2011 saw the release of There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet, the debut LP from the Blackpool born singer-songwriter Benjamin Shaw. The wine analogy is far too tempting to avoid, so we’ll tell you that listening to Shaw is very much like working your way through a few bottles of wine. Probably on your own. It’s full-bodied at times, with moments of delicacy and sweetness and it’s overall effect is to leave you feeling slightly woozy, with moments of optimism counteracted by tinges of sadness and loneliness. If this all sounds a bit full on, well, it is. Cabernet is a difficult listen and is certainly not for everyone. But it’s a wonderful piece of work that will appeal to fans of Sparklehorse and other artists of that ilk. It’s also one of the most unique and brave records of the past twelve months.
GoldFlakePaint caught up with Ben to find out a little more about the record…
Good day sir, what does today hold in store for you?
Like all days for the rest of time, I shall be waking up early, sobbing quietly in the dark and going to my wonderful hospital job. It will be a good day.
2011 was a big a year for you, what with releasing your debut record and all, are you pleased with how it all went now that it’s come to a close?
When Audio Antihero came a knocking at my door, they lured me in with incredible promises beyond my wildest northern dreams. 2011 would be The Year of Opportunity. Thankfully, and luckily, I managed to skip the dangerous route of success, fortune and fame and leap-frogged straight to Stage Four – Breakdown. At least I remained grounded.
Have you been pleased with the reaction to it? Do you read your own reviews?
Reaction is transitory. What really matters is how history remembers you. Yes, I read my own reviews.
‘There’s Always Hope, There’s Always Cabernet’ is my favourite album title in ages – where did it come from and was it always going to be called that?
Thank you, I like it too. The title came from a universally ignored collection of demos I used to put about the place, and I didn’t want it to go to waste. The last record was a fairly sombre affair (who’d have thought?) but this one felt a bit more optimistic, so having a nice title like that hanging around was lucky. If not a little lazy.
As you’ve said yourself it isn’t the easiest of listens, did you feel apprehensive about unleashing it on the world? And what, if anything, was the defining factor in doing so?
I don’t think the album is for most people. But then I often find that I’m not so keen on most people. Most people are horrible aren’t they? I think though, I was most apprehensive about doing it at all. It’s a pretty silly thing to want to do with your life, singing songs, and I’m in a constant state of embarrassment whenever it’s mentioned. So, despite recently being lectured to the contrary by Paul from Wartgore Hellsnicker, I still think it’s definitely one of the less noble art forms. But – and I can see that I’m digging myself into a rather miserable hole here – when the album was finally in my hand, artwork and all, I did have a pang of pride that lasted all of my tea break.
What can you tell us about the writing and recording process for the record? Was there a plan for it and did it go ‘according to’…?
The plan, yes. It went alright I think. The songs were all written and recorded very slowly – as is my style – over a number of years, and I then I had to figure out what to do with them. I’ve always liked albums where the songs segue and flow into each other, and create some kind of mood and narrative. So I set about chopping up, re-recording and pitch-shifting all the old recordings until they became something slightly coherent. It was a long process and I probably got grumpy with Jamie from Audio Antihero more than I should’ve, but yes, I think it turned out OK.
Were there any specific influences on the lyrics or music? I can hear some Sparklehorse in there, are you a fan?
Yes, I’ve been trying to rip off Sparklehorse for years, music-wise. It’s wonderful what he did. Similarly, I love any production by Dave Fridman – The Delgados especially – the space and atmosphere he manages to create inspires me constantly to want to rip him off too. Give me any Neil Young, Gram Parsons and some Antipodean 90s indie rock and I’ll be quite content. I also like books written in local dialect.
What have you taken personally out of the whole experience of putting out a record?
Shame, and an uncertain future.
Whats the plan for 2012, are you looking to tour the record at all?
2012. I’ve still no idea what is going to be happening this year, or any thereafter for that matter. I lurch daily from feeling lost, to wanting to give it all up, to feeling occasional jots of inspiration and wanting to have a huge Flaming Lips type party band. Mostly though, in 2012 I will just sit.