By Nicole Hanratty
Posted May 2, 2013
Ben McGarvey’s new project Minute Taker has roots in various places. Drawing from Björk, PJ Harvey, Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Radiohead (esp. since “Kid A” era), an avant-garde approach to making music, and lo-fi electronica, Ben McGarvey has created a work of art with Minute Taker’s “Last Things.”
The most significant influences on his music he attributes to location and moving. His family moved into the countryside when he was eight where he found long walks in the woods, a piano in the basement and solitude all lending to his melancholy vibe.
Of his start in music McGarvey said, “I discovered the piano [at age 12] and then I just used to write songs and terrible songs, but you know… (laughs) I just used to just sit there bashing them out for hours you know just on a few notes.”
McGarvey moved again to head off to University where he took a popular music class that he said, “turned out to be more kind of avant-garde kind of crazy, twentieth century.” While the class was “more out there” than he wanted it to be, he admits it had an affect on his songs and “really thinking about the concepts behind music and how different sounds can be used within appreciating music…to covey certain feelings and ideas.”
He moved one more time into Manchester, (where he now resides), which opened up his eyes to the enormous music scene and performing live which he described as feeling like reading your diary out loud. “Little Things” is a culmination of all of these things in Ben McGarvey’s life and highlight songs “Tin Box,” “Merge,” “Let It Go,” and “I Draw Lines” reflect that. The album infuses acoustic inferences, orchestra instrumentals as well as digital music with erratic tribal beats that ebb and flow to create growing anthems full of surprises. Using distorted vocals and allowing production to help form his writing process, McGarvey creates haunting melodies with unpredictable destinations.
The official release date of Minute Taker’s debut album was 15th of April and I spoke to him day of the release via telephone at his home in Manchester. We chatted about favorite artists, his ideal partner, what his music means to him and dead people in elevators.
Nicole: What in your life has changed most significantly since you started this album?
Ben: Since I started working on this album, I have formed the band called The Spiels in 2010, we have got another singer songwriter called Ryan Lamey and we have spent quite a lot of the last few years kind of working with the band in various incarnations and sort of been writing and recording performing a lot with The Spiels. In my personal life circumstances, I recently bought a house last year. And I now I have a music room and a piano which is something that I have been wanting for a while so I have my own music room now.
Nicole: That’s exciting.
Ben: Yeah. I can’t play the piano too late though because I’ll disturb the neighbors. [laughter]
Nicole: They should have known when a musician moved in that they were going to be in for late hours.
Ben: Yeah, they’re probably cursing. [laughter]
Nicole: Your “Let It Go” song lyrics that I really liked are, “hazy day dream comes and goes. It rattles me with fantasy and leaves me all alone.” Can you talk a little bit about that and what that meant to you to write that?
Ben: Yeah. “Let It Go” is really all about the pursuit of the perfect partner, the perfect soul mate. Having a slight idea of what you are looking for in a partner and kind of relentlessly pursuing that, and then getting to the stage where you kind of question am I ever going to find this? Should I really be willing to settle for someone for something that isn’t the ideal? So that particular line is really the hazy day dream is this perfect image of this person. It’s a bit hazy, it is kind of there in my mind but when I try and focus in on it, you realize that actually the edges are a bit blurred, and it is not definite. And it’s something that kind of comes and goes. When it comes I’m filled with this fantasy of how to be and how amazing that it would be if I met this person, then it goes and I kind of lose hope that I’ll ever find that person.
Minute Taker – Let It Go (Official Lyric Video)
Nicole: What does that ideal relationship look like to you?
Ben: It’s difficult to say really. I think that it has changed actually a lot over the years and actually since I wrote the song. I wrote the song about five or six years ago, so I suppose I’ve always had a fantasy about having a partner who is an artist, someone who I can kind of share a side of my life with someone who really kind of enjoys my music and maybe even a musician that I could collaborate with that would kind of be the ideal for me. But in practice it’s not always as ideal as it seems. (laughs)
Nicole: Right? Sometimes we need that Ying and Yang. We need the opposite of us don’t we?
Ben: Yeah. I often tend to go for people who are completely the opposite of me and that kind of has it’s plusses and minus as well. [laughter]
Nicole: Do you have a favorite Radiohead song or Thom Yorke song?
Ben: Favorite Radiohead song would be “Idioteque” from “Kid A.” I’ve always really loved that one but there are so many fantastic ones.
Nicole: What is the last album that you downloaded or purchased if it was vinyl?
Ben: Actually I bought The Knife’s new album it’s called “Shaking the Habitual” last week. I am still waiting for it to arrive, I keep checking the post eagerly everyday but it is not there.
Nicole: Okay this is a question I always ask. If you had to pick one song title a new song that in the world to describe your personality what would it be?
Ben: I think I’ll pick “Sound and Vision” by David Bowie because my head’s usually filled with ideas for songs and I’m often in a world of my own because I’m visualizing how they could sound. I think part of being a songwriter is about trying to replicate the music that I imagine but it usually sounds better in my head! (laughs) Plus I love the song “Sound and Vision” and it’s from one of my favorite all time album’s “Low.”
Nicole: Are sports big in Manchester or do you have a favorite sport or team that you root for?
Ben: I really don’t follow sports at all, I am quite useless with sports. So I don’t really have any favorite. To me sports are just traffic. Which means, if there is a football match on, we’re going to be stuck in traffic for half an hour. [laughter]
Nicole: I love it. Do you have an all-time favorite movie?
Ben: All-time favorite… I really love Donnie Darko that would be probably be at least one of my top favorites.
Nicole: Is there a charity that is close to your heart or to which you donate your time?
Ben: I support Save the Children. I actually work for children services from Manchester Council so quite probably the children’s charity would be my charity of choice.
Nicole: Okay before I let you go, I need to know about the “Tin Box” stuffed with souls.
Ben: What would you like to know?
Nicole: I want to know is that dead people?
Ben: [laughter] In a sense. That song is actually about being in an elevator on the way to the office with a bunch of other business people and it’s kind of about just wanting to connect with others. When you get into that situation where you are just in your business suit and your business persona and you kind of just have to be businesslike and not show any emotion and sometimes you stand next to people like that and you just suddenly think to yourself, “God we’re actually human beings and we are just completely disconnected.” We’re stuck in this tiny space and we are just like completely separate no one is talking or interacting in any way. So it’s that kind of really wanting to reach out and connect with other humans and at the end the “Tin Box” is the elevator it also is a metaphor for us being in like tin and closed on the inside and just being tin on the outside.
Nicole: My G*d, the whole time I am listening to that song I am thinking of like someone cremated and like picturing like a really morbid funeral scene. [laughter]
Ben: Well it can mean that too if you like. [laughter]
Nicole: No I like your explanation better! (laughs) Well, I love “Merge” it is definitely my favorite. It’s such a great song and really the whole album is such a work of art, congratulations again!
Ben: Well, thank you. Glad you like it.
Nicole: Thank you Ben. It was great talking to you.
Ben: You too, thanks for ringing.