Dead Letter Circus finally made their way to my area and not only was I fortunate enough to see them live but the Aussie heartthrob, known as Kim Benzie, was kind enough to sit down and chat with me about his band, the “filthy” friends that we have in common, and so much more. It was an absolute honor to be able to spend some time with the exceptionally talented singer. I am naturally a shy person, but there was something about Kim that put me at ease. I am never instantly comfortable with anyone so that should give you a little insight into his pleasant demeanor. Once I asked him the question that my friend Dana Roskvist, from the amazing Australian band Sydonia, politely provided me with well let’s just say that there was no going back from there. The way Kim laughed and looked at me for a second while he was deciding if I could handle the story, now that was priceless. I only wish that Dana could have seen his face. You’ll have to read about it in our interview below. All I have to say is that I know why the wink emoticon was inserted next to Dana’s question. Dana warned me that Kim was “the nicest guy ever” and he wasn’t kidding. Thank you Kim, for sharing your time with me and for saying “car park.” I am a huge fan of the Australian accent and certain words just do it for me.
Dead Letter Circus was everything that I expected them to be live. They are incredibly talented musicians that don’t need an elaborate stage show to keep the crowd entertained. They did so on their own merit as musicians. I know that is a welcomed change in this age of overabundant stage shows that are just set up to mask the talent behind them. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy those over produced arena shows but there is just something to be said for true artists that take to the stage with nothing but their instruments and a dream and make it happen. That is the most beautiful thing that a fan can ever witness. Dead Letter Circus is the ultimate example of what a live musical performance should be, pure, intense, and intuitive. They blew me away. I was already a fan but after seeing them live I am now forever in their debt.
I adore Kim Benzie’s voice. A singer can make or break a band and Kim adds an extra dimension to an already strong lineup. He reminds me a bit of Chester Bennington from Linkin Park. Kim’s voice is powerful but he has perfect control over it and knows exactly when to hold back and when to unleash it. Kim was fantastic to watch onstage and he was performing so much that his pants decided they wanted out, or perhaps it was something else. It was nothing that a lot of duct tape couldn’t fix. I hope Mr. Benzie found another pair of stage pants. See what these guys do for us, they rock so hard that they split their pants. That also happened to Mika when I was photographing his show. I think it’s an amazing singer problem. Kenny from Karnivool get ready to split your pants next, I’ll be waiting.
Luke Williams has to be the happiest drummer ever. I’ve never seen a drummer smile so much. I think all those dance lessons paid off and he knows it. I have to mention the bass player, Stewart Hill, because he was not only brilliant but also delightful to watch. I have a lot of respect for someone that has nurtured a rattail to that absurd length. That takes a huge amount of dedication.
The set had a nice mix of songs like: “The Mile,” “Lines,” and “Here We Divide.” My personal favorites were “Cage” and “One Step.” I can never get enough of those two songs. They sounded absolutely phenomenal live. They also performed “Space on the Wall” and “Next in Line.” I can also proudly tell you that I got to hear a new song, “Wake Up,” and it was extraordinary. As if I wasn’t anxiously awaiting the new album enough, they have to go and throw a teaser like that in there. The only think I can say that disappointed me about the show is that they didn’t play “Big” and their set was too short. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so greedy but I really didn’t want them to stop.
One of the best things of the night was being able to witness the crowd’s reaction to them. They had diehard fans that were there to support them but they also turned an entire audience into new fans. The longer they played the more the crowd swarmed to the stage. That was a really beautiful sight.
I loved everything about Dead Letter Circus, right down to their publicist and tour manager. Everyone was so professional and accommodating. From my experience, tour managers are usually pretty cranky but Adam was the nicest guy. He even saved a set list for me without asking, and no one does that. Thank you guys! I also have to thank Fair to Midland for bringing Dead Letter Circus and Karnivool here. Fair to Midland has fantastic taste when it comes to touring partners. Please come back real soon. I promise I will bring my sewing kit next time in case another “situation” arises.
DEAD LETTER CIRCUS INTERVIEW WITH SINGER, KIM BENZIE
Lena: How is the tour going so far?
Kim Benzie: It’s very interesting when we come over here straightaway because we are quite established in Australia so we have a moment of transition when we have to win everyone over, over there we’ve won everyone over all ready. It’s really good, it’s one of the most exciting times for a band when you are actually first getting out there and making new fans. The objective is to walk off with every hand in the air, but when you walk on everyone is like, “What’s going on?”
Lena: That is exactly what was said about your New York show. When you guys came on no one knew who you were but when your set was done they were screaming your name.
Kim Benzie: It had kind of been like that every night. It’s been our objective. It’s almost like being transported back in time because we are five years into our career in Australia but we are only about a year and a half into it here. Your country is so massive. This is our third tour and we have only played the same place once. Everywhere we have been for three tours has been like the first show in each city.
Lena: You are taking this tour to Australia.
Kim Benzie: Yeah, we love Fair to Midland and we really want Australia to experience them. There is something really special about that band.
Lena: I heard from a reliable source that you came up with a new and ingenious way of doing tequila shots.
Kim Benzie: Onstage?
Lena: I don’t know. Dana from Sydonia told me to ask you.
Kim Benzie: Oh, right OH…(laughing) this isn’t going to go in the interview, right?
Lena: No (laughing) I think Dana set me up.
Kim Benzie: Well…and weird stuff…and then…and then…and yeah, he set you up (laughing).
Lena: (LAUGHING at the ultimate ice breaker thanks to Dana. I pride myself on having a pretty mischievous mind but even I was not ready for that. Well done, Dana, well done. I commend you on your originality and I find myself really wanting to party with you. I have no idea what that says about me but I like the way you think outside the box. WOW!) Ah…(still laughing).
Kim Benzie: But the filthiness is all on his side.
Lena: Yeah, probably.
Kim Benzie: If you know him, you know that he’s a filthy man.
Lena: I love Sydonia. (Dana and Sam are awesome.) They came here several years ago with Stone Sour. They are really nice guys.
Kim Benzie: Filthy though, they are filthy men. They are very good, very bad men. You wouldn’t let your daughter go out with them.
Lena: Really (laughing)?
Kim Benzie: Well maybe, it depends on how badass your daughter was.
Lena: Your videos are amazing. I love the treatments, the production, and everything else that goes into them.
Kim Benzie: Thank you. The first one that we did was “Big.” We basically only got about a days notice. I knew it was going to be animated but I thought the whole band was going to be in it and suddenly it was just me, and I was dressed up in this weird lycra suit with motion balls all over me. I was standing in this basketball stadium sized thing with this person going, “Now you are flying through the air and shooting up into space with a glowing spear forming around you.” It was a very strange experience. When we did “One Step” I didn’t read the script properly and two days before I was reading it and I went, “Oh my god, I think I have to learn the song backwards,” because it’s in reverse motion. I called up the director and asked him if I had to actually learn how to sing the song backwards and he said, “Absolutely otherwise your mouth is not going to be in sync.” I basically spent two furious days learning it phonetically backwards. It’s like learning a completely new language. For example, (Kim sang the lyrics to me, beautifully I might add, so yeah be jealous.) “See I can’t take it anymore” turns into “ Eromyna ti ekat t’nac I ees.” It was pretty bizarre because the filming starts at the end of where the song begins. In the first scene I had to jump off a chair about this high, fly through the air, grab my mic stand, and hit the ground all while singing at double the speed backwards. It was fucking crazy.
Lena: So you really worked that day.
Kim Benzie: Yeah, I was really working. I was so nervous, it was such a massive shoot and it was our first proper high budget shoot. There were about thirty people working there that day. It was very nerve-racking.
Lena: I really love your videos and all the production that goes into them. I miss that in videos because not a lot of people focus on that anymore.
Kim Benzie: Thank you. Well on the next album, which we are doing now, we are going to really find out which songs are going to work as singles and we are really going to get involved in the storylines of them and carry that message a bit deeper.
Lena: I’m sure you have a funny story about the video for “The Space on the Wall” and how that came about.
Kim Benzie: Well we had just been signed to Warner Records and they had a very young, creative marketing team and they didn’t want to spend any money on the clip, so they gave us a budget of like $50 or something crazy like that and they said it was for us, for whatever we needed like a bottle of vodka to get drunk, or whatever or to buy me a shirt. They wanted us to do this Brady Bunch style thing where the sat down a cameraman and he was just going to film us singing the song. The idea sounded a bit like shit. It was also going to be four squares of us playing and it just didn’t sound good. We got the bottle of vodka with the $50 dollars that we had and we got drunk and we just basically sort of faked a phone call and convinced the cameraman that what we are actually going to do is just shoot Luke playing with various objects. We went to the veg shop and spent about $20 on various items and we edited it ourselves. We handed it in to the record company and the first reaction back was that they were super pissed off but after they watched it a couple of times they thought, oh fuck it, we might as well put it up because there is nothing else for it. The song was already on the radio but they didn’t have a clip. They put it online and everyone fucking loved it.
Lena: Yeah, it’s great.
Kim Benzie: It was really funny because Luke was being all dramatic in it as well, really in the moment, and seeing him playing so emotionally with two kabanos in his hands was fucking funny. I had to leave the room about ten times.
Lena: Who are some of your favorite singers?
Kim Benzie: I really love Maynard James Keenan, Chino Moreno, and Cedric Bixler-Zavala. I really love a lot of female singers. There is a chick in Australia named Bertie Blackman and she has an amazing voice. Chino is probably the only one that I like that screams. I’m very much into the melodic stuff.
Lena: Australia has some of the best bands. (Dead Letter Circus, Karnivool, Sydonia, Empire of the Sun, Gotye)
Kim Benzie: There is a real scene there. I’ve got a theory about it, basically if you remember the time where Korn and Limp Bizkit were the biggest bands in the world, they were really big in Australia as well, and then Tool came along. Tool came along basically at the same time and suddenly it was really uncool to be in a nu metal band. That side of the heavy world just sort of stopped. I was in a band like that as well and just literally, all around the country, that style of music just stopped and it was a new scene. It was more of a Tool and Deftones scene emerging and it just so happened that no one went down to see bands like Seether and Nickelback. We didn’t have a scene like that at all in Australia. There is not a single person, except that people go and see them if they come to our country, but there isn’t a single band in a pub that is trying to write music like Nickelback, 3 Doors Down, Staind, or anything like that. It became really uncool and what we were focusing on was everyone becoming really good singers, and technical, and melodic music. We just really pushed each other. There is an elaborate scene and we are not the creators of it, probably a band called COG. They were probably the first guys, the first Australian band that sounded as good as the international bands. We went, “Holy fuck!” The band inspired all of us, and then Karnivool came along, then another band called The Butterfly Effect. I guess we are the first wave of the next bunch of bands that were listening to those guys. Those three bands all gave us our first shows for the first year when we came out. That was pretty cool.
Lena: I know that you guys are working on a new album so what can your fans expect from it?
Kim Benzie: It’s a bit darker and heavier so far. It’s been a pretty dark and heavy time in the world but there is still an infusion of hope because ultimately we are all evolving. When you are facing a test or a lesson, as humankind, there are so many shitty things, there is so much shit that is wrong that we feel angry and upset about but ultimately there is that hope that more and more people are waking up and actually getting off their couches and away from the front of their flat screen TV that is always on CNN and start actually making their own choices.
Lena: Are you working with Forrester Savell again? (Forrester has worked on pretty much every album that I love.)
Kim Benzie: Yes. I like to think that we are his favorite band that he has a special bond with.
Lena: Your album will probably be done around the same time as Karnivool’s is, so you guys can tour together. My dream tour would be you with Karnivool and Sydonia.
Kim Benzie: That would be awesome. We’ve toured with them and we work well with Sydonia, too. Yeah, that could actually happen.
Lena: What would you name that tour? I will inform you that the last time Karnivool played here there was a guy next to me that told me how much Karnivool made his balls (“man parts”) hurt. The music was just so crazy (and intense).
Kim Benzie: (Laughing) Everyone says that we are pretty crazy so maybe it would be the Nunchucks Ball Sack Tour. Maybe? That’s all I got.
Lena: That was the strangest thing that anyone has ever said to me at a show.
Kim Benzie: It made my balls hurt yeah, I could see that. They do have a very big bass tone.
Lena: Those guys are monsters (on the stage). I love them.
Kim Benzie: They are like our big brothers.
Lena: They have been working on their new album forever, so you are going to beat them.
Kim Benzie: Maybe. Ours is definitely out in March.
Lena: Have you pranked your tour partners yet?
Kim Benzie: We did prank them on the end of the last leg but we are actually probably the best pranksters that we have ever met. I’ll show you a photo.
(I’m happy to report that Kim had a normal sized phone so I didn’t have to embarrass myself again by questioning the size of Australian cell phones – sorry Karnivool.)
Kim Benzie: They drew a bunch of dicks on the side of our car and all sorts of stuff like we like dingo cock and “America Fuck Yeah.” What we did with Photoshop was we created a gay pride poster based around the Fair to Midland guys. We printed 150 of them and while they were onstage we created a path where they had to walk along with their faces on this gay pride poster all the way to their changing room. Their van was completely covered in it and all of their fans that were outside were actually getting them to sign the gay pride poster. If this is going online I could send it to you because the first night of touring here they made us wear necklaces that had like a cock on them. So check that out, we changed their emblem to a couple of dicks. There were literally 150 of them. We spent about a whole show’s pay to make it happen.
Lena: That’s so funny, suffering for your art. (Kim was so cute and proud of his work when he showed me his pictures.)
Kim Benzie: We are working on something for this tour. They fucked with us a little too early and we are not going to take it lying down.
Lena: What do you guys watch on television? Do you watch True Blood, Wilfred, and stuff like that?
Kim Benzie: We watch Game of Thrones, True Blood, Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, this is just my personal taste but I think we all watch the same stuff. Californication, that’s a great show. I guess everyone watched Entourage. I’m really liking, Game of Thrones and Dexter.
Lena: Do you watch Wilfred? Do you like the Australian version better than the American version?
Kim Benzie: Oh yeah sorry, we watch Wilfred. Yes because it’s more suited to our taste, it’s a bit drier. I love the American one as well I think it’s very funny. Obviously you can tell that the American one has some American writers in there and they infused it with a bit more of a hook. Some of the other one was good but it got a little boring. We actually watched the entire season of Wilfred three nights ago on a seven-hour drive. We watched the whole thing from start to finish. Do you like Wilfred?
Lena: Yes I cover a lot of television and I’ve interviewed Jason (Gann) about the show.
Kim Benzie: Well you could say that we have the same sense of humor but probably a little bit cruder.
Lena: That is why I love Australians.
Lena: What would your fans be surprised to know about you?
Kim Benzie: Luke’s mom sent him to dance lessons when he was young so he can actually do a proper Salsa and Samba like a Latino.
Lena: That must help out with the ladies.
Kim Benzie: Yeah it definitely helps him out with the ladies so there you go.
Lena: What else do you have coming up?
Kim Benzie: We are taking Fair to Midland to Australia for a month and then we are going to stay in Australia and finish our album. We should be finished by the end of August. We are also going to play a new song tonight. We are testing out a new song on the road while we are here before we play it in Australia.
Lena: Do you want to add anything about your experience in America?
Kim Benzie: I’ll definitely add something in. Our opinion of your country, the international opinion of Americans, due to the way your government is run, is quite low on a respect level where everyone has a perception of a country of selfish decisions and really run with a capitalist intent, but I just want to say that the people that we have met around America, the actual real people, not the face that is put on by the government, everyone is so fucking nice. Everyone is really open minded, it could just be the circles that we are traveling in and the people that are coming to these shows but the Americans have been really, really nice. You are definitely in no way like how you are perceived, so we will tell everyone.
Lena: Well I love Australians. I love the accent especially when you say “car park.”
Kim Benzie: Isn’t that how they say it in Boston?
Lena: I wanted to ask you about that. When you are here do you think that people are making fun of you when you hear someone speaking with a thick Boston accent?
Kim Benzie: We only just got here and I’ve been waiting. We recently watched The Departed. We’ve been practicing our Marky Mark.