Leeds stalwart ‘Spielmann’ announces new EP and warm-up slot with ‘The Kaiser Chiefs’

Spielmann is the stage persona of songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer Ben Lewis. Having been a key member of the Leeds scene for years as a bandmate, producer, booker and friend of Yard Act, Spielmann has announced his new solo project, Fifteen Minutes with Spielmann, due out 31st May. Serving as an outlet for huge pop songs giving sardonic takes of 21st century life, 2024 looks like a huge year as he lines up to support The Kaiser Chiefs at three dates in June, and slots playing at Glastonbury, The Great Escape and Latitude. I caught up with Spielmann after the release of his lead single, ‘Just Like Everybody Else’.

[Angus Wright]: For those new to your music, could you sum up ‘Spielmann’ in a couple of sentences?
[Ben Lewis]: When I started it, I lead with ‘Harry Styles for 6music dads’ which I thought was pretty amusing and apt at that point. Kinda pop, but for people that like ‘proper’ music. Someone else described it as ‘Brandon Flowers doing Phoenix Nights’ which I think is pretty accurate too. I guess both of these things are poking at big old hooky pop songs, but in a grown up way, maybe. There’s a lot of humour in there too, tongue firmly planted in cheek with the lyrics, not to be taken toooo seriously. Singalongs with a knowing wink/nod.

[AW]: Where does your latest EP, Fifteen Minutes With Spielmann, stem from? Where did the ideas originate?
[BL]: The whole Fifteen Minutes With… name came a bit serendipitously. The initial demos of the EP came in at 14.59 which felt like a nice number; the actual mastered EP is about a minute
shorter, but y’know, print the myth, etc. Then, as it’s the debut EP, I quite liked the ‘get to know
Spielmann’ angle. I’d recently heard this live Frank Sinatra record that was like ‘An Evening with
where he’s just slowly getting more drunk and chatting to the audience whilst still playing
the hits. I liked that as a reference – ‘With The Beatles Too,’ that kind of thing… It’s an intro to
Spielmann, take a seat, listen to what he’s about.

[AW]: Can you tell us how the idea for the collaboration with North Star Roasters came about?
[BL]: It’s less of a collaboration and more of North Star just saying I can use their very tasty coffee for the release. I approached them as we’ve worked on a few day job things together and
they’ve been supportive of the whole thing. When the Fifteen Minutes With… idea came about, I
was thinking about how I could release something physically but do it a bit different (mainly due
to not being able to afford/have enough fans to warrant pressing a record). I threw a few ideas
around and the concept of popping the kettle on, making a coffee and getting to know
Spielmann stuck!

[AW]: How excited are you to play with the Kaiser Chiefs?
[BL]: Can’t wait! I rinsed Employment on my IPod and they were definitely one of a bunch of bands that hooked teenage me in to some nice big chorus, singalong, indie pop, which has definitely stuck with me and I’ve carried through in to this. They’re lovely chaps. Royel Otis who are also playing are great. They’re big old venues too so it’ll be interesting to see how my schtick goes down with the crowd. It really could go either way! Not been bottled off a stage yet.

[AW]: Can you tell us a little about how your experiences as a bandmate, promoter, DJ and songwriter have shaped your sound?
[BL]: I think there’s a couple of things that could be pointed to here. Having DJ’d and promoted
club nights for a longtime in my earlier adult life, you listen to a lot of songs and get a feel for
how certain bits of certain songs make people react, kind of learning a bit of song
craftsmanship – where to build it up, where to pull it back, what makes people sing along, if in
doubt just do a load of ‘woahs’ and repeat them. That kinda thing.

As a promoter of live shows, again you consume a lot, so when you see something that’s good,
it’s really good, the bar is high. You also see a lot of stuff that maybe isn’t so good, and that’s
certainly influenced how I want to present Spielmann in a live setting. I want it to be a show, not
just a gig of a bloke playing songs, but something a bit more memorable. I’m not doing
cartwheels or anything, but adding a bit of a performance into it, a few bits, keeps it fun for me

Playing in bands has lead to me having a bunch of real trusted friends around me who have
shared experiences that I can send me demos to and will tell me when they’re crap, so I can be
aware that they’re crap, and try to make them not crap!

[AW]: Are there any specific memories that spring to mind from your time in the Leeds scene?
[BL]: There’s loads of memories, not sure any that are either interesting or saucy enough to share. Loads of great shows over the years though and some pretty formative moments when it comes to thinking about the music I make and how I perform it. Getting to see people like Haim and Big Thief playing to like 30 people, as they’re still working out what they’re going to be is pretty special, seeing how everyone starts somewhere. In about 2010 a band of mine played after
Future Islands at an all-dayer, in the bar of a venue, in front of the pool table, at about 4pm, to
about 12 people.

[AW]: What has it meant to be part of that over the last decade?
[BL]: In my position as someone who’s played in a load of bands and had promoters and venues give me the leg up when I’ve needed it, it’s nice to be able to perpetuate that thing. There’s
a lot of good people who really care about what they’re doing and the city, and it’s nice to be a
part of/grow old within. It’s got a rich musical heritage, Leeds, and as everyone knows there’s
some really exciting bands coming out still (present company included). At the time of writing
this, English Teacher release their album tomorrow, and I’m really excited to hear that.

[AW]: Headline Gigs, Festivals and playing with the Kaiser Chiefs, what else does 2024 hold for you?
[BL]: Hopefully some lying down, spending some quality time with my wife, and would like to see my niece and nephew a bit more, they’re cute. Aside from that, I’m writing and demoing a load more stuff, would love to get a whole bunch of stuff out this Autumn. I’m working on some live session stuff too so more of the public gets to see my lovely face.

You can find out more, including merch and tickets on Spielmann’s Instagram here.

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