Congratulations on the release of Shut Up Samuel, how does it feel?
It feels good! People seem to like this one! It’s had a few radio plays here and there too, including Mr Robinson’s 6 Music show [the BBC Introducing Mixtape]. We recorded it as a special version of another new song when we realised that the original was unlikely to get played anywhere.
It’s a radio friendly version of “F**k Off Philip”, what’s the story behind this song?
I couldn’t possibly say. Philip might sue us or something.
Tell us about Hens Bens how did it come into being?
HENS BENS started as a one-man band at the end of 2021, with some music on Bandcamp and a vague plan to play some gigs eventually. About a year later Paul and Samuel were recruited and the three-piece ‘proper version’ of HENS BENS was born.
The idea so far has been to remain as independent as possible. We engineer, record and release everything by ourselves, which means we can continue to sound exactly how we want. Our live shows are kind of unconventional too. Lots of props. My current favourite on-stage game is to see how many bananas I can eat during one particular song. There are also costume changes, power tools, confetti, AI-generated crowd banter and other nonsense.
What were your influences starting out?
I always loved bands who sat in the middle of “loud” and “not serious” — Devo, Polysics, Guitar Wolf, Sparks, The Flaming Lips, that kind of stuff. I’ve always been turned off by earnest bands. Do you think Bonio from U2 (or whatever his name is) means every word of every song he sings every night? Nah, he’s trapped. That’s why he has to play in that massive LED dome thing now – he’s terrified someone will make eye contact with him. Our songs are mostly nonsense, but it’s nonsense that we firmly believe in.
You have an EP which is a collection of your 2023 releases and B-Sides what were the writing sessions for that like?
Sometimes I’ll have a lyric or an instrumental part kicking around for a while before I find a use for it, but normally we work quite quickly. What starts off as a rough demo often accidentally ends up as a finished recording within a few days. We’re old! We have jobs and families and things! If we took our time we’d never get anything done.
What’s your favourite song from it?
F*$^ Off Philip is the most recent one, so it has that shiny newness about it. It’s also probably our best-sounding recording. Weird A.I. Yankovic is lots of fun to play live.
That track, Weird A.l. Yankovic, is an ode of sorts to the man of many cover versions, what’s your favourite by him?
Dare To Be Stupid is so close to sounding like the real Devo that it might as well be. I’m not sure if it was made with malice or affection, but I love that one.
You led a campaign to support Devo with a song of the same name, is this still an ongoing dream? If you could, who else would you like to support?
We saw Devo in 2007 and thought that would be the last time they ever came over here. Then this year they announced a farewell world tour, including a few UK dates. Within about four hours of the announcement we had written, recorded and released a song called “Please Can HENS BENS Support Devo” explaining why it was crucial that we were the opening act in Edinburgh. We sent it to the band’s members, their management, the show’s promoter and some other people close to the band.
We also held a “Devo Support Simulation” where we played with the amazing tribute band “We Are Not Devo” for some of their tour dates.
We got close! At least some of the band liked us and were in favour of us doing it, but they’re a band who rarely have support acts and ultimately it was not to be. Upon learning this we recorded a sad piano version of the song called “Did Not Get To Support Devo”.
As for who else we’d like to support, we’re supporting legendary Japanese band Guitar Wolf later this month! They’ve been my heroes since I was a teenager so this gig really is “dreams coming true” type stuff. We didn’t even have to write a song.
What are you listening to at the moment?
About once a year I become obsessed with 90s Bowie. I’m in one of those phases just now.
What’s next for you?
Next year, Devo will support US.