Singer, guitarist, producer Will Benoit brings acclaimed album Memory Palace in the physical realm with help and love of family, friends.
Will Benoit, (singer/guitarist of Constants and engineer for bands such as Rosetta, Junius, Caspian, Ellie Goulding) is a man with a vision, as evidenced on the album Memory Palace from his project Living Phantoms. The shoegaze-inflected, unpretentious pop-minded effort previously garnered its creator some acclaim in the digital realm and is now set for a 24 November release in the physical domain via Translation Loss.
Buoyed by the irresistible fire and finesse of the track “New Day", the record is the culmination of long hours, nights, days and deep reflection on the part of its creator.
“It took me about two years to put the record together," Benoit says. “I scrapped songs, rewrote others, remixed and rearranged ideas; I ran instruments through tape decks and Radio Shack mixers and all kinds of random '80s gear. I brought in some of my favorite people/musicians (Brandie Doyle, Rob Motes, Daryl Rabidoux, and Jon Hassell) to contribute in an attempt to elevate the songs until I felt like I had a record that I could be proud of."
With such substantial talent accompanying him it may have seemed like a musical slam dunk, but the always-thoughtful Benoit adds, “It was important to me that I didn't have a solo project that merely served my ego. I wanted, and want, to explore sonic territory that is compelling to me, but I also want to travel in different directions, incorporating other voices and emotions. I want Living Phantoms to feel like a mixtape that has been left warping in the sun on your dashboard." He adds, “I want this to be music that is immediate enough to jam to while you're drive but also music that has enough depth and intricacy that you can get completely lost in it when you put on headphones."
The sonic component is undeniably solid but Benoit, a stickler for details, knew that when faced with the challenge of making an appropriately attention-grabbing video for the track “New Day", Benoit, it becomes apparent, is a stickler for details. So, when faced with the task of creating a video to accompany the record's release, he opted for something personal not only in presentation but in spirit as well. The video was shot over a weekend in Orland, Maine. Up to land that spawned Stephen King and confusion over the word Portland with his friends in Graveyard Lover (a band Benoit has handled production duties for on more than one occasion), the musician found himself staying with a good friend's family. (Jason, a young member of the brood, steers the boat in the video.)
“As we get older we don't have as much time to spend sharing long stretches with friends and the people we care about," observes Benoit. “That's basically what the song is about: trying to make the best of life with what you have in front of you, learning to enjoy the process, and not taking any of it for granted." The carpe diem element of the video is enhanced by the director's commitment to the infinitesimal detail as he spent a sleepless night to take in the breathtaking sunrise shot in the clip.
The time seemed right for Benoit to make a solo effort. He recalls that he'd had several conversations with Translation Loss co-owner and Drew Juergens about such a project over the years. Despite his desire to undertake such a project, his confidence sometimes wavered. “I had an instrumental version of the record at one point, but it just didn't feel like an album to me. I was ready just to shelve the songs." His wife, the aforementioned Brandie Doyle, delivered some much-needed moral support that brought the collection of songs to life. Doyle, who'd never committed a note to tape before, became an anchor in the project. “We would stay up late in the studio working on lyrics, melodies, and conceptual direction," Benoit recalls, “without her dedication to the process I'd probably still be working on these songs trying to find the shape and theme."
The feast of friends and family spilled over into other areas. Charged with adding bonus material for the new release, Benoit leaned on pals such as Jon Hassell (Seneca, Constants) and Daryl Rabidoux (the Cancer Conspiracy, Drowningman) and Rob Motes (These Wild Plains, Constants, City of Ships) to complete the process via covers of Peter Gabriel's “Solsbury Hill" and Rush's “Time Stand Still". Both, Benoit adds, fit within the thematic context of the record. “The process of interpreting and recording those songs with old friends was intentionally loose," he says. “Jon hadn't sung in years but did the vocals for 'Solsbury Hill' while his sons watched him. They were in awe. It was a beautiful moment. I actually teared up." Meanwhile, Rabidoux and Motes lent their talents to the Rush piece. “Cover songs can feel kind of contrived or goofy, so we tried to keep the process really natural and whimsical, and I think you can get a sense of that when you hear the final versions," Benoit says.
Living Phantoms' Memory Palace releases 24 November via Translation Loss. The vinyl release comes with a full download of the album, plus five bonus tracks, including the cover of Rush's “Time Stand Still" and Peter Gabriel's “Solsbury Hill." Memory Palace may be ordered here.