Ben Narcis has released a new EP, featuring the savagely satirical ‘Appocalypse’, and will play at The Waiting Room in Stoke Newington this Friday (June 16). The band sold out the same venue for their debut performance just a few months ago so book now.
Ben Narcis (formerly a midnight barber)
For those not in the know, Ben used to front The Midnight Barbers. He played guitar and belted out the vocals like an English Captain Beefheart; Jack Pepper was the ace sticksman.
DJs Steve Lamacq and Shaun Keaveney championed the duo on BBC Radio 6. Classic Rock wrote: “Think a 21st century Bob Dylan, at his most primal, going dancing with Iggy Pop.” Before COVID, TMB had experienced a few personnel changes; however, the pandemic put a final stop to that iteration.
‘Appocalypse’ was a fresh start after working within the confines of a ruckus rockabilly duo.Ben Narcis
So, while this is a story about Ben’s current project, it would be amiss not to include some music by the former band by way of illumination. A marked departure from the rocky, bluesy TMB sound and the more contemplative, observational music of Ben Narcis is clear.
New band: new dynamic
Live at least, he has seemingly handed over guitar duties to Lulu Senft, which allows him to prowl the stage and get into the crowd at eye level, sizing then up, seeing if he they are getting his message. It’s hard not to be pulled along by his charisma… a bit like your current writer.
I ventured to Ben after one show at the Hot Box that his stagecraft reminded me of Jarvis Cocker. He didn’t seem too keen on that comparison and responded that he is inspired by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. When we spoke last week, he said he was “From the tradition of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Jim Morrison, those sort of people.”
Ben augments the live sound from time to time on keyboards. Matt Gator takes up bass duties, which is a wise choice judging by the sheer funk of ‘Appocalypse’. Check out Ben horsing around in the video below.
Then also watch the incredible ballad ‘First Time’, which is a soulful as it gets and finds Ben waxing lyrical about love.
The Appocalypse heralds new beginnings
Ben told me: “‘Appocalypse’, and the three other tracks that comprise the EP of the same name, was a fresh start after working within the confines of a ruckus rockabilly duo. It felt like the beginnings of really expanding and exploring new sounds, writing methods, and ways to express what I wanted to do. It was written and recorded very quickly, and I think that freewheeling feeling comes across nicely. Listening to the embryonic recording on tinny headphones late at night heading home through central London after the session… it just felt right.”
“The vocalist on ‘First Time’ is my friend Magdalena, who releases music as Mags On Earth. She’s great. That’s literally her singing into her laptop mic, which I then added some reverb to. She caught the feeling head on, just like that.”
Shades of Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki?
‘Appocalypse’ reminded me of a song by Euros Child called ‘Like This? Then Try This’ from 2009. The former Gorky’s Zygotic Mynki frontman lampooned the streaming platforms and all the algorithms and the consumerism. I like to think of the Ben Narcis song as the angrier, more militant cousin.
I think the feeling that we’re all being exploited and used and chewed up by social media in particular and society in general is a pretty common one.Ben Narcis
“Never heard of that one actually. ‘Appocalypse’ started life as a late-night notes app drunken poem. I think the feeling that we’re all being exploited and used and chewed up by social media in particular and society in general is a pretty common one at this moment in time, as no doubt it always was.”
Finally, I asked him about the name change, which was for more profound reasons than simply a new stage persona. “My birthname was Christian Narcis, my adoptive parents rechristened me Ben; it’s a nod to my Romanian heritage.”
Well, it won’t be the end of the world if you don’t make it to the Ben Narcis show on Friday. But you are advised to put yourself on red alert and catch this band as soon as you can.