Ben Kweller Goes New "Way"

By | January 28, 2004 at 12:00 AM

Ben Kweller and producer Ethan Johns took a trip back in time in recording Kweller’s third solo release, On My Way. Johns encouraged the twentysomething pop phenom to cut his latest album in classic garage rock manner: guitars, bass and drums played live in the studio with no headphones and minimal post-production.

Johns’ recording of the eleven-song set, due April 6th, captures some live-wire vocals from Kweller as well as his inspired guitar interplay with Mike Stroud (formerly of Dashboard Confessional), which echoes that of Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Danny Whitten circa 1969.

Kweller was introduced to the producer through his friends in Kings of Leon, who worked with Johns (Counting Crows, Ryan Adams) on their debut, Youth and Young Manhood. “He basically learned a lot from his dad [legendary producer Glyn Johns],” Kweller says. “So my album was recorded in a mid-Sixties fashion. We were all in one room, with no separation between amplifiers and drums. Usually you can mix everything how you want in your headphones. But a lot of times people end up just listening to themselves and making sure they’re playing their part perfectly. So we brought it back to pure old school recording.”

Kweller attributes the ragged-but-right sound of the vocals, particularly on the harder-rocking “The Rules,” to not being able to hear himself sing during the sessions. “I had no idea what it was sounding like,” he says, “so I would just go for it. It might sound off key at times, but it’s also live and honest. That was one of Ethan’s mottos, ‘passion before pitch.’ Through the years, you come to realize that what makes those old Neil Young or Bob Dylan albums so amazing, in addition to content – lyrics and melody – is the delivery. That’s what we tried to hone in on.”

The album takes its title from one of its most striking cuts, a song with closer kinship to old-time folk like Dock Boggs than anything garage rock, lyrically offering up a verse and chorus each from a murderer, a thief, a listener, a friend and a lover. “There’s a dark edge to some of the stuff,” Kweller says, “but it still has my usual optimism in the songs. The light’s still at the end of the tunnel for me – I’m not going to lose that.”

Prior to the album’s release, Kweller will launch a forty-three-date tour. All but four of the shows will be co-headlining performances with Death Cab for Cutie.

Ben Kweller/Death Cab For Cutie Tour Dates:

  • 3/24 – Omaha, Sokol Auditorium
  • 3/25 – Minneapolis, First Avenue
  • 3/26 – Milwaukee, The Rave
  • 3/27 – St. Louis, Mississippi Nights
  • 3/29 – Grand Rapids, MI, Calvin College
  • 3/30 – Royal Oak, MI, Royal Oak Music Theater
  • 3/31 – Cleveland, Odeon Concert Club
  • 4/1 – Pittsburgh, Club Laga
  • 4/2 – Charlottesville, VA, Starr Hill
  • 4/3 – Washington, DC, 9:30 Club
  • 4/5 – Northampton, MA, Pearl Street
  • 4/6-8 – New York, Irving Plaza
  • 4/9 – Providence, RI, Lupo’s
  • 4/10 – Boston, Avalon
  • 4/12-13 – Philadelphia, Trocadero Theater
  • 4/15-16 – Chicago, Vic Theater
  • 4/17 – TBA
  • 4/19 – Carrboro, NC, Cat’s Cradle
  • 4/20 – Athens, GA, 40 Watt Club
  • 4/21 – Atlanta, Variety Playhouse
  • 4/22 – Birmingham, AL, WorkPlay
  • 4/23 – New Orleans, Howlin’ Wolf
  • 4/24 – Houston, Numbers
  • 4/26-27 – Dallas, Tree’s
  • 4/28 – Austin, Stubb’s
  • 4/30 – Tempe, AZ, Marquee Theater
  • 5/1 – Las Vegas, House of Blues – without Death Cab for Cutie
  • 5/3-4 – San Francisco, Fillmore Auditorium
  • 5/5 – Portland, OR, Crystal Ballroom
  • 5/6-8 – Seattle, Showbox
  • 5/9 – Walla Walla, WA, Whitman College
  • 5/11 – TBA
  • 5/13 – San Diego, Canes – without Death Cab
  • 5/14 – Hollywood, Henry Fonda Theater – without Death Cab
  • 5/15 – Anaheim, CA, House of Blues – without Death Cab

Related Content