THE exceptional Ben Talmi has released My Art of Almost to the world.
With its sweet and comforting arrangements; those visceral and direct moments – strings hold it together and give it some grace. The album is a nod to his younger self: ideals of Classical music and Basset Hounds. The Art Decade frontman stands solo and is keen to project something new and unexpected. There are many stunning tracks on the album – I was keen to hear more and uncover the secrets behind My Art of Almost. Talmi talks about making the switch from his band days to his solo venture – and how the creative process differs.
I ask what it was like recording at Virtue and Vice (studio) in New York and whether there was an album track that stood out in the mind. Talmi talks about the New York music scene and whether there are plans to tour beyond the U.S. – maybe playing a few gigs in Britain. He discusses his future plans and a few of the artists who have been instrumental in regards his own music.
Hi, Ben. How are you? How has your week been?
I went to Solid Sound Music Festival over the weekend. That festival has a unique maturity to it.
For those new to your work, can you introduce yourself, please?
I’m Benjamin Zachary Michael Talmi.
I’ve been on this musical journey for as long as I can remember – but I feel like I’m just getting started. I made a bunch of albums with a band called Art Decade until 2014.
I’ve scored T.V. shows and movies; done lots of orchestral arranging for other bands. I melt at the sight of a Basset Hound and thoroughly enjoy fresh baguettes.
My Art of Almost is the new album. What inspired its creation and what kind of themes are addressed throughout?
Abandonment of the constructs and vision of my previous band. Dealing with trying and failing over and over again – and a self-analysis of the creative exercise of making art.
I listened to tons of Rostam, Simon and Garfunkel; Brian Eno, Jon Brion; Sufjan Stevens, Radiohead – and always (always, always) tons of Classical music.
What is it like knowing it is out there? Is it quite a relief knowing the album is complete?
I’m deep in the process of working on my follow-up album so I have a really difficult time relating to My Art of Almost.
I love it but the record really documents a time when I recognized that everything I had worked for up to that point had totally failed – thus, the title.
Is there a song from the record that means the most of is particularly special?
I Know It’s True.
I was in love with someone from a very young age and never had the guts to do anything about it.
One night, it all came to fruition and it turned out the other person felt the same way the whole time. But, after it had all happened, it was painfully obvious I had put this person on such a pedestal – that no experience could ever live up to the idea I had of this person.
Life is short: follow your gut.
What was it like recording it at Virtue and Vice in Brooklyn?
A dream come true.
I have my own studio there called Greylock Records that I recorded the whole thing out of.
Ever since I was a little kid, I dreamed of having my own creative space like that. Now it’s a reality and I’m so excited for what’s next.
ProTools played a big part in the creation and recording. Did it make it easier pushing boundaries and adding a lot more to your music?
D.A.W.s such as ProTools are great indicators of one’s taste because they provide a bottomless bit of indecision.
You never have to commit to anything and that can translate to some pretty inconsistent and soulless recordings.
That being said; it was my main songwriting tool for the whole record – recording organic sounds, manipulating them within ProTools and creating melodies out of these twisted digital concoctions.
These days, I’m taking the complete opposite approach: everything is written A-Z before I record a note.
I am interested in the music scene in New York. Is it pretty active where you are and are there plenty of opportunities to perform?
It’s extremely active, extremely competitive – but very healthy.
There are endless places to play but you have to be strategic about it.
Every show has to be an event because people have a million other options (of things to do).
You have a date in Brooklyn coming up but will there be any more dates? Plans to come to the U.K., perhaps?
It’s my dream to tour the world but, for now, I’m really focusing on making my next album.
Formerly the frontman of Art Decade; how does solo work differ? Is it strange getting into a different headspace?
I grew up completely convinced I was going to grow old in a band with my best friends from early-childhood – and it pains me to look back on those times as a solo artist now.
I love the deep, inward dive of solo songwriting, though. It’s a rare wave to catch but, when you are up there – on that metaphoric surfboard – there is no better catharsis.
Who were the artists you grew up listening to and were inspired by?
Radiohead, Sufjan Stevens; Elliot Smith and The Beatles.
I listened to BBCs stream of Radiohead headlining Glastonbury this year and I literally listened with my jaw on the floor. I cannot believe how much fire they still have.
Most bands their age are completely embarrassing but they are just getting better.
Can you give us the names of any new artists you recommend we check out?
If you had to select the three albums that have meant the most to you; which would they be and why?
Radiohead – Kid A
Because it was a very brave and risky move to follow up OK Computer with something so left-of-center.
Sufjan Stevens – Illinois
Opened my mind up to the world of contemporary Classical and Pop working in tandem.
Nick Drake – Pink Moon
One man, one guitar: one perfect album.
What advice would you give to any new artists starting out right now?
Don’t do it unless you absolutely mean it.
Don’t do it unless you have an untamable burning fire underneath you to create art…and learn how to play an instrument, dammit.
Finally, and for being a good sport, you can name a song and I’ll play it here (not one of yours as I’ll do that).
Tokyo by The Books
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PHOTO CREDIT: Shervin Lainez