Somebody Language :: Interview with Ben Figler


By Laura Friesen

Tell me about the early days of Somebody Language. How did you form and how long have you been playing under this name?

The early days… Well, originally I played in Little House from Winnipeg for about five years and I started playing solo as myself, under the moniker Somebody Language probably in 2011, I think. I needed another creative outlet for songs that just did not work as LH tunes, and everyone had side projects … so boom bam bing, acoustic, lounge, share, support, love, music.

When did you move from Winnipeg Beach to Calgary? Has there been in a shift in your songwriting, or in audience response to your work, coming from a different home base?

I have written four new songs since arriving in Calgary in September 2016. I have not played here at all because I don’t have a band. Being here is like being at square one but with a better vision than last time. I lived in Winnipeg since I was 18 with many months between spent in Winnipeg Beach where I grew up. 

I know there is something different about my songs but I don’t know what… 

I wrote a happy love song, which is very uncharacteristic in the past 3 years.  I also find that self-reflection is always my biggest theme, for all my art and my life [combined]. 

I understand you have a band but originally started as a solo project. Tell me about the evolution of Somebody Language and how you’ve arrived at your current formation.

Well, actually I currently do not have a band in Calgary. The project did start as a solo endeavor but never intentionally, that was sort of just me trying to find a band because I have always had a vision of how I want my art to be displayed/heard/enjoyed/hated/forgotten and performed.  I met Mike Fox (Odanah, Brady Allard Band) and had the opportunity to open for Odanah which was a great show and, well, I love that band and I was lucky enough that Brady and Mike both enjoyed my music enough to start learning songs. I met Nolan Hildebrand (The Apple Bastards) through a friend and we got along very quickly and had a set done as a duo for a few shows. 

The band has had quite a few musicians play from various different groups in Winnipeg, from Mise En Scene to Slow Spirit and Living Hour. The evolution of my art has only been possible by the amazing opportunities and support that the Winnipeg music scene has offered, truly grateful to have been a big part for those six years or so.

My current formation is myself and a shitty bullet Stratocaster alone in our office in suburbia. I love it.

Your music comprises a variety of different styles and sounds. What influences have shaped your music? What music are you a fan of?  

This is a classic. I don’t listen to very much music besides Wilco, early Modest Mouse, ‘80s hardcore and anything before the ‘60s with the doo wop.

My parents are karaoke all-stars and sang all the time while I was a child and that is really what made me love it so much. My mom would sing “Walkin’ After Midnight” by Patsy Cline and I have held that song very close to my heart my whole life.  

I like jumping [around across] genres because I find that no one genre is going to express the vulnerability I am trying to show and create with my art.

Your songs also touch on a lot of feelings around lived experience and human relationships. What emotions or responses are you trying to convey with your songs? 

That is just the thing, all I want to do is convey. It means everything to me to show my vulnerability during performances and truly try to express any real emotion. Few people know that I am actually a super cynical critic, haha, but being so drives me to be as genuine as I can when I perform and really just try to be myself.

Who do you hope hears your songs? Who are they meant to reach?

If anyone wants to experience my art in any way then that is who I want to reach. The people with their arms wrapped around their bodies because they can’t stay still in bed. 

How have audiences responded to your music?

At shows, it seems like people are into it but I am trying not to focus too hard on their judgment while I play because I am already trying to be as vulnerable as possible.

Sometimes, I hear about how I reached someone, or how two people met while watching me pour my heart out. Those are the most amazing times, and I just cry because I feel like I opened a door or something.

What’s next for you and Somebody Language? More recording and gigging?

Up next I want to build a new band here and start playing, plans to tour in May 2017 and play all summer in Manitoba.

I just started recording on my own so that is the best thing ever currently.

Somebody Language will be performing with Hut Hut and Bye Bye Blue at The Handsome Daughter, December 31st for NYE 2017.