Ben Kweller Talks with Brendan Benson on the Talkhouse Podcast

Cybertrucks, the Three Stooges, and "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

On this week’s Talkhouse Podcast we’ve got a pair of songwriters who broke out in the ‘90s and early 2000s and have had fruitful careers since—and who happen to be old pals—Ben Kweller and Brendan Benson.

As you’ll hear in this chat, Kweller got his rock life started early, learning guitar as a teenager and hustling hard for gigs in the small Texas town where he grew up. His first band, Radish, got a big record deal while Kweller was still a kid, and while they never exactly blew up, there’s definitely some love out there for the band’s early records. Kweller went solo in the early 2000s with the classic album Sha Sha, which was an early release on Dave Matthews’ record label ATO—and which last year got the deluxe anniversary reissue treatment. He’s had a run of great solo records since, and was in a supergroup called The Bens with Ben Folds and Ben Lee. He also started a music collective called The Noise Company, which is a sort of hybrid studio/management/record label. They’re having a big blowout at this year’s South by Southwest, so if you’re down there, it’s at the Mohawk on March 15. Check out a little bit of a great Kweller song right here, “American Cigarettes.”

Brendan Benson, as you’ll hear in this chat, is a bit older than Kweller, but he’s had a similarly remarkable career. Benson’s debut solo album came out back in 1996, but if you’re looking for a place to start with his driving rock songs, check out 2002’s Lapalco. Benson has eight solo albums to his credit, including 2002’s Low Key, but he might be best known as the co-frontman of The Raconteurs, along with his old friend, bandmate, and Detroit-area native Jack White. Check out a great Benson track for earlier days right here, “What I’m Looking For,” and catch him at the Noise Company showcase this weekend as well.

These two old pals sound delighted to be chatting, and they jump right into an unplanned episode of Car Talk—Kweller, as it turns out, might get himself a Tesla Cybertruck. They also talk a lot of the spark of creativity that led them to their chosen careers, and they each mention the embarrassing first songs they ever wrote. Kweller tells a great story about hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” for the first time as well, and Benson admits that The Three Stooges have had a huge influence on how he harmonizes. Enjoy.

Thanks for listening to the Talkhouse Podcast, and thanks to Ben Kweller and Brendan Benson for chatting. If you liked what you heard, please follow Talkhouse on your favorite podcasting platform and check out all the great stuff at This episode was produced by Myron Kaplan, and the Talkhouse theme is composed and performed by the Range. See you next time!

(Photo Credit: left, Dave Kemper; Edited by: Keenan Kush.)

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