In Conversation With: Benny Atlas
I was surprised to learn that How You Dare is actually Benny Atlas’ second single under the alias, and although that would lead someone to believe that he’s new to music, he lets me know that that’s certainly not the case. “I’ve been around for a little while to be fair,” he explains, “I used to be in a band called Shanty, we were a 9 piece reggae/soul band...we did some cool stuff man, we did Glastonbury loads of times and supported ‘The Wailers’ on both their tours...But then just trying to keep everyone fed...it got a bit crazy. I got a bit fed up of music, went and got a normal job for like three years. But basically one afternoon, I was sitting at my desk just like...what am I doing here?... I felt like something was in me that I wasn’t expressing. Literally in that one afternoon I just decided to quit my job. Got a part time job working two days a week and spent the rest of the time making music. This was like a year and a half ago now.” He recants this story so nonchalantly, but I can’t help but be struck by how quickly he chose to act once the discomfort set in. But even after making this decision, it still took Benny almost two years to feel comfortable enough to actually share his work. “This is like the first time where I’ve just thought, ‘what do I want to sound like? What suits me?’...Then the lockdown came and I was just sitting on all this music, and then Luke, my manager was just like, ‘it’s time to go, you can’t wait for all this to end.’”
However with being away from music for so long, I could only imagine how excruciating the process of rediscovery must have been; creating is a muscle that gets very difficult to flex the longer you leave the process dormant. “Most songwriters will admit, you just have to write loads of bad songs until you get good ones. I was lucky to have my boy Mindy who produced Paradise and How You Dare... he was in the band before so we’ve got this close relationship. I had this luxury of just being able to take my time...we buckled down, messed around and experimented. As time went on...the sound just began to become cohesive and sound like it was coming from the same place.”
As most of us artists know, real inspiration comes from love or the lack thereof, ‘How You Dare’ explores the way how in love you are can shock you into a bit of a daze. The gentle beat, the melody that feels like the sonic version of a late night drive, and the sheer vulnerability of the lyrics lets you know he clearly writes from experience. “I won’t lie, I met a beautiful girl maybe six months into the songwriting process and it just went like bang...songs just flying out of me. All the songs, certainly Paradise, How You Dare, and the one that’s coming after were all from the time when I was just falling in love.”
This is his current focus, telling the story of the different moments you experience whilst falling in love. “Paradise is the initial uplifting euphoric phase of it but ‘How You Dare’ is more the nervy side of it, so like when you actually decide okay...this is it...this is gonna be the one for me but then all the possible scary things that come with that feeling. It’s about that nervous but positive energy that you have around love I guess.”
We delve into a conversation about his inspirations musically and what led him into this specific approach to blues and soul. “I’m a proper old soul…I’m talking Marvin Gaye, Bob Marley...yeah all of that good soulful stuff as well as the heavy reggae influences.” Having mentioned reggae a few times, it seemed peculiar to me that he’s so influenced by a sound he’s still yet to allow to come through in his solo career. I wondered if this was a sound he wasn’t yet comfortable exploring alone. “I mean there’s a bit of it in ‘Paradise’, the bassline’s got a bit of a laid back groove. But it’s definitely on my list to make a song that blends both reggae and soul...that’s probably going to be the next batch of releases.” He bursts into conversation about future releases and things in the pipeline, but he eventually reassures me that he is still living out the present- focused on seeing his current releases through.
On the future, he adds that he knows he is "not gonna be a pop star or anything like that."
He just wants to be able to make a living off of music and write songs that people care about.
How You Dare out on all streaming platforms.