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Ben Woods on ‘Dispeller’

23 July 2022
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Known for his beautiful and haunting sound, here Lyttelton musician Ben Woods discusses his latest album, Dispeller. Words Hannah Powell

Wrapped up in a beanie and a coat, Ben Woods video calls from his studio. A self-described “hovel” in a local’s backyard, this is where the magic begins.

Surveying the land from a window out to port, he says a day in the studio is filled with producing, playing the guitar, or faffing about.

For him, there are two zones: creative and clinical.

“I feel like there are two kinds of ways I can use my time here,” he says.

“You can do writing and something could just pour out of you. But I feel like you can’t really control when you’re in that mood, or whenever you’re in that flow state.”

“If I’m not doing that, then often I would just be trying to produce…getting in more of a scientific kind of mind frame where you’re just fine tuning things and trying to get things perfect.”

His new album, Dispeller, is considered to be just that.

Released on July 15 featuring nine tracks on being human, the album captures Ben’s melodious song writing and attraction to interesting sound. He says he is drawn to noise others can’t quite put a finger on.

“I like music that you can listen to and it immediately stays in your brain or just resonates…you can be wondering what things are, but you can still feel warmed by [the] song writing [through it].”

Featuring the bubbling of machines, the twinkling of keys, and unusual distortion, Ben worked with fellow Lyttelton producer Ben Edwards (Aldous Harding, Marlon Williams), recording Dispeller within a year. Collaborating on three tracks with Charlotte Forrester (Womb), Lucy Hunter (Opposite Sex/Wet Specimen) and Marlon Williams, vocals are fragile, sweet, and disparate. Recorded in a home studio, the rattling of life passing by can be heard in each song.

“[Ben and I] just experimented…[we] just laid down the basic things that can hold it altogether, like drums, and guitar, and bass…then just spent a lot of time just throwing different textures around,” he says.

“Coming back the next day, [we’d] be like, ‘was that alright?’, hoping for the best.”

Ben’s trick seemed to be to not overthink. Filling up notebooks quickly with lyrics and chords, he would then throw things at the wall, seeing what would stick.

Dispeller isn’t the only one that did. He tells me another album has already been written. He’s just gathering the people and resources to go and record it.

Talking about people, Ben says that community is one of the things he likes most about Lyttelton. A creative hub over the hill in Ōtautahi Christchurch, Lyttelton hasn’t only raised Ben but the likes of Aldous Harding and Marlon Williams too.

If he’s not making coffee at Lyttelton Coffee Co or bar Civil and Naval, he’s putting in the hours at his ‘hovel’. Or, catch him walking around the bays. It’s his favourite thing to do.

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