There are many contradictions at the heart of Somebody Language, the creative musical brainchild of songwriter and frontman Benjiman Figler. This singer-songwriter project is also a huge, sometimes eight-piece band.
The songs are earnest and vulnerable, but maintain an edge of sarcasm. Confessional lyrics gel with precise exercises in doo-wop and ‘60s style beach pop.
Figler, 23, says those contradictions aren’t anything to get too hung up on. For instance, the huge backing band…well, it just sort of happened.
“I was getting a bit ahead of myself,” Figler says. “I wanted more people’s input, to get more creativity behind it. I was asking so many people. Now we’ve calmed it down. We’ve finally got it down to a core six-piece.”
When backed by his group, the band’s full moniker is Somebody Language & The Way It Feels - a name with long-held meaning for Figler.
“’Somebody Language’ means, to me, anybody’s individual creative expression, and how we perceive it,” he explains. “And ‘The Way It Feels’ is just how you feel after you’ve experienced it. ‘Somebody Language’, those words have stuck with me since high school. I wrote them down and they stuck with me for a long time, and I finally came up with what I thought they mean to me. I wanted it to stay a part of me.
“I want to change the backing band’s name sometimes, if we’re doing something different. Like if we’re doing a punk set, Somebody Language and some punk band name.”
The group debuted its first single and music video “Bachelor Suite” this past October. The song is narrated by a recently-dumped dude who insists that he’s happy with his breakup, while his desperate tone makes it clear he’s anything but.
“It just started out as this little ditty that I thought was amusing,” Figler says. “My friend and I would do these exercises where he’d play piano and I’d improvise some vocal thing over it. [This song] developed emotionally and musically into something more. It took on a very heavy meaning for me months after I’d written it. When the video came out it really did represent how I was doing in my life.”
The song’s doo-wop-inspired sound comes from Figler’s unique approach to songwriting, which starts with vocalizing rather than instruments.
“I started playing guitar when I was 18,” Figler says, “so I stopped writing vocally so much. Now that I’m writing without my guitar there I’m back to doo-wop songs. Whenever I’m vocalizing to write songs, I’m always singing doo-wop. It’s never ending.”
Despite efforts to the contrary, Somebody Language shows no signs of slowing down in 2015.
“I wanted to take January off. Then we got booked for the second. Then the ninth. Now the fifteenth. Now we’re gonna record an EP. We’re gonna send it to get mixed by Ron Obvious who did The Subhumans and D.O.A. That’s the plan. Record, play, record, play.”
Visit facebook.com/SomebodyLanguage for more information.
Part of the series: The Uniter Fiver Showcase
Published in Volume 69, Number 16 of The Uniter (January 14, 2015)