After Paragons, their 2021 debut on Sacred Bones Records, Constant Smiles close out the Divine Cycle trilogy with today’s release of new album Kenneth Anger. The prolific collective (led by primary singer/songwriter Ben Jones) have taken inspiration from the eponymous filmmaker and delivered a record of synth-based pop songs that was engineered by Jonathan Schenke and curdled by Ben Greenberg. Following 2017’s Divine and 2019’s breakthrough John Waters, Kenneth Anger feels warmer and more upbeat than its predecessors with standout songs like “In My Heart” and “Gold Like Water” although they contain some of Jones’s most heartfelt and vulnerable lyrics to date.
We were able to catch up with Ben just as the band were getting ready to start a US tour which begins with a release show on Friday 3rd at Union Pool in Brooklyn, NY
Hi Ben! How’s everything going right now?
Pretty good! Firing on all cylinders at the moment getting ready for this tour and the record release. How are you?
What classic album cover is your current mood?
Well I will have to say Felt’s – Forever Breathes the Lonely Word because that is the inspiration for the cover art for our new record.
Your new LP “Kenneth Anger” is out this week. When and where did you write and record the album?
We wrote and recorded this record in my home studio (The Void) over the course of 2021/22. Ryan Jewell recorded drums at his home studio and then I took all the tracks to Studio Windows with Jonathan Schenke and we mixed it all.
It’s named after the experimental American filmmaker. Did his films inspire the songwriting process or did it seem like an appropriate album title after you had recorded it?
A little bit of both! When I started making a synth record, his films popped into my head because I had always heard a kind of Vangelis type synth score for his films. So I would then watch his films while playing.
If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
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You’re known for your prolific output – your Bandcamp page is full of albums and live performances. How do you feel you’ve changed as a songwriter and musician since your early records?
Hopefully I have only gotten better but it’s hard for me to say! I think I have gotten more comfortable with expressing myself. More comfortable with my singing voice. And more able to let the idea flow and be able to catch the feeling and put it down without judgement.
You are the one constant in an ever-changing collective of musicians. How do you decide who will be part of a record/tour?
For the records it is based on whose sound I think would fit on any particular song. And also friends who I love to stay in touch with and collaborate with. My best friend and bandmate Jai is a synth master so naturally while making a synth record, I had to get him involved because he’s a genius. And so on for each person on the record.
Live is a similar story but also I really love to have songwriters to play with, so we could maybe play one of their songs!
You’re just starting a 15 date tour which includes SXSW. With so much material to pick from, how do you decide what goes on your setlists for each tour?
I don’t love playing live so to make it fun, productive and feel like we are still progressing, we are trying to work on a new record while getting ready for this tour. We are playing a bunch of new songs. I have a hard time going backwards. I want to always be progressing forward. I have always liked the idea of playing songs live that will never be played again and maybe never even recorded. Just this thing that makes each show a little more special. But we are playing some older stuff too!
What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
Haha I love this because while I was making the record I got really into making wacky pizzas! I made an almond butter base pie with blue cheese and honey! I also made a blueberry and asparagus pie and an eggs benny pie!
What do you have planned for the rest of 2023?
Hopefully finish our new record!
Featured Image Credit – Ebru Yildiz