Tickets are now available for Benefits at Rescue Rooms!
In their four years of existence, much has changed for Teesside agitators Benefits. Over lockdown they morphed from spirited guitar-led punks into overwhelmingly brutal harsh noise-wielders. Whose furious, eviscerating music garnered them the kind of word of mouth following most artists can only dream of. Frontman Kingsley Hall’s spoken (and screamed) vocals acting as a righteous rebuke to the divisive, xenophobic, poisonous rhetoric. Coming from elsewhere, spread by those who stand to profit from the fallout. That had all but overwhelmed our public discourse.
Every time one of the band’s bracing polemics arrived it would spread rapidly across social media. Like an antidote to that disease and gather more to Benefits’ cause. High profile fans like Steve Albini, Sleaford Mods and Modeselektor were among those on board from the off. Effusive coverage from the likes of NME, The Quietus, Loud & Quiet and The Guardian and more soon followed. Through it all, the outfit remained staunchly DIY, operating entirely without a label, press team or industry leg-ups.
Now, however, they are stepping things up a level. Signing to esteemed indie imprint Invada who will release their debut album ‘NAILS’ on April 22. “We could have released a record at any point over the last couple of years but held back because I wanted to wait until the right people came along,” Hall says. The label’s co-founder Geoff Barrow of Portishead was one of the many who’d been drawn to the music. When he came to see the group perform live in his native Bristol was immediately hooked.
New album ‘Nails’
‘NAILS’ is a record that is often so loud your speakers will fray at the edge of all-out collapse. But for all the noise its most striking moment of all is when Hall leans directly into that vulnerability. On closing track ‘Council Rust’, the music transforms into a beautiful swell of ambient electronics and strings. Hall drawing his voice in to an intimate inner monologue that muses on past, present and future. With astonishing existential depth. It closes off a record that presents an opportunity to take stock of how broad Benefits’ discography now stands.
The album might end in bold new territory, but it opens with a track from the project’s earliest days. 2019’s direct assault ‘Marlboro Hundreds’. On the journey from one to the other, what becomes clear is just how integral Hall’s bandmates have been. Along with brothers Robbie and Hugh Major, who have been with him from the beginning, and for whom we can be grateful for the more excoriating electronics, a succession of drummers has each brought out something new. ‘NAILS’ most prominently features Dale Frost, who recorded the punk-aping drum fills from ‘Warhorse’, and forms one half of a remarkable pairing on new track ‘What More Do You Want’, where Hall’s nimble vocals spar and duet against spartan free jazz percussion. When it comes to the group’s live evolution, meanwhile, the addition of former Mogwai drummer Cat Myers – now a full-time member – has been, as Hall puts it, “absolutely unbelievable. I just can’t wait to start writing new music with her.”
It says a lot about Benefits’ approach that, with this defining document of the first four years now wrapped up, their focus is already set on what comes next. It’s a mindset, Hall says, that reflects an aspect of their home region that’s often overlooked. For better or worse, he says, “the North East has always been modernist, even though it’s often painted as a backwards-looking area. It was at the forefront of steel-making and chemical works technology; a lot of the buildings are 60s and 70s concrete things. The way we try and articulate our messages is in a modernist way too. We’re not trying to hark back to Britpop or Arctic Monkeys B-sides.”
Ultimately, it’s Benefits’ inclusivity that is their defining feature. “Obviously we want to play bigger and bigger gigs, I want to play Glastonbury and get on to Jools Holland, but it’s not just about getting a pat on the back,” Hall explains. I think the point of the band isn’t just about us having a record or showing off on stage; it’s about trying to do something that gets to people. To try and get people to believe in themselves and stop being battered down by modern Britain. Benefits has always been a vehicle to be pissed off, and we want to show that there’s that voice, that it’s alright to be angry and frustrated. That there’s people out there who feel the same way.”
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