Interview: Grumble Bee

Following the demise of his former band (PaperPlane) in 2013, vocalist Jack Bennett carried on writing songs without a purpose. With lyrics and melodies being recorded sporadically on his phone, Bennett would channel these ideas to a project that would become known as Grumble Bee. With a skeleton collection of songs, Jack seeked out producer Kris Crummett (Sleeping with Sirens, Dance Gavin Dance, Emarosa, Issues) to add flesh to his songs. After 10 days of recording every instrument and vocal, Grumble Bee’s debut EP, ‘Disconnect’, was complete.

Serving as an emotional release, ‘Disconnect’ is driven by Bennett’s soulful pop melodies that wrap themselves in a comforting alt rock skin. Songs such as ‘Sky Writer’ and ‘H.C.A.D.C’ thrive on Jack’s impassioned lyrics and raspy, towering hooks that makes Grumble Bee’s potential reach cinematic.

With the release of ‘Disconnect’ fast approaching, we reached out to Jack to find out more about Grumble Bee, the EP, how he’s translating the songs to a live setting, working with Kris Crummett, new material and more.

AH: Hi Jack. How are you today?
Jack: Great thanks, hope you’re well too!

AH: Let’s start at the beginning. We hear you used to play in a band called PaperPlane then started Grumble Bee after that group amicably broke up. Am I right saying Grumble Bee started unintentionally?
Jack: Yeah that’s right, I basically just carried on writing anyway and needed to find an output for all the ideas, which sort of became this current solo project, Grumble Bee.

AH: From hearing the EP, you take in various genres and styles. For new listeners, how would you sum up the sound of Grumble Bee?
Jack: I always find this tricky to give my own opinion on what it sounds like – because I just set out to write pop/r’n’b melodies which I hope will reach a wide audience – then apply a more alt/rock structure and instrumentation more typical of that. It’s not a massively conscious thing to do things this way, I just always love to record my melody ideas (usually singing them into my phone) and then applying them to different instruments later.

AH: It seems over the past few months you’ve started building some strong momentum by playing shows with Like Torches and Only Rivals. How have you found transferring the songs from the studio to the stage?
Jack: I love hearing the songs as a full band, which was the weirdest part about translating the songs I’d written, but never heard that way. I find it much harder now, than as part of my previous band, because I tried to write the songs without any bias towards a particular instrument (other than vocals) – which just means I find myself sometimes playing insanely hard/strange timed guitar parts and then ridiculously simple parts another time, as that’s what I felt fit that instrument on the recording. So I’ve basically had to fill out and adapt – some guitar parts especially – to fit along with a three-piece live format. But I enjoy the challenge!

AH: You reached out to producer Kris Crummett to work on the EP. How did you find the experience of working with Kris and what did he add to the songs on ‘Disconnect’?
Jack: I reached out to him because he worked on a lot of my favourite records and I was hoping for his experience to show through on the recordings – as I knew my stuff wasn’t really like a lot of the things he’s worked on previously. My pre-production demo’s were much “heavier/raw” in my opinion, and I think a lot of the pop vibe comes through, purely from some of the production stuff we worked on over there – which I loved! He had loads of expertise in regards to amp circuits and guitar builds, so that was really inspiring to work with/and incorporate in my tracks.

AH: In addition what lessons did you take away from working with Kris?
Kris was great, and gave me maybe more of a challenge than I first expected! I remember playing the most simple acoustic guitar part (just in an odd rhythm), which took forever!! And I know I’m pretty picky with things, especially vocals, but other things I might occasionally let slide as “not the absolute best take” – and I think Kris really pushed that out of me. Definitely a stressful thing, with the best possible results. I loved it!

AH: Did you experience an anxiety by performing every instrument on the EP?
Jack: Not really, as I don’t really think of the songs in instruments, just more “melodies and rhythms”. If I can’t play a part, I’ll just keep practicing and practicing until I can. I know that might seem a bit ridiculous and pretty stubborn (especially if someone can do better than you instantly) – but everyone has to start somewhere, and I’ve found the reward of practicing and refining until something is right, to be the best feeling.

AH: I understand the songs on ‘Disconnect’ have been written for quite some time. Have you been writing new material or is it too early to focus on that?
Jack: Yeah, I’ve recently finished 3 new tracks actually. Though I’ve based these on the single-by-single format, rather than a 2nd full EP at this stage – along with acoustic versions of these tracks as well. I’ve every intention of writing another six at least, before summer-ish time. With the goal of releasing more music in some capacity before the end of this year.

AH: Songs like ‘H.C.A.D.C’ and ‘Sky Writer’ have a strong lyrical rawness. What is influenced by that and how vital is that as an element to Grumble Bee?
Jack: For me personally, I rarely care about the sentiment of my own lyrics at all – or rather how it comes across – as long as it’s passionate. I know a lot of people are precious of their lyrics and even though I think this EP has some of my more vulnerable, straight-forward lyrics, I don’t think it always matters how mine were intended – as listener’s will always find ways to baffle me into the way they’ve interpreted the meaning! So I absolutely love it when people think it’s about a certain thing, a million miles away from what I was going for – but it really doesn’t matter, as that’s the connection they have with the music personally – which is ace!

AH: Does the name ‘Grumble Bee’ relate in anyway to what the songs on ‘Disconnect’ are about?
Jack: The name Grumble Bee is mainly about myself as a person, but in a way it kind of unintentionally does relate to ‘Disconnect’ as it’s my grumpy “Grumble” side of myself coming out. Luckily, I think there’s some really positive undertones in the melodies in some of the songs, especially the chordal structures of the last track on the EP, ‘H.C.A.D.C’.

AH: It’s pretty common place for bands and artists to use social media these days, but you seem more active than some. How important is it to build relationship with fans through Twitter and Facebook etc?
Jack: Great! I’m glad that comes across! I really want to be approachable & not one of those artists/bands who make more of an effort to be a different person on stage, than they are in real life. I try to put everything into everything I do, and connecting with friends/fans online or at shows is one of the biggest reasons to continue to write music in my opinion. I think some people overlook social stuff online a bit, and it’s worrying, because essentially the fans decide your career & they’re the ones who are willing to spend actual money on coming to a show or buying merch/music – usually because you’re making them feel good, which I think is such a cool and humbling thing. I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people supporting my music so far and I’ll keep in contact with everyone I can for as long as it’s physically possibly!

AH: Following the EP you’re heading out on tour with The Dear Hunter. I know you have Callum Connell (drums) and Zach Phelps (bass) joining you as your live band. What can people expect when they to come a Grumble Bee show?
Jack: Well Callum and Zach are much better at Drums and Bass than myself, so it’s great to see my parts flourish in the hands of an actual musician of that particularly instrument! It’s so much fun to play live amd we all share that common love of performance. We always try to create the most honest experience of my music as possible – there’s no directions, or costume changes – just us 3 absolutely thrilled to be able to play our instruments to people who ACTUALLY WANT TO BE THERE! I’m lucky to be in this position and I don’t ever fake that excitement.

AH: Looking further ahead, can we expect to see you hitting up a few UK festivals this summer?
Jack: Absolutely! I’m trying my best to get on a few smaller & unique festivals this year. I’m currently announced for The Great Escape in Brighton on May 19th, as well as a few others but unfortunately can’t announce all of them just yet. I’m definitely looking forward to that season though and basically just building up my touring profile this year overall.

‘Disconnect’ EP by Grumble Bee is released on February 26th.

Grumble Bee links: Facebook|Twitter|Instagram|Online Store

Grumble Bee will be supporting The Dear Hunter in the UK next month:

7th Lantern, Bristol
8th Bleach, Brighton
10th Waterfront Studio, Norwich
11th Deaf Institute, Manchester
12th Electric Circus, Edinburgh
14th The Nordic, Liverpool
15th The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
16th The Dome, London

Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)

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