something that I started in my bedroom in 2019.
Could you kind of talk us through your creative process when writing and recording songs?
Usually when i’m writing it all starts with the melodies that are in the beat. Typically starting with the chorus, I find something that's not overbearing but nice and sweet for the ear. I’ll literally just say gibberish and find the melody, then I record that offrip and see how it sounds. If the chorus works really well then that energy and excitement I get off it just does the rest of the work honestly. I definitely go back and do re-writes and melody changes when it comes to verses. That’s typically where I put most of the work into.
Did you encounter any challenges whilst creating music during the COVID-19 pandemic, or did it allow you the time and space to immerse yourself within this musical project?
It definitely hindered me a little bit. A lack of inspiration was there but I found new ways of grabbing inspiration through other music and such. The whole lockdown stuff was dope cause people weren’t like “You never leave your house” when I would just be pent up in my room working. It was nice honestly. Totally was able to immerse myself and be able to focus on the sound I wanted without being distracted.
The current pandemic has obviously put a halt to touring and performing live, what are your touring plans post pandemic? If any, what can people expect from one of your live shows? Hopefully we’ll get to see you play in Australia one day!
Expect energy. I want my live shows to be where people can detox from their normal lives. Come through and listen to dope music and just have fun. Be in the moment. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow. Just be there and enjoy yourself. I want to do shows everywhere, Australia would be so dope. I know I have fans from Japan that want me to come there. That would be so crazy I would never leave honestly. Huge fan of Japan. Touring in general would just be a dream come true. I have family in England so I need to go there and perform. The U.S. would be crazy too. Wherever I can perform I want to be there haha.
Frank Ocean, Pink Floyd, Tame Impala, Tyler The Creator, Otis Redding, The Beatles.
Frank, Tyler, or Bieber.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
For this next project that just finished, Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones.
All time - Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Indie, Love, Pop.
A release you’re most looking forward to in 2021?
My new project I just finished. It’s honestly so sick I’m crazy excited.
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
That’s a crazy question wow, uhh, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
Endless by Frank Ocean
Best concert you have been to?
That’s tough i’ve been to a lot, it’s either Paul Mccartney or The Flaming Lips
Last concert you went to?
Rolling Loud 2016 was my last, so dope seeing X up on stage causing a riot.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Guilty music pleasure?
Grateful Dead (their live shows mainly).
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
Yeek, The Neighbourhood, or my homie Dom
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
Believe in yourself and trust the process. Also, don’t listen to that stupid voice in your head that shuts you down every now and then. You got this.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I saw this kid performing at this talent show in elementary school he was shredding the guitar I instantly wanted to learn to play.