Benefits - 25th February
TAKE NOTE - This will be special - BENEFITS - THE FULFORD ARMS YORK
Why would anyone want to be massive, like Coldplay?” asks Benefits frontman Kingsley Hall, speaking to NME for one of the Teesside punks’ first real interviews. “I read an article with Chris Martin talking about how lockdown made him confront his ego. Then he goes and beams his new song back from the fucking moon – turning it into some middle-class, middle of the road, yacht rock, fucking Death Star. What the fuck?”
Without a record label, management, a PR or an agent, Hall has not been media-trained – and is all the better for it. Talking during downtime between his day job and looking after his young daughter, the frontman certainly does not have superstardom on his mind. You realise that within milliseconds of hearing their handful of sparse, electro-punk battlecries.
“You sit back and think of glory days, but can’t stop moaning about the royal that’s not white, you never fucking stop,” he barks on recent single ‘We See You’, while ‘Traitors’ sees him alienated from a nostalgia-obsessed Britain where “spitfires fly past, homeless pile up, no one gives a fuck”. ‘Fix You’ it ain’t, with Hall placing Benefits among Divide And Dissolve, Bob Vylan and Billy Nomates in making “music that couldn’t have happened at any other time”.
“To me, the songs are about trying to understand what Britain is today and how it’s becoming unrecognisable to something that may or may not have existed 10 years ago,” he says. “That might be about racism and sexism being heightened, xenophobia, classism, violence, hatred, but that’s not to say they weren’t there before. It just feels like they’re bubbling up right now.”
Benefits – made up of Hall on vocals and guitar, Robbie Major on synth, Hugh Major on bass and sequencing and Jonny Snowball on drums – formed around the Newcastle area in the summer of 2019 based on “a collective mistrust of what was going on politically”. While their stance remains unchanged, their sound has come a long way since then.
“We just wanted to be a shock and awe, indie-punk band – nothing too taxing,” says Hall. “When I listen back, it feels like IDLES-lite. We just wanted to plug in, play, shout a bit, stick the V’s up at people with Union Jacks, then leave.
“That was fine, but the reality is that there were and still are a lot of bands doing that. They’re good at it and people like it, but we would have just become another noise in that little genre and wouldn’t have gone anywhere.” - nme
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