Though he may not be, by any means, a household name (even in the most indie of household) Ben Parker is a man whose output is regularly met with cries of adulatory terms like ‘genius’ and ‘lyrical ninja’. In his current guise as Superman Revenge Squad he has self-released three albums of wonderfully self deprecating anti-folk which perfectly captures the discontent and frustration bubbling beneath the surface of contemporary Britain. This essence is more acutely presented only by his former band Nosferatu D2 (with his brother Adam), who despite having now split up recently had their debut album ‘We’re Gonna Walk Around This City With Our Headphones On To Block Out The Noise’ see a retrospective release through specifically formed new label Audi Antihero. Not surprisingly it has captured the affections of a whole slew of music lovers, with it’s bleak witty lyrics and sharp interplay of pulverising drums and frantic guitars. I caught up with Ben to hear a bit about both of these projects.
How do you feel about the overwhelmingly positive reaction to the Nosferatu D2 album so far?
It’s really nice. I wish there was more of it when the band was still going though!
The album has been out for a few months now, a lot of people just discovering you guys will be wondering why it came to an end?
It just reached a point where we were both not enjoying it as much. And we always said that as soon as we stop enjoying it we should call it a day. And I think I brought in a new song called Idiot Food to play and Adam didn’t like it too much so I created Superman Revenge Squad to play it instead. We played the gig with Los Campesinos! Which I think we thought would be really good as it was a bigger gig than we were used to. And it was okay, but we really didn’t enjoy it that much. Then we started getting offered a load of gigs after that, and we talked to each other about it and thought “what’s the point?“ and decided to call it a day.
Do you think you might you consider returning to it one day?
No. I honestly can’t imagine us going back to Nosferatu D2 - Adam occasionally plays drums with Superman Revenge Squad - he’s probably gonna play on one of the new songs I’m recording soon - but I don’t think we’ll ever re-visit the old ND2 songs. Jamie that started the label asked if we’d play a launch night for the album, but… no - it would be too weird, learning songs we played years ago; I kind of feel like we‘re different people now in a way.
Before Audio Antihero approached you was it just the case that that recorded material was going to stay unreleased? How did they come to be involved?
Before the band split up we were going to release the album through another label, but we didn’t see the point after we stopped existing. Then, years later, Jamie contacted us and asked if he could release it, and we didn’t have any objections. I was perhaps a bit concerned that he’d lose a load of money if he pressed up a load that didn’t sell. But I guess the artwork already existed, as we had it ready for release previously, and the recordings already existed, so the only work the new label had to do was press the things.
A lot of press about the album cites the lyrics as being very important to it’s appeal. How important are they to you? Also they seem relatively confessional, in a stream of conscious kinda way, do you ever censor yourself?
Well, I used to get a bit annoyed when we did gigs and no-one could make out any of the lyrics! So, yeah, I like to think they are an important element to the music… I don’t know if I really consciously censor myself, but then I don’t know if the writing’s really as spontaneously written as you suggest: that suggests to me that the whole song will be written off the cuff in one go, but I tend to write in stops and starts and to chew over the words until the right ones come along quite a bit.
Do you have to be in a specific kind of mood to write lyrics like you do? What is it that most often inspires you?
I don’t know really. The initial lyrics to songs tend to just arrive, without too much prompting, which is the hard bit - then fleshing them outcomes quite naturally. Maybe I spend a lot of time thinking about stuff and sometimes I store the mildly interesting stuff into a bit of my brain to use later for writing. Or something.
They are generally quite cynical the lyrics, do you ever feel compelled to try and write some more optimistic stuff or does it not interest you as much?
I just write whatever comes. So, maybe I’m just a bit more interested in the cynical stuff.
Musically at least ND2 is quite different to your solo stuff. Do you consider yourself to be part of any kind of musical scene?
We played with some bands that I felt some kind of affinity with, if not really musically then at least in terms of the independent state of minds that we approached music, bands like the Sailplanes and Pocus Whiteface and Pockets and Jack Mountain, but I wouldn’t say we were a scene, just a bunch of bands that got on together to a point and that didn’t necessarily like lots of other bands that seemed to play.
You’ve self released all of the superman revenge squad albums so far. Would you say you feel a particularly strong affinity with diy ethics?
I release the stuff myself because I can I guess - and it means I can sell CDs as soon as I record them, rather than waiting for some record label to decide they want to release or, or don’t want to… I can document stuff and then move on… I do tend to admire people that have to adopt a DIY ethic more than those that don’t I suppose, if only because it shows more of a creative need or something.
Your albums are also crazy cheap, do you think that cost is a big part of people not buying physical music so much now?
I thought about what I’d want to spend on a CD by a band I hadn’t really heard before at a gig and decided that £2.50 was less than the price of a pint these days so that would definitely be reasonable.
The early Superman Revenge Squad songs are very sparse, but you’ve added cello on the latest one, do you hope to keep fleshing it out a bit more?
I’m enjoying adding a bit more colour to the songs, as they used to be pretty sparse, as you say. I’m happy with the line-up as it is at the moment though, with guitar and cello and my vocals. Seems to offer enough.
You’ve got a new ep out soon right? Can you tell us anything more about that?
It’s gonna be called Dead Crow Blues and is all about time passing and death - it was inspired by me finding a dead crow at the end of my road one night walking home and this inspiring thoughts of dying, which in turn lead to the idea that sometimes it’s nice to think about death because then all of your other worries don’t seem so bad. So, in a round-a-bout way, it’s kind of positive. Maybe. We’ve got 8 songs written and we have to record them soon and decide what ones will go on the EP, which hopefully smalltown america are going to release. I want to put some piano on one or two of the tracks, maybe get my brother on drums on one song.
What other plans do you have for the year ahead?
After recording this, I’ll play some gigs around and then think about writing the next batch of songs… I’ve also started playing electric guitar with another band recently, which I’ve been enjoying, so we’ll be playing some gigs soon and recording - I’ve written a couple of songs for them but they’re quite different to SRS. I’m also writing a graphic novel called the dead crow blues that I’m pestering Dave Broadbent (that did the artwork for the ND2 album and the upcoming SRS EP) to do the artwork for.
Nosferatu D2 Myspace
Superman Revenge Squad Myspace