Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Brett Allen and Nick Luca at New Monkey
Ben Lee's been a non-aging, cutie pie singer since he was a 15-year-old in Sydney, Australia, fronting his first band called Noise Addict. He's taller, sure, and maybe some beers and life has added a couple pounds of adult weight to his frame, but he's as rail-thin as ever and he's still got the "perfectly styled" mussed up head of hair that you get after an afternoon nap on the couch, but he's a grizzled, 31-year-old man with a new baby in the house and it's as if he's getting to the heart of similar things in a new way these days. For his entire career, Lee has made a point of being perky and looking on the brighter side of wherever he's going from. He's had enough bright points to draw upon and having such young success as he did with Noise Addict - drawing the awe and admiration of such luminaries as Thurston Moore and Mike D of the Beastie Boys - that there's been no need to peddle dark clouds. The closest he'll come is the bittersweet wistfulness of lost loves and the unstoppable passage of time, but more often than not, he gives himself over to the pretty moves that life waltzes all over us. Lee's always been a positive singer, practically radiating via verse and chorus, giving us a toothy smile in words and melodies, recognizing the power of keeping it sunny in the greater scheme of things. One wonders how much Lee even considers how he works. He thinks about music all the time, it's safe to say, with songs like "Catch My Disease," and others where he eagerly references his vast and passionate love of music, breathed in and digested by a pop aficionado, clearly feeling as if song is one of life's essentials, as important as water. He's resilient about making a point of being upbeat and trying to be a better man. He believes that deep down, all people are essentially good, they just "get greedy." He tends to see that essentially good part in nearly everything and everyone, pushing across a mood suggesting that we're all in this together and no one better forget that. More than just being a singer and songwriter, Lee is an idealist, feeling an unwavering and un-fightable urge to get his feelings down on paper and what comes of these words are often simple, but always deceptively simple. They are big songs, parts of diary, parts of an ideology that never slows down. He writes about happiness the way a man with a new baby in the house writes about happiness - believing in it more so than ever before, having to believe in it, hoping that it can be sensed and will become contagious. He sings, "Tell me what's so bad about feelin' good?" on the first new Noise Addict album since his youth and he even shows real concern for Coldplay's Chris Martin seeming sadness on the song "Chris Martin's Frown." How can everyone just be happy? Why is it so hard? And then we have Lee thinking about his adopted country of the United States on "Wake Up To America," singing, "America is a big idea/I once got a fortune cookie that said America is a place where people can invent themselves so when I found myself making out with two girls at once at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., I knew what that fortune cookie said had been beautiful, strange and true/America, it must get so lonely being you sometimes/Up all night, no one to share the long drives with/Don't worry, we won't let you fall asleep at the wheel." He even wants a big mass of land working through some rough times to just get back to being happy. It is a disease and it would be fantastic as a contagious, airborne strain.