May 2019 30

Get ready to dance and to sweat as the Sweat Boys’ founder speaks with ReGen about the slightly darker sound of the band’s upcoming EP and appearing at this year’s Sanctuary Festival.
 

 

An InterView with Benny Sweat of Sweat Boys

By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)

“Party boys have feelings too.” – so states Benny Sweat, the head of the Wisconsin electro/dance act Sweat Boys. Bouncy beats and bass lines pumping beneath sardonic vocals set to images of young men drenched in sweat, dressed sparsely in leather jackets and booty shorts (and little else)… it all sounds delightfully scandalous, like the disco fantasies of Studio 54 with a decidedly midwestern electro/industrial flair. It’s all in good fun, and the band’s live shows have been steadily garnering a reputation for being just that, with every show turning into one big sweaty party. But with the Nervous Prayers EP due out on June 28, Benny Sweat takes the project into slightly different territory; while no less danceable, the EP presents a myriad of more saccharine, emotionally darker lyrical content, all set to bouncy ’80s synth and electro-pop, as if to provide an upbeat antidote to hearts and souls on the verge of cracking under the weight of existence. ReGen had the brief opportunity to speak with the band’s founder on the eve of Sweat Boys’ appearance at Milwaukee’s Sanctuary Festival, with Sweat discussing the new sound of Nervous Prayers, while continuing to tease what an unsuspecting audience is in for at one of the band’s live performances.

 

Let’s talk a bit about your upcoming EP, Nervous Prayers. The material on it seems to take on an even more saccharine style of electro-pop; still danceable, but a lot less ‘party-EBM’ and a lot more poppy. What can you tell us about the writing process for this EP?

Sweat: The first three songs on the record, I don’t remember much about writing them; they just came out. I was having an exceptionally rough time and tackling some mental health challenges head on. Those songs were the kind that wake you up at 3:00 in the morning because they have to come out right now. The fourth song, ‘Endlessly’ was one that I had written with my friend and fellow Sweat Boy, Dylan Lambert maybe 18 years ago. It just seemed to fit really well with the other songs. The last track, ‘I’ll Try,’ I’d been sitting on for quite a while as well. Originally, Seibold from Hate Dept./Standalone was going to do vocals on that one, but I ended up writing lyrics that I felt were a great bookend for the record – hopeful and forward-looking – so, I ran with that instead.

On Nervous Prayers, you have Jerry Miller contributing guitar, Nicklas Stenemo providing guest vocals, and Rob Robinson on mastering. How did they come to be involved on the new EP, and in what ways do you feel their contributions have enhanced the sound of Sweat Boys?

Sweat: Jerry is one of my oldest friends and a wonderful musician, so it was a no-brainer to tap him for the track that needed guitar parts. He was able to nail what I was after. Nicklas… we had the pleasure of opening for a few shows for his band Kite, and I took a big leap and asked if he would perform ‘Endlessly’ with us at one of the shows and he agreed. When he learned that the song had not been officially released, he offered to sing on the studio version when we got around to it (which I still get misty-eyed about). Nicklas has one of the most unique and haunting voices I’ve ever heard and his presence on the song just took it to the next level. Rob… is a boy I met on the internet. He contacted me after he heard a remix I had done for Hate Dept. to ask if I would do a remix for him as well. I ended up doing a few remixes for him and we kept in touch. He’s a wonderful dude. A few years later, Rob ended up mixing and mastering ohGr’s TrickS album, which sounds fucking amazing. Thankfully, he had a break in his schedule and was able to master Nervous Prayers for us. I’m very thankful to all of those guys for being part of this record and, in so many ways, it wouldn’t be what it is without them.

 

 

As stated, the style is a bit saccharine, and the lyrics have a very sardonic and even somber tone vs. the more ‘party’ and ‘dance’ oriented lyrics of your past releases. What can you tell us about your lyrical approach on Nervous Prayers, and how it differed from Sweat Boys up to now?

Sweat: There was a stretch of time when I had finished these new songs where I considered releasing them as a different project. I was going to start a new group, call it Nervous Prayers, and have it be the ‘serious’ project. But the more I thought about it, a lot of my favorite ‘party’ bands all had ballads and shit and I thought, ‘Why the fuck can’t I do that?’ So, I did that. I figured it’ll land or it won’t. Party boys have feelings too.

Similarly, your live shows seem to always take on a very fun, dark party vibe, like a bouncy soundtrack to an S&M romp. With the lyrics to the new material being a bit darker, what do you feel is the correlation between the energy of the music and the tone of the lyrics in the live show?

Sweat: I don’t feel that things need to be all serious or all goofy. I love party songs, but I also love songs about what happens when the party’s over. I’m sure our shows are weird for people the first time – it’s dudes dancing and lifting weights and doing party boy things, and then we slip in these broken heart type love songs. If I wasn’t part of it and was watching it, I would wonder what the fuck I was looking at. I once had someone after show talk to me about how when they were watching us, we reminded them of The Smiths in that they were very pop musically, but lyrically often pretty depressing. I don’t feel like that’s a completely accurate comparison, but I kind of get it. We do our best to keep the live show flowing and high energy; most of the songs are up-tempo and you can just turn off and dance. But I’d like to think the songs are interesting if you are paying attention.

 
Sanctuary Festival 2019, Milwaukee, WI
 

You’re one of the bands on this year’s Sanctuary Festival. Would you tell us about how you came to be involved, and what you are most looking forward to about the festival; any bands in particular that you’re excited to see/hear?

Sweat: As far as our involvement, we were asked and it’s still weird. In my head, this is still just a thing that I do with my friends, so this all feels very strange. I’m really looking forward to being in a room full of people who all love the same shit. As the years go by, it seems like less and less often, all the freaks get together and have a party. That’s got me hyped. I’m really excited to see all the other acts, but if you told high school me driving around with friends at lunch smoking grass listening to Leæther Strip that in 20 years I’d be sharing a stage with Claus, I’d have laughed in your face. But honestly, I can’t wait to see old friends and hopefully make some new ones.

Nervous Prayers seems to have an almost late ’90s synthpop vibe to it, and retro trends and nostalgia seem to be pervading a great deal of music and art these days. What are your thoughts on these retro trends and how they are being approached and expanded on by the newer generation?

Sweat: I’m all for it. If the people creating it are doing what they love and the people listening are enjoying it, it’s all good. People seem to love hating on throwback sound or dismissing certain things as nostalgia, but not everything has to break new ground. Sometimes a good song is enough… most of the time, actually.

 

 

Sweat Boys
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp
Give/Take
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Sanctuary Festival
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Photography courtesy of Sweat Boys

 

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