Ben Kweller is one of those annoyingly talented musicians that you would just love to hate, but you can’t because he’s too damn nice. After playing all of the instruments on his third and latest major record with ATO Records, Ben Kweller has shown us that there is nothing that he can’t do.
Since debuting on Mercury Records with his high school band, named Radish, at age 15, Kweller has moved on to tour with acts like Wilco and Dave Matthews Band. He has also headlined large music venues, including New York City’s Irving Plaza.
Throughout his hectic touring schedule, however, Kweller has not forgotten about his fans in Rochester. He most recently rocked Water Street Music Hall on March 4, after having spent the day under the care of doctors at Strong Memorial Hospital.
During our conversation, a week following his show in Rochester, Kweller was recovered and ready to talk. An extremely laid back young man, elongating words with his slight Texas accent and playing with his infant son, Kweller is just about as real as it gets.
You’ve played in Rochester many times; have you ever done anything touristy?
I haven’t really gotten out much in Rochester. I feel like every time I have been there it’s been really cold, but I’d like to come up in the summertime. One thing I have always wanted to go to is the Jell-O Museum in Rochester. Jell-O is from Rochester. [The museum] has recipes and all of the things that you can do with Jell-O.
A lot of your lyrics have to do with a specific location, or the act of movement. How does location influence you as a songwriter?
I’m totally affected 100 percent by my surroundings. And because I travel a lot, I end up writing about all different places. [My music] is all about life and experience and the real stuff that we go through day in and day out. My lyrics tend to be real non-fiction. I get down to the point where I use real names and real places.
Are you training your son to be a musician?
Well, he loves music and it’s always around him, but I won’t force anything on him. Deep down I hope that he wants to be a doctor, something completely different. If he wants to do music then that’s fine; he’ll have a lot of instruments.
Rolling Stone wrote an article about your fashion style last summer.
Yeah I remember that. They called me like an Indie Rock Marlboro Man.
How do you feel about people talking about your style?
When I was a kid I used to wear really weird stuff to school, you know. I always like being sort of an outcast, and I liked being different and doing my own thing. When people talk about my fashion sense it’s always sort of entertaining for me because I’ve never thought of myself as cool or hip.
In New York City in the past year, I’ve been sort of bummed because everyone started wearing cowboy boots. It’s so lame because I grew up in Texas and that’s all I wore and now I don’t even want to wear cowboy boots because all these urban city slickers wear them.
So I got in touch with Justin Boots and had them send me a pair of lace-ups where they have a really funny fringe tag on the tongue, which is what all of the cowboys used to wear to prom in Texas.
So that’s what I’ve been wearing now because I know that these New York kids won’t want to wear them or even know what they are.
Any chance of a “Bens” reunion?
There’s nothing planned, but whenever we see each other we always say how we want to do it again. Maybe we’ll do something down the road.
If you could tour supporting any band, who would it be?
To be able to play with Nirvana during their early days, like in Seattle during Bleach – that would have been the shit.
Well, thanks for taking the time to talk to our newspaper. We really appreciate your time.
It was good talking to you and I’ll see you down the road, maybe at the Jell-O Museum.
Katz is a member of the class of 2007.