Artist Interview: Benjamin Lieber of Marigold
Posted: by The Editor
What’s immediately made clear upon talking to Marigold’s Benjamin Lieber is that he’s a man with a vision. His band’s just released their third LP, A Better Place, on the titanic indie label Take This to Heart, and it’s obvious that he’s crafting something larger than just a record. It’s a whole world he’s trying to build; when he explains it to me over the phone on a sweltering Thursday evening, I joke that it’s the Marigold Cinematic Universe. “I like that a lot,” he tells me. He had previously been forthcoming enough as to dive deep into the writing of A Better Place for me, and over the course of an hour, he dove even deeper into the world–and the feelings–he and the other three members of Marigold invite listeners into on the new album. Read that below.
How have you been throughout the pandemic? How have you been keeping sane?
We made this album project. I mean, working on making this album and the world around it has been the centerpiece of my focus for the past two years of experience. Once we realized what we were kind of doing, it became the best distraction. I’ve been so busy working that I don’t want to say, like, I blocked it all out, but it’s been a really great thing to have going because it’s been like a reason to get up in the morning and keep doing the next thing.
That makes sense that’s great to hear, and I know you talked you’ve talked a little bit about that you know in previous materials and that’s like I said that’s how I like to start these kinds of things. This record, A Better Place, is the first record that Marigold has recorded as a full band right?
These guys came into my life at the same time this pandemic was happening and inspiring me so much and it just was like, “Okay, this is something we all need to like just do together.” Literally, we never played music in a room with each other. The bass player, Matt, I physically met him in person for the first time that day we went into the studio to record the album. It worked out so well, though. We have such great chemistry, and it gave us the opportunity, because it was so fresh, to form the identity of the band through that experience, through that initial studio experience, because we hadn’t like set that identity ahead of time through like playing.
Is this going to be a sort of new phase for Marigold?
Yeah, it’s gonna be a team effort. You know I love those formative pieces of music that I did years ago, because they were a lot of self discovery for me, but I listened back to them in comparison to this, and I can hear and feel the difference that collaboration makes and other people’s thoughts and efforts and just like multiple brains working towards the same goal. And the four of us definitely realize that and don’t want to give it up so we’re we’re just like so stoked to have found each other, and we just want to keep that moving.
This is also your first on Take This to Heart, no? How’d that come to be?
Me and Joe, we’ve had great relationship for a long time. I‘ve worked with him and his clients a lot over the past, so we we’ve always had like a really good working relationship and I liked how personable he was. He was very, very hands on, very involved. That was really appealing to me. You know, when we were trying to figure out like where to put this record, when we were like looking for labels, he was the most like enthusiastic about the art that we made. I also had my fun with other aspects of expanding the universe of it and Joe was so encouraging of that, of the record as a universe.
And that’s something that’s been really interesting to me is the way that, like the videos all sort of tie together the record itself has all of these callbacks, “Ginger Chew and “ORANGEBLUE.” I guess the thing that that that i’m curious about is the sort of like how did you go about crafting this, building this entire universe?
It‘s basically just been a compounding interest for the past two years, starting with like one one great idea that just has snowballed from there, this theme of “ORANGEBLUE” and what it represents in terms of the context for the album and everything that I’ve touched on. Once I found that and like realized what that could represent I just saw it in so many different ways. Lyrically I am so visual and vice versa, and so I think once I stumbled on that concept I just started like seeing, like, all these things that could be possibilities of like ways to catalyze what I’m talking about it, or to show it in a comedic way or anything. We started explore different things as we’re like, “Oh, maybe we should do a video for this song, what could have been” and I’m digging into the lyrics. In addition, I have that initial thing and then come, like several months later, when I got towards the end of writing, and “A Better Place” was like the last song that I wrote, and it was very quick, maybe a day or two. It kind of just fell out of me, and once I found that phrasing and those lines, it just summed it all up, and it was like this destination, which again is so visual.
Something you’ve talked about a bit pre-release is the influence of ’70s music – you’ve referenced Springsteen, Petty, Fleetwood Mac – and then the videos are meant to emulate ’70s TV or movies. You also have that line that recurs through the LP: “Dreaming of the ’70s.” What role does nostalgia play in the arc of the record? And nostalgia for ’70s specifically?
I mean it is kind of a surface level aspect of it. Anybody who takes one second to have a look at anything visual I’ve ever made can tell that I am like obsessed with vintage shit, so it’s just a passion of mine, stuff that looks old. So that’s like the kind of most basic version of it but I think it also kind of became such a thing for me when writing the album in a way because I feel like there are several points to the record, where I touch on different ways that people in general find or imagine or wish – I think a lot of times, especially in pop culture now, we’re seeing such a mix of styles and cultures and eras and it’s so typical now to see – I am guilty as charged of this intentionally trying to look like, sound like, feel like you’re in different era than you are – I think that really speaks volumes. Maybe there’s something about this current era that’s not doing it for you.
I’m curious, then – would you say that nostalgia helps you get to the better place or keeps you out of it?
I think that rather than one or the other, it’s different for everybody. You need to do to find that for yourself it’s okay to do that, like it’s okay to imagine yourself in a different era, and it’s okay to picture yourself in a different place or environment or time than you currently are if your current one is not doing it for whatever reason. I think that’s more so the point: it’s okay to want something else, to want something better, and you deserve to go get it!
You’ve talked before about the way that A Better Place was laid out very intentionally. The title track is the closer and “Apple Cheeks” is the epilogue and “Ginger Chew” is the centerpiece. You’ve also said “ORANGEBLUE” is the song that really sparked the whole LP, so I’m curious why you decided to open with “Waiting on Me” into “ORANGEBLUE.” What’s the place of “Waiting on Me” in the narrative of the record?
It opens with you right in the thick of it, yeah. I think that there’s a couple things that went into that decision: one was just that musically I wanted to start the album with a rock and roll song. That kind of went into it, but separate from that conceptually, “Waiting on Me,” obviously exists in the storyline. So we’re in the thick of it and we’re at like a decision point. But it also stands as a precursor. It’s, to me – it’s basically, at least from my perspective, me asking myself if I’m ready to take this, this next step into this thing that might not work out. I think that, especially in regards to the context in the pandemic and how that all went down – essentially my my partner Kelsey and I had just started seeing each other months like two months before and I’m excited we’re both living in Brooklyn now living together and then shit hit the fan, and it was like within this very fast timeframe of us starting a relationship deciding we’re going to go move in and I’m going to meet her parents for the first time and I’m going to live in their living room space. So it was just a lot and we both were like leaving New York. New York was terrifying. We were just like diving into this relationship at first, and it was like so overwhelming, so you know that song kind of like opens the door.
What do you hope your ideal listener gets out of A Better Place?
If there is an actionable take-home for them, with nothing to do with me, I hope that it makes anyone who feels like their experience through this pandemic was an uniquely hard experience that it’s valid and probably was! Also, everyone else’s was, and we all have that same feeling. It doesn’t invalidate yours, but it should help you feel like you’re less alone or like it was uniquely hard and that you were alone on this earth. It should feel unifying, I think, and secondly motivating. To me there’s a huge motivation. You can, you know, envision a better life for yourself, something different, if you want it and it’s okay to go get it and you don’t need to ask anyone’s permission. Just go get it now! So I hope it motivates in that regard as well. If there was anything in regards to mw specifically I just hope – I would love it if anyone cared and explored all of the different aspects of everything that we’ve created watch the videos, the art and all that stuff. I had so much fun building this world. I never got to do it to this extent.
Now that Marigold’s gone through these changes and it’s not just you, how do you think Benjamin circa 2016 writing that first record would feel if you played him A Better Place?
My younger self would be really impressed but also confused.
What else do you have planned for the rest of 2022?
We’re hoping for a big fall tour, so we can get the record all around the country and to as many people as we can. We wanna keep rockin’ and rollin’. I think that now that like we’re going to shift. Okay, the album’s out and we have an opportunity now for people to like experience it in its full context. I think it’s a different approach. Join us now that this thing exists, and you can be a part of it if you want so that’s really exciting to me. I want to play as many shows as humanly possible. Can I ask you something?
What is your take on “Waiting Around”?
I love that one. First off, you know, I love the Hotelier, so that “Housebroken” connection, I love it. But then I appreciate that, for as much as this is a very optimistic album, there’s – I appreciate that you allow some time to process that anger – righteous anger, I’d say.
That was kind of the part that everyone is feeling. Yeah. It started out being just about me and my experience like every other song, like the whole album in general. But then the more that I developed that song I was talking about people who had it way worse. And that is way more important, and you know, I think that that’s a huge part of what made this whole experience so hard. What is my little problem compared to the nurse that had to watch 100 people die this morning? There’s a video for that song that we literally took – the past eight months we’ve been working on it. We wanted it as transparent and authentic as possible. It highlights two different artists that live in New York and basically kind of documents their experience through their mediums of art of the past two years, and I‘m really proud of how it came out, and I can’t wait to like share it with everyone. It’s so different than the other videos
Fair to assume every song gets a video?
Yes, yeah, an I am excited. It was big big project but it all turned out really great, and I think that it’ll be even cooler. It’ll be cool to further this universe.
A Better Place is out now on Take This to Heart Records.
Zac Djamoos | @gr8whitebison
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