PESKY KID • The Genre-Bending Post-Modern Electro Pop of Benjamin Champagne

New Single Slated for Release April 12th

    icon Apr 06, 2023
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Benjamin Champagne first started creating waves throughout the Mid-Michigan Arts scene nearly a decade ago when he co-founded the innovative Counter Culture Arts Collective and later in 2016 & 2017 became a key organizer of the Patchwork Art & Music Festival, both proving to be groundbreaking independent cultural showcases tying cutting-edge Music, Art, Poetry & Film together while simultaneously bringing a new generation of bands and rising visual artists from across the country into stages, galleries, and coffee houses throughout the Great Lakes Bay Region.

Working with both The Temple Theater and Saginaw Art Museum for the last several years, he has cultivated a keen understanding and appreciation of the nuance and mechanics threading the power of musical, visual, and verbal artistic statements together; and now Champagne is taking the experience and knowledge absorbed working off-stage and moving directly into the spotlight under the name of Pesky Kid - the moniker he’s assumed for his latest musical, multi-media, and performance art project.

Nominated in five different categories for this year’s 37th REVIEW Music Awards, including Best New Artist, Best New Single Release for the song ‘Daily Baptism’, and Most Innovative Artist,  Ben’s new single Is YoU are yOu DoWN and will be released on April 12th. He will also be doing his first regional live performance showcase on April 29th at Bay City’s Masonic Temple.

Conceptually & artistically, everything that radiates from this project reflects breezy pesky fun: the music is a summer beach awash with different sounds from various eras, next to a parking lot full of old cassettes & forgotten records melting in the sun.  The genre-bending brilliance of Beck and the smooth off-kilter pop of Still Woozy mix together in a unique & lovely fashion through Champagne’s own meta-modernist filter of underground indie electro pop, which in actuality is a sound fit for the 2020s.

As one who wasn’t aware Ben was musically inclined, what prompted him to step into the spotlight on the performance side of life?  “I’ve been making music my whole life but was never really good at it, which is why I got into production,” he explains. “I can play guitar, bass, keyboards, and drums, but during the pandemic when we all got to sit at home I had plenty of time to just make music and got really good at making hip-hop beats - better than I’d ever been.”

“During that time I probably made about 100 songs and had 50 complete songs, so when the pandemic eased up I went to Miami for fun, only my rental got broken into and all my stuff got stolen, including the laptop with all my songs,” he continues. “I didn’t have it backed-up, which actually was kinda good because I figured if I did it once I could do it better the second time around.  A friend at Underflow Records, which was based in the UK at the time and is now in Boulder, Colorado, started putting out my music, and I’ve actually been making music for the last three years.”

With material that blends so many elements of Hip-Hop, Pop, Alternative Inde-Rock, and R&B together, what’s the focus & vision for his musical excursions?  Indeed, the foundation of the Pesky Kid sound can be heard in earlier experiments by artists such as Brian Eno & David Byrne; and even Elvis Costello when he broke ranks with the Power Pop/ New Wave movement and recorded a Country album with George Jones.

 “It’s tough to contain within a genre, because a lot of stuff is crossing over, which is both a blessing and a curse,” states Ben. “It’s harder to find an audience at first. Beck is probably my biggest influence, along with Still Woozy and Kanye West to some a degree, but the pop world is full of it right now and all pop artists are somewhat interstitial now, which is kind of the direction I’m heading towards. You wouldn’t know it, but I love Radiohead, which you can’t hear in my releases so much, but it’s there in the atmospheric treatments.”

Ben says that especially with the new songs being released, working with a co-writer has made things much better. “I’ve been working with Brandon Shew out of Nashville, who’s the tour manager for the Marcus King Band, and it’s so much better having someone to bounce ideas off, rather than working them in my little bubble,” he states. “He’s more a producer now and took things in different directions. If I wrote a line that was weak he would say it was weak and I trusted him and it worked. Sometimes I went for a stupid chord progression and he would tell me it had to be simple; and other times, he forced me to go more intricate.”

Although he hasn’t performed much in the past year, Ben did do a show in Detroit and is also busy rehearsing for his upcoming live performance. “We’ll have a drummer and bass and then I play guitar or synthesizer, plus a projector for multi-media ambiance. I haven’t played much here in the Tri-Cities because the bar scene is so limited and tough.  Places like White’s are great, but you need 3 hours of material and I’m just not that kind of artist.  I have 30-minutes of material right now, so I’m more of a club show.”

“I don’t have a huge draw yet but am working with a huge marketing firm, Fresh Paint out of L.A. who are pushing my work, along with Dropout Media who are doing a great job,” he continues. “All of a sudden my Spotify numbers are up, so I’m working hard at this. I don’t have kids to go home to after I’m done working my regular job, so basically I go home and make stuff. Being around other artists and creatives all day is very inspiring.”

With 30,000 new songs a day being uploaded to Spotify, what does Ben feel truly distinguishes his sound right now? “I’ve been answering that question a lot in my heart lately,” he reflects.” It’s a hard question to ask an artist. This might sound delusional, but from my perspective I’m striving to bring people a totality of experience through my work - from the way its presented in fashion to the sounds & instruments we’re choosing, to the subjects we’re talking about and singing, much is informed by the art world. I feel when you listen to my stuff it sounds like it’s the piece in the next conversation you have about art and music”

“My music to me sounds like a guy who works in a museum, because there’s references to pieces of art in there, so I go back to Beck and see it as an homage to him and Soul Coughing from the ‘90s, and stuff like that,” he continues, “but we also live in an era now that I call the ‘Bling Era’ where everything is flashy. We have our granola Earthy stuff still, but even that’s kind of flashy in its own right. I’m towing the line and have the heavy bass and bling built into the songs, but then there’s this other layer for the guy who listens to Radiohead and the lyrics I find pretty poetic.”

“My total synthesis is making sense of the Bling Era, but still trying to ground it to the art that came before it, so generally I feel special - like I’m telling this story that only I can live, talking about Magritte and modern art in my lyrics, with sounds of now that also go back in time”

“I’ve been jokingly called my genre of music ‘Midwest Basquiat’, just because he was an artist who put a bunch of stuff together in a way that you don’t really know what it is - its’ not really Hip-Hop and when asked to select a category submitting songs I always click Alternative Pop. The difference between Rap and Hip-Hop is culture.” 

The new single will be out April 12th, with the following single set for release in May, and the full EP slated for a June release. After that more show dates will be announced hopefully followed by some tour dates.

You can also check Pesky Kid on Spotify.


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