PropertyOfZack had the chance just last week to do a very in-depth interview with Ben Liebsch of You, Me & Everyone We Know. It’s been a long time since fans have truly heard from Ben, so we thought it’d be a great idea to catch up. Ben and I discussed what he has been up to since March, getting clean, stepping away from music, his future in music, and so much more. Read up, it’s incredibly informative!
The You, Me & Everyone We Know fans last knew fizzled out around April, and since then you’ve been very quiet. Fans who follow your Tumblr may know what you’ve been up to, but can you fill in those who have not been caught up to speed?
Believe it or not, I am happy to say that I haven’t had a drink in six months, which is something that I haven’t been able to say for about nine years. That’s been pretty interesting for me. That’s kind of it. I saw a counselor for a little while to help me with that and some of my other issues that I’ve written quite extensively about. I’ve kind of got this new lease on life. I’m not saying I found God or anything, or that I’m not crazy. I’m just alright right now, whereas before, everything in my life was kind of one big coping mechanism. I look back on the things I’ve written for the band and how a lot of the stuff is really “feel good,” but how truly depressing and sad as shit I was in order to write 90% of that music. That’s a weird thing to consider going back to.
Would you say that mentally and physically you’re in a much more content place then you were five months ago? Not even in regards to the band or music, but just for yourself.
Absolutely. It’s an interesting thing; I wandered to this world without ever feeling that I was good at anything. I didn’t have a goal or anything, and suddenly some distant friends of mine came into my life and told me to do this because I was good at it. I was really hesitant about singing for a band, but apparently it was something that I was good at. I worked really hard at it, and it was interesting to see the only thing I was ever really good at get so messed up because of my actions and a world of reasons. I’m much more content though. I’ve made it a point in the last five years to never discuss internal band situations other than my own just because it’s been my policy. This is the second I’ve lost my band. The first time was due to the mistakes of others, and the second time was entirely my fault. Most people don’t know about the first time or didn’t really hear about it. This is the first time that it happened for most people who liked the band. To answer your question, I’m much more content now. It’s a happier life.
And how has it been just stepping away cold turkey from music?
I’ve never been that Type A singer guy. To be honest, the dream of touring is staying on tour. You imagine bands staying on tour, getting fucked up, and sleeping around. That’s all stuff that I’ve done, but the reality is that for most of this band’s existence, I’ve toured and then come home to work a job for a few months. It’s never been just a year or two of touring. In 2009, just when things were starting to pick up, everybody quit for reasons unnamed that I won’t get into. I was moving to Portland because I was under the impression that the band was done at that point. I looked for work, and didn’t find any. Then it looked as if I was going to continue with the band after a few personal revelations about what the band was and how it mattered to people. So I committed to pushing through. I found a job though and now I work. It hasn’t been coming home and jamming for a month while I’m at home.
POZ: Fans obviously don’t always see it that way.
Ben: Musicians don’t even look at it that way. Bands who aren’t on tour full time see touring full time as this goal. To me, touring more than you’re not touring is winning [Laughs]. But what are you going to do that other half of the year? You have to make money and work. I know it sounds ironic considering I stole money from my band to hide my drinking problem from everybody, but I worked for many years in order to make this band succeed.
Has it been an adjustment, or are you just used to it at this point?
I was always looking for work, but keeping the band going was work as well. We only had one tour with a tour manager throughout the five years that the band was around. We had one tour with a merch guy as well. All before that, it was me coordinating everything doing a very shitty job. I’m not an accountant, but nobody else was stepping up to do it at any point in time. Somebody had to do it. I don’t know, man. I’ve kind of always gone with the river.
Just by following your blog posts, it seems that you are really giving all you have to your job just in terms of the shifts you volunteer for. I could be completely off, but is going to the greatest extent of your ability with this job a way for you to ensure you can do it in the future with music again?
I’ve got a good work ethic. I throw myself into whatever my job is. You’re supposed to work hard [Laughs]. In order to succeed in life, you’ve got to work hard. Working hard whether it be in a band or a job is important. It’s not necessarily to ensure that I’ll do music again full time in the future. To be truthful, touring full time is probably never going to happen for this band again. I’m not particularly interested in putting in the work that that would require to do again. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but me touring more than I’m not touring…I just don’t see me mentally being able to pick up all of the pieces once more to do it again. Recording Some Things Don’t Wash Out was a last-ditch effort for me. Mentally, I said that I’d record the record. I got it done and after that I was just mentally done. I needed somebody else to take the helm. I spent a long time working at it and I was out of gas. I guess that’s part of the reason that things got so bad for me in the last year and a half. I was just done. Explaining why gets into a lot of inter-band things. I don’t care about succeeding commercially, or becoming a bigger band. It’s just not something that I really care about. It’s fine to see that my problems are helping other people through theirs, which is the only reason I’ve continued this so far. That’s the reason I kept going in 2009. I’m going to keep writing music, and we’ll see where it goes, but I’m not making definitive plans for the future one way or another.
You’re playing a show next Tuesday, but there’s no point on a map you have in front of you in which you hope to hop back into the musical side?
I’m playing a show on Tuesday because JB from Bright And Early asked me too and because Squid The Whale are really cool guys. I’m going to play the show. Screw it. Why not? This is my band and it’s been my band. My biggest mistake in the course of this was not accepting that it’s my band. This is my ship and I’m the captain of it. I had a conversation just after Ryan, my original guitarist, left the band for a second time and it was real tough to see him and Aaron go. He had this conversation with me where he told me that I needed to accept that it was my band and that I needed to steer the course of it.
POZ: So are you doing that now?
Ben: Well, I thought I had been through the recording process and releasing the record. I think I was steering the ship up until the record was done being recorded. Once the paperwork had been signed with Doghouse I think I just mentally starting detaching for a number of reasons. I always look back on that conversation when people tell me that it’s not the same band. It’s never been the same band. I’ve had new people floating in and out of this band for five years. It’s one of the main reasons we weren’t signed sooner. It just seemed too volatile. Once I got everybody else’s shit together I fell apart. There’s no road map or anything though.
So many statements went back and forth between you and the rest of the ex-band members once the split was announced, and fans reacted to it in endlessly different ways. Do you regret the public trade off of statements?
It’s tough to comment on. It hashed out enough. When everything occurred, I said what I felt. I tired to take responsibility for my actions. Not that anybody gives a shit about my tiny little bit in the broad perspective of things, but I think people have heard enough. I don’t care to really comment on other people’s reactions. You can’t control any of that. You have to accept that you can’t control some things.
That being said, do you think the end of the band may have been the only way things could have gone in order for you to be able to help yourself through everything?
Absolutely. A very interesting thing happened. There was a really crazy incident that led to all of this, and I do believe that it all had to happen. There was a day in March or April where we were supposed to set up a new bank account and close the old one and that just didn’t happen for a couple of reasons. Had that happened that day, nobody would have ever found out about any of this. Maybe one or two guys would have worried or something, but there never would have been any concrete evidence. Odds are that I would have taken a little break from drinking for a month or two weeks, or maybe it would have happened like the last night I drank in Los Angeles. I went up to someone and told them I was having a hard time not drinking, and the response was, “I don’t think one drink’s going to hurt you, man.” It would have just been a repeat of my life up until now. When you look back at your life, it’s amazing to see how many things have had to happen in order for you to be where you are.
In regards to music… Have you had time to work on anything new considering you have a busy work schedule?
I work full time and I read a lot. I’m working on stuff though. It was tough for me to get a hold of a guitar for a little while. I borrowed one from Trevor, the guy who recorded Party For The Grown And Sexy. Man, what a CD name [Laughs]. He recorded Some Things Don’t Wash Out too. I’ve been working with that. I have a lot of ideas and choruses and sections of verses. I’m not a very vast writer. Two-thirds of Some Things Don’t Wash Out took my years to put together. I’m not very fast. I’m just not a very proficient musician. I used to be pretty good at guitar, but I was told I needed to get better at singing, so I threw myself into that and left the guitar alone outside of when I needed it. I have stuff. I don’t care about releasing music to prove anything to anyone though. I needed to prove getting out Some Things Don’t Wash Out to myself, but beyond that, I was content with whatever happened, which I guess was part of the problem. I’ll probably release music sometime in the next year or so ideally. I don’t care to rush it. I’d rather the songs be good rather than me just putting something out there to say, “See, I told you I could play guitar.” I don’t care about that stuff.
There’s been a lot of talk about how bands like Motion City or Death Cab change when their lead singers and songwriters become sober after being addicted.
Do you mean that the songs suck now? Or that the writing process changes [Laughs]?
POZ: The writing process.
Ben: I didn’t know what kind of question that was. I don’t own a car, so I can’t drive to Trevor’s studio to bounce my idea off of him. It’s also entirely me by myself trusting my own gut now without any kind of mirror to bounce that idea off of. I guess that’s it really. If I was stuck in an area I’d go to somebody whether it be Ryan from 2006 to 2009 or Rico during 2009 and 2010. I’d be like, “Hey, what should go here?” There’s nobody to do that with now. It’s a slower process now.
Are you more open to playing a show every now and then if work permits it and if the package is right?
I’m approaching this with very hesitant excitement. I’m more interested to see what happens. I’m a humble dude. This isn’t supposed to be a “Fuck you” to the guys who quit. This is just me playing a show for a bunch of people that I’ve known for four or five years now. I’d like to say “Hi” and to see how they’re doing and to let people know that I’m alright. Things are a bit different then they used to be. I saw a picture of myself the very last night I drank, and I looked like hell. I was just burned out as shit. I can only imagine how odd I must have become in the last few months before that. I wouldn’t be opposed to it though. I’m not running out there though booking shows. It’s floating down the river.
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