Ben Lee Live In Studio

When Ben Lee’s Awake is the New Sleep first landed, people couldn’t get enough of the catchy pop tune “Catch My Disease”. With hand-clapping and guitar strums that call out like summer, Lee sang “and that’s the way I like it” with a carefree attitude that had the song stuck in listeners’ heads for days. But now with his eighth album under his belt, Deeper Into Dream, Lee is delving out of the summer sunlight and into the dark abyss of dreams. “At the time I made Deeper Into Dream, it felt scary,” he said. “It felt like I was moving away from essentially a pop medium… I wasn’t used to it. But you learn that you can do it.”

Lee started off his in-studio performance with the title track “Deeper Into Dream,” a song that captures what this new album is about. “Every night we create a whole new world in our minds,” Lee later said. “It humbles us and connects us.” Sure enough, the farther along into the track he got, the more clear his words became. A steady synth beat slid out with occasional surf rock styled riffs glimmering on the surface, never taking the spotlight. Lee’s vocals came off muffled, allowing the listener to get pulled into this new dream-like sound.

Some fans may be confused as to why he’s letting his style change, but for Lee, it’s because he believes music is “a lot more in control of the process of unfolding than the musicians are.” If a layered realm of acoustic tones and electronic snippets need to merge, then he will be the outlet. “When Alexander Bill submitted the patent for the telephone, six days later on the other side of the world someone submitted a patent for a telephone, meaning the telephone as an idea was ready to arrive,” he said. “I feel like that with creativity – that the creativity itself is controlling the process of how things come out… and we don’t know why we’re doing it.”

Lee then played “Lean Into It,” another track that held an entrancing power over the listener. It started off with various people recalling their dreams, each clip woven over the other as if you were passing by all of the conversations on the street. It was fascinating and engaging, like you’re being let in on this big secret. After all, that’s what dreams are. “It’s meant to be the nightmare of honesty with yourself,” he said, “where you’re actually honest with yourself and it breaks your heart because you’ve been trying to hide from the truth about yourself. There’s beauty in that. It’s like the agony and ecstasy of being born.”

He ended his performance with “Faster Side of Normal,” strumming solo in the studio except for the electronic drumbeat held by his computer. The track is off It Was Never About the Audience, an album one of his bands, Noise Addict, released for free online in 2009. The casual guitar was much closer to his older albums than Deeper Into Dream, serving well as a juxtaposition of old to new, safe to daring, and structured to loose. “There are times to be stuck and there are times to change,” he said. “You can’t change just ‘cause you want to; it has to happen to you.”

Even with the new change in sound, there are some things Ben Lee feels the same about. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t even have to play music so I could sit there at a show because it’s really just about being together,” he said. Dreams are barely anything unless we’re able to discuss them with our friends, to try and analyze all the ways we’re confronting ourselves through semi-unconscious means. Music isn’t too different from that. “I think we do this roleplaying exercise where ‘I’m going to perform and you’re going to listen,’ but really we’re just in each other’s company,” he said. “And that, I think, is the real mystery of it.”

By Nina Corcoran

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