BEN COOPER, AKA RADICAL FACE , CONQUERS US BEYOND HIS MUSIC, UNVEILING THE SECRETS OF HIS NEW ALBUM ‘ THE FAMILY TREE’ , HIS FAVOURITE BANDS AND INFLUENCES, AND HIS PASSION FOR JAPANESE FOOD.
Hey Ben! We are happy to chat with you and learn a little more about your project. Radical Face was born in 2000, so you have a long journey and a remarkable career, being even more successful since the launch of ‘Ghosts‘ in 2007. What has been the most enjoyable moment both personally and professionally in all these years?
It’s really hard to pick anything out in particular. It all kind blurs together for me. And I am at a point in my life where I have been making music longer than I haven’t, so I don’t really know how to separate it anymore. It’s just something I do, more or less all the time. But one memory that sticks out is the first time I ever had a recording of mine on vinyl. CDs and tapes you can make at home, so that wasn’t as noticeable. But a vinyl felt like something else entirely. I remember smiling a lot.
We would like to invite anyone who does not know about your website yet, to go and discover the stories and connections behind the songs of the musical project ‘The Family Tree‘. Radical Face was born with the purpose of bringing to light all these stories or was an idea that came later?
When I formed the project, it was alongside my other band, Electric President. The initial reason for splitting them was somewhat thematic. Electric President focused on the future, and was a lot more electronic. And Radical Face was more acoustic and focused on the past, nostalgia, and storytelling. Then this Family Tree really got complicated with all that. It was definitely the concept that ran away with itself for me.
Your recently released the album ‘The Family Tree: The Leaves‘, the latest in the series of stories about your family for now. The three albums have the same cover of a different color. Why the latter is green?
The color choices were all done a long time ago, at the very beginning. I just sat with the themes of each record and picked the color that made sense to me. It was more instinct than any kind of symbolism.
Which one has been a major challenge in terms of composition?
The toughest part of the compositions was having to be aware of so much. I couldn’t write anything independently. Every song related to others, I had to keep in mind what came before and what would come after. There were times that it was really frustrating and overwhelming. Often time just writing one song your happy with is hard enough. So yeah, this was definitely the most challenging project I’ve ever taken on. I am excited to work on single songs again. Hahaha.
The stories in ‘The Family Tree: The Leaves’ have a full view in your reality or there’s a lot of fiction in it?
It’s a mix of both. Some of the songs are very personal, and there’s very little fiction in it, if any. And other songs are entirely fictional, or just rooted in an experience and twisted into something very different. The directly personal ones were the surprise for me, though. I intended to always keep the lines blurred, but on some songs, I couldn’t. It felt dishonest.
In 2015 was also released the album ‘The Bastards‘. Is it a tribute to all those people or stories that do not relate directly to your Family Tree?
The Bastards were all part of the same project, they just didn’t fit with the full albums quite right. So it wasn’t an issue of subject matter or quality, but rather them being sore thumbs in some way.
Personally we love ‘Sisters‘, it’s full of magic and exquisite sound. What is the background of the song?
Sisters is a song that I also wrote a short story for. I was trying to make the song feel like a train passing, and the story is within it. Hence the intro and outro. I often use little structural guidelines like that when writing. It helps me make decisions. The short story goes into much more detail, but the song is basically about that feeling we have as kids, where we know some things big are happening around us (like adults arguing or heavy decisions being made), even if we don’t really understand them.
‘Welcome Home, Son’ is a legend for a lot of people, one of those songs people save in their memory as a music gem. We’re seeing how little by little your song is becoming an indie folk classic that everybody into this genre love. Did you expect the success of this song? Did you compose any other song based on the feeling of ‘Welcome Home, Son’?
No, I definitely expect that kind of success. I’m still a little baffled by it. I was really just trying to capture the feeling of coming home after being away, and it being a bittersweet thing. It’s nice to see familiar things, but a bit sad to see that you don’t really fit in with them anymore, that they moved on and so did you. I guess maybe that sentiment struck a chord with people. And I don’t tend to write a lot of songs about the same thing. So I’ve never written another one about that.
What is the country you’ve been more comfortable at while touring?
I like a lot of the places I play, but I think Japan is my favourite. I always have such a nice time every time I go, and I think about it the most. Even though it’s also the most foreign place I’ve played, I feel very at ease there. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s just how much I like the food.
A few weeks ago we interviewed a band called Wylder from Virginia, which highlighted your project, and more specifically your song ‘Winter Is Coming‘ as one of their main sources of inspiration. We encourage you to take a listen to their music and give us your opinion. We would also like to know the main musical references since the beginning of your career.
I’m listening to it now. I am always scared to give an opinion on something until I’ve sat down with it for a while. But I like what I’ve heard so far. And I wouldn’t have thought I’d be an influence just from listening. Which is super cool. And I’m probably very similar in that. I don’t sound a lot like my influences. I started out very noisy and destructive, like Sonic Youth and Archers of Loaf and the like. Then I heard groups like Neutral Milk Hotel and The Flaming Lips and changed what I was playing very severely. And I think in terms of lyrics, Tom Waits is a huge one for me. I’ve always admired his words.
Here at indiemono we love independent music and we’re always looking for new great bands and artists. Can you recommend us a few new bands you have recently discovered? Maybe you can curate playlist featuring some of these artists. What do you think?
Yeah, sure. I could definitely come up with a long list if you like. But folks I’ve been listening to a lot lately are: Jon Hopkins, Sylvan Esso, Youth Lagoon, John Maus, The Raveonettes, Iamamiwhoami