An Interview with Ben Grey (Dear Boy)

Having had Beatles on the brain for a while now, specifically the early years of their hysteria-inducing mop tops, I started to think about their early interviews. I looked up some of those early pressers and was taken aback by just how many times the fab foursome was asked about money and marriage, but there were also some gems hidden amongst the clunkers. And so, inspired by the early press conferences of the Beatles, especially their US tour interviews, I decided to ask some of those very same questions to some of the best and brightest making music today.

LA outfit Dear Boy occupies a sort of gloomily golden middle ground between the delirious, drizzly divinity of bands of the Glasgow School and bands of the 1980s glory days of the Flying Nun roster. But there's a decidedly California sunniness to the band's songs, adding an irrepressible incandescence to their jaunty, deceptively upbeat jangling. It's not at all difficult to imagine Dear Boy sharing stages with the likes of Psychedelic Furs and James, which they just so happen to have done earlier this year.

In addition to touring with a couple legendary bands, Dear Boy released the bittersweetly lush Strawberry EP this spring, and a standalone single, "Heaven Moves," followed. Busy bees, indeed. Get to know Dear Boy a little better by reading on to see what singer/guitarist Ben Grey makes of the Beatles-y Qs, and be sure to keep a close eye on these four. 

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What has been your most exciting moment in the last year?

Receiving a standing ovation at The Greek Theater…I’ll tear up again if I start thinking about it.

Who are your favorite recording artists?

Pulp, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Cure, Siouxsie, New Order, Roxy Music, Kate Bush, Suede, The Psychedelic Furs, James, The Chameleons, Patti Smith, Wire Train, The Buzzcocks, The Velvets…I’ll bore you to tears if I keep going.

Do you feel safe riding in airplanes?

Incredibly…But I like knowing the pilot’s name for some reason.

Does every city look the same?

All “downtowns” do.

What message are you trying to get across, if any?

Be kind. Be cool. To everybody. To yourself. Wear sunscreen. Learn another language. Fall in love. Cook often.

How would you describe yourself in one word?

As a band…“bittersweet.” As a man…“spindly.”

Where would you like to go that you haven't gone yet?

Mexico City.

Do you feel that you're setting a new trend in music?

You know what? I actually do… It took me a long time to recognize that and lean into it, but yes. Hopefully you’ll be hearing a lot more bands cite The Housemartins as an influence in the coming months.

What kinds of guitars do you use?

Fender is our axe of choice. But Austin has been known to play the field.

Does anybody ever ask you for advice?

A lot! I don’t always feel qualified to give it, but I’m happy to get involved.

How do you prefer for your fans to act at your concerts?

I definitely don’t want to tell our fans what to do. You’ll never see me asking for claps or anything like that. Artist/audience is a symbiotic relationship and it’s whatever you want it to be. But, hopefully whatever it is, it’s engaged.

How do you go about writing your songs?

A lot of wishing is involved.

What is one question you would like to be asked that probably nobody has ever asked?

I would really like someone to ask for my pie crust recipe.

What do you call your sound?

Boyish.

Have you ever had a mental block-out on stage?

Haha yes. A few times. It’s wild. I usually render out pretty quickly, but there have been a few times where I wonder what the hell I’m even doing up there.

What are your unfulfilled ambitions?

Oh my gosh…there are many. I don’t know if this is a reality, but hopefully some form of TRL will come back and we can then go on it.

What advice do you have for teenagers?

Don’t do anything that makes you uncomfortable. You know better than anybody else what’s right for you and you don’t have to make anybody else happy. "Fuck off" is a powerful and available tool.

What is the closest you have come to losing life and limb?

I’ve been held at gunpoint 5 times. I don’t think I can pick a favorite.

Do you think of yourself more as an entertainer or a musician, or do you think it's more of a combination of the two?

That’s a penetrating question! I consider myself a songwriter and communicator first and foremost. Everything else is either a means to achieve or an extension of that discipline. Songs are everything to me.



[posted 10.6.19]

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