Creature Benny is the musical persona of critically-acclaimed Los Angeles avant-garde artist Benton Oliver. The singer, songwriter and producer made his debut in early 2020. Since then, the prolific musician has delivered a steady string of experimental Indie Rock singles and EPs, culminating in the full length debut album “Tales Moste Wretched, Vol. 1.”
“Pandemic Madness” is the latest single from Creature Benny, released worldwide to all major streaming services on October 29, 2021. The song and its accompanying video explore the cumulative mental and societal issues caused by the isolation and fear of the worst two years in modern memory. On the track Benny mixes a 50’s Pop composition with a classic Punk aesthetic and modern Lo-fi production style as he sings of the collective ennui wrought by a mad world.
We had the chance to chat with Oliver about the new song, how he got here and where he’s headed. Check out his answers to our 8 questions below. “Pandemic Madness” is paired with an equally thought-provoking video directed by Jeremy Trombetta. Check it out below. You can also hear the song on the Deep Indie Dive playlist, or listen on your favorite streaming service. Follow the links at the end of this article to connect with Creature Benny. Get on his profile and join the madness.
8 Questions with Creature Benny
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Atlanta, GA, spent four years in New Orleans going to school, and have been in Los Angeles, CA for six years now. I have been recording music since 2011 and writing even longer, but the Creature Benny project began in the city of Los Angeles in 2016.
How long have you been making music?
I grew up taking piano lessons from the age of six, though music didn’t feel like a calling at the time so much as just something I did because my parents put me in lessons. I was fine, but did not love to practice. On Christmas Day 2007, my brother put an acoustic guitar in my hands and taught me how to play “Say It Ain’t So” by Weezer, along with the fingering for a few open chords and the shape of a power chord. Armed with that very limited knowledge, I was off to the races, and began writing angsty songs in my bedroom about whatever teenage delights I was facing at the time.
In 2010/2011, a friend of mine from high school began recording rap songs on his laptop, and encouraged me to hop on the track with him. I started singing hooks for him and writing verses of my own. Watching him as we recorded, I learned enough about simple DIY recording to start recording my own songs, and since that time I have recorded and released more than 100 songs across three artist projects and 19 releases.
Who are the musicians involved in your project?
Creature Benny is a solo project. My older brother wrote on, and contributed vocals and bass guitar tracks to several of the songs released in CB Phase I, which came out 9/18/2020-1/15/2021. In general, though, I write music and lyrics, record, program, produce, edit, mix, and master all Creature Benny output. I program all drum tracks, and most bass tracks with MIDI, the same way you would program a rap beat or EDM track that isn’t built from samples. Sometimes I feature friends of mine on the track, but it’s mostly a one-man fever dream.
Who are your biggest musical influences?
In 2017, I read a book called “Our Band Could Be Your Life” by Michael Azerrad and became very active in delving back into punk and proto-punk rock music, starting with 1980s American Hardcore, and devouring everything from The Weirdos to The Dictators to The Stooges to Link Wray.
I also love doo-wop music and the girl group sound Phil Spector had a hand in developing, as well as blues a la Skip James, Lead Belly, and Blind Willie McTell, dark alt folk like Those Poor Bastards and Flat Duo Jets, hip hop like DMX, Pastor Troy, and Young Thug, gospel, alt-metal. Some pop stuff.
I appreciate lyricism and harmonies and cool music theory choices. But, also, powerful simplicity. I like whatever I enjoy with no shame or guilt to my pleasure.
What is your greatest non-musical influence?
I am very interested in the idea that humans, as a species, do not know everything we’ve ever known and we do not remember everything that’s ever happened to us. I am interested in hearing versions of events alternative to the accepted narrative we are expected to accept without question.
I dislike the term “Conspiracy Theory,” because I think it discredits ideas that could very well be true, though they may be outside of the mainstream historical narrative handed down by the victors. For example, the ideas of QAnon and the idea that the government killed MLK are not equally compelling (the latter makes sense, the former does not), but by calling both ideas “Conspiracy Theories,” they are put in the same box.
These are some of the notions that permeate Creature Benny music.
What inspired you to create this project?
Since I came up in Atlanta during the period in which Atlanta hip hop was the biggest thing in the world, hip hop was my main songwriting touchstone when I started out. Plus, the friend who initially inspired me to record music was a rapper, which had me writing verses too, and “authenticity” is key in that context. Absolutely do not be flexing about stuff you don’t do or don’t have, because that’s super wack and lame, and what are you even talking about? Stuff you think other people will think is cool. Nice.
Soon after moving to Los Angeles and embarking on life as a semi-productive, post-college adult, it occurred to me that the most interesting story I had to tell likely was not my own. This realization was huge for me as a songwriter, as it opened up infinite possibilities and gave me license to write songs that told stories I would actually want to hear, rather than songs about my feelings, or romantic love, or whatever other nonsense people write songs about.
This realization coincided with me getting into more and more punk and punk-ish music, which to me, felt like both the music I wanted to be making and a more natural vehicle for the stories I wanted to tell, as compared to the stuff I’d been doing in my solo work. I had also sung in a band called Exotic Pets for two years in New Orleans and that project started off sort of rap-metal/punky before becoming more punky/garage-y, so a progression towards guitar music felt natural.
The project that eventually took shape as Creature Benny was initially conceptualized as a band I was going to form with my older brother. I would be on guitar, he would be on bass, and both of us would sing. When it came down to it, though, I was more invested in the idea than he was, and my brother was honorably discharged with no hard feelings whatsoever. Thus, “Creature Benny” was hatched. Like a lizard.
What are your plans for the future (musically)?
From 2016 to 2019, I wrote and mostly recorded/produced about 40 Creature Benny songs and have added to this number over the past two years. So far, 12 of those songs have been released, along with an instrumental intro and interlude, as well as two covers and two bonus tracks. And now, the “Pandemic Madness” single + B-side re-worked cover song “The Shape of Things.”
The plan going forward is to continue to finalize and release that music across 10 EPs and two albums. Five EPs and one album should come out in 2022, and five more EPs and another album will follow in 2023. And, after all of that has happened, we’ll see where I’m at.
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Kowabunga mane get weird. Watch the “Pandemic Madness” video. Mind your own business and be cool to people.