Posted On 15 May 2018
Benjamin Jaffe (the other-half of acclaimed roots/rock duo HoneyHoney with Suzanne Santo) released his solo debut album Oh, Wild Ocean of Love on May 11th via Diamond Family Records. It’s a brilliant album with a unique indie-alternative sound, very different from the rootsy style of HoneyHoney, and reveals Ben’s ingenuity as a guitar virtuoso, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, writer, composer, and arranger.
Along with the album announce, Benjamin also released a new single called “Susan the Cat” which Billboard called “far afield from HoneyHoney’s brand of Americana – textural and moody, with fuller (but not overwhelming) instrumentation and lusher aural brushstrokes.” Ben has been teasing the release of the album since last Fall. At the beginning of the year, he released the video for the lead single “Dominator,” which Baeble called “smooth as butter and serves up spine-tingling harmonies reminiscent of Father John Misty.” Each song he releases will also be accompanied by a new episode of “The Rearranger Series” in which he films and records the song in a completely different way than the album version.
Learn more about Benjamin Jaffe in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time! So where does this interview find you? What’s on tap for the rest of your day?
Hello! Thanks for the feature! I’m currently on a flight to Los Angeles to go be a hotshot. When I get there I’ll do a bunch of work for the tv show “The Guestbook” and then hopefully go to the monthly hootenanny show at hotel cafe if I don’t collapse into a puddle of spent ambition.
Overall, how do you think 2017 was for you and your career? What are you most excited about for this year? What is one big goal you have for 2018?
2017 was a wacky one. My band of 10 years went on it’s first serious hiatus and I finished the first solo project I’d done in 12 goddam yurs. I also kicked off my brown or perhaps black belt level nomad lifestyle so I kept on the move, light on my feet like and sandpiper or some other fleet footed bird. 2018’s been a heavy hustle year, putting out my record, working on the tv show, finally making my own hummus. Lots of yoga too. I hope to be able to pull off a full on crow pose, that’d be a big move for me.
Growing up, did you ever think that this would be the kind of life that you would have? Has music always been a big part of your life? Can you recall your first ever musical experience?
I always thought I’d be Scrooge McDuck level rich but that hasn’t materialized yet. Other than that I feel pretty connected to how I’ve been going about things since I was a kid. I used to gig a lot since junior high and I remember high school band teacher saying, “You want to be a musician, do you like driving?” That’s been a solid setup for the last 15 years. Music’s always been at the center of my life. I remember listening to Harry Connick Jr. big band CDs when I was a kid and getting super hyperactive and sweaty. Nirvana too. I’ve always had a very physical reaction to music.
How do you think growing up in your hometown has influenced your sound and who you are as a musician?
Where I grew up, there wasn’t much of a music community for young people, and things were wide open as far as style or vibe. There were a lot of great older musicians though, so there was a real emphasis on musicianship. I played a lot of jazz when I was a kid.
What has it been like going out on your own and putting together a solo album? Have you thought about doing this for awhile?
It’s been a wonderful and prickly bitch. There’s nothing I’d rather do. The range of the work is overwhelming to me and it’s hard to get people to listen with an open mind to what your doing. The trick is to make sure that while your hawking your wares you’re still making the wares you’d want to listen to.
What was it like putting together this collection, “Oh, Wild Ocean of Love”? Did anything surprise you about the overall process?
Oh, Wild Ocean has been a great process. Surprised the whole way, makes me think I’m too easily surprised. Songs turned out much differently than expected, I complained a lot more than I thought I would. The whole digital distribution thing has been fascinating. Music business changes so fast.
How did you come up with the idea to release a song alongside a new episode of The Rearranger Series?
I’m a restless fella. It’s hard for me to focus on one thing at a time. The rearranger videos helped me to keep putting energy into the songs from the record while getting to explore other things that fascinate me. String quartets, synth stuff, film-making…all that
How do you think fans of HoneyHoney will enjoy your solo music?
I hope people like it. Obviously it doesn’t have Suzanne’s voice which is such a huge part of HH but I think we always made a point to make music that feels live and song-driven. I think this record has those elements.
How is Diamond Family Records a good fit for you and your music today?
I think DFR has the chance to become one of the great labels out there. Small team but very focused and flexible. I think they’re in the new field of labels actively defining what labels should be doing for musicians and listeners.
“Susan the Cat” is the first single released from your collection. How do you think this song introduces people to your new music? What was the inspiration for this track?
Actually we put out a song called Dominator first, released last year before the album was officially announced, but Susan is one I’m proud of too. It’s a weird song. It’s about living in other people’s houses and a cat named Susan. It’s not about Suzanne Santo. That would have been Suzanne the Cat.
Have you also been working on new HoneyHoney material? I read that you are both trying to figure out to record solo music and record as a band at the same time. Has that been challenging to balance them both?
We’ve slowly been kicking it around but we’ve been putting a lot of energy into our relationship. That’s coming first these days. That and the tv show takes up most of our time together. The tv show is about an album’s worth of work anyways. It’s tough to work on multiple projects at the same time but to be honest it’s hard to work in just one too. I’m getting better at that.
How do you keep up with all of your social media accounts? Do you struggle with posting often or have you learned how to stay active on it all?
I’m terrible. The only one I’m active on is Instagram and I’m so hot and cold with it. I think the social stuff is undeniably helpful and undeniably hindrance so I just kind of feel it out as I go. I try not to post unless I feel compelled to.
Where do you find that you sing the most these days, in the shower, in the car, in the studio or elsewhere?
Ooo. I sing plenty in the car but I’m singing a lot of the daaaaayyyy anywaaaayy. The studio as well, working on this record. Being in HH it’s easy to step away from singing because Suzanne is so great but it’s been really nice to have to show up and sing my own songs these days. Puts me more in touch.
We are living through a very trying and politically charged time right now so I am curious how you think being a musician gives you the most joy in life today? How do you think that music is going to reflect these challenging times?
It’s true but it’s always hard for me to grasp now as more trying than any other moments. It calms me down to think that way. I mean if I lived in Europe 60 odd years ago I’d probably be a whole lot worse off than I am now. Music has always been a source of joy for me. It’s easy to perceive as limitless and that’s exciting. It’s grounded so deeply in the abstract; style, culture, art, and so deeply in the absolute, vibration, all the physical elements, I think it just checks all the boxes.
Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have continued to inspire you and your music? What musicians would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?
Anybody who keeps putting out music that excites them is inspiring to me. It’s a huge undertaking. I’d love to meet the people that work on Kendrick’s records though.
At the end of the day, what do you hope your fans take away from your music?
Joy. And a different perspective.