Chris Benson has “been in bands playing bass, guitar and steel since 1999,” he says. He’s also known for his namesake tube amplifiers, Benson Amps, which are used worldwide by the likes of Ryan Adams, Colin Meloy and Chris Funk of The Decemberists, Jessica Dobson of Deep Sea Diver, Michael Parker of Pickwick and many more kickass rockers.
Besides playing drums with punk rockers Bombay Beach and providing guitar and vocals for the guitar-forward Molter (which used to be called Supercrow), Benson also has a solo project: Terry Time Brother. The new moniker represents “a shift in musical vision” for Benson as he readies his debut release, Never Alone, due out on Friday, December 15 via Portland’s Holiday Breath Records (and celebrated that same evening at Turn! Turn! Turn!).
“I wrote most of the songs on the record in a few weeks in 2015 and immediately decided I didn’t want them to be recorded with my band,” he tells. “I wanted them to have a folkier, mellower feel instead of the raw guitar rock of Supercrow, and wanted it to sonically sound like it could have been recorded in any one of the last five decades, which meant recording most of it to tape and skipping the weirder delay, synth sounds, Lanois-esque guitar stuff I normally go for. I played all the instruments on it except drums, which were played by Dan Phelps and Jason Oppat, and a steel track played by Lance [Seymour] from Gear Talk.
“It was produced by my friend Kevin Lee Florence. I have a lot of technical engineering ability, but get lost in my own head when recording my own music. Kevin was able to pull me out and help me keep the big picture in mind, and offered a much needed objectivity and creative direction through the whole process—it was a great experience working with him.”
All that said, “This record was challenging to make,” Benson continues. “It actually took two full years, in which time my business exploded and [my] musical tastes shifted.” The drums were recorded “to a cheap Tascam 1/4-inch tape machine,” he says. “After that, Kevin and I started overdubbing and crafting the songs, relying heavily on my Hammond organ and stash of guitars and amps.”
Never Alone is full of softer tunes that hear Benson experimenting in the twangy margins, plus there’s also an upbeat singalong (“Astrovan”) and a crunchy rocker (“Glass Ceilings”) that stand out. Really, it’s all very reminiscent of the myriad stylings of David Bazan, who not only utilizes Benson Amps but can definitely count the craftsman Benson amongst his fans.
The highlight for Benson, though, is “Pick A Winner.”
“It was the first thing I recorded after losing my voice for about six months, with just two mics in my amp shop,” he says. “I wrote it in about five minutes, but it took a while to understand what it meant, which sounds odd, but it’s better than taking a year to write something that you eventually realize means absolutely nothing, which I’ve also done.
“Basically it’s about how when you’re young you kind of see the world as brimming with possibilities, but as you get older you are forced to become a little more realistic with what is actually likely to happen. The song offers glimpses of five different situations where the outcome isn’t necessarily inevitable, but for someone who’s seen enough stuff and understands the historical and human nature-driven forces at work, they can make a pretty good guess at the fates of the characters in the song. So basically, it’s about growing up.”