For Young Guv—otherwise known as Ben Cook—the last two years have been extremely fruitful in terms of songwriting, but within that growth there has also been pain. That output of emotion is visible on his latest album GUV III and his soon-to-come GUV IV.
GUV III is available now via Run For Cover Records and Hand Drawn Dracula (Canada).
I recently sat down with Guv to discuss creative balance, searching for peace, and songs about Pamela Anderson.
AH: Your latest album GUV III was released on March 11. GUV IV will follow shortly thereafter. Were these two albums recorded at the same time, and do they each have a distinct feel or vibe that gives them their own individual identity?
Guv: Yes, they were recorded at the same time. GUV III is my attempt at a full band rock record. My collaborators and band members are some of the most talented people on the planet and GUV III is the culmination of my togetherness with everyone. Tony Price, Tommy Major, Ryan Gavel, Bobbie Lovesong, James Matthew VI, Noah Kohll, Richard Gowen. I wanted to make a record—I guess you can call it power pop—that will hold up to the classics of the genre.
GUV IV is a bit different, it’s like one half baggy Manchester opioid chic, and the other half is an assortment of my home made drum machine-based pop music. It’s kind of two EPs that make up one album, so it’s less of a cohesive, predictable listen than GUV III.
AH: With two new albums ready to launch into the universe, would you say this marks a creatively fruitful time for you or does your songwriting output maintain a steady flow regardless of where you’re pulling inspiration from?
Guv: It’s def a high place for me in terms of creativity. The pandemic was a special time for growth and pain. What came from that inside myself, and also our species as a whole, I think is something we will look back on in awe. I’m glad I have this collection of songs to document my time in the last few years. It’s been extremely moving and powerful.
AH: The process of bringing GUV III into creation was described as you tapping into “physical and mental isolation.” For some, aloneness can be the spark they need to write. For others, aloneness can lead to loneliness. Where do you tend to find your best songwriting self?
Guv: I’m still not sure. I love collaborating, but I also need heavy alone time to ponder what’s really going on with it all. A balance of both is the move, maybe.
AH: I read that much of the songs that make up GUV III were written at night. What does the darkness offer your creative brain that daybreak cannot?
Guv: I think it’s that alone time you just touched on. Without distraction I can tap into some deeper feelings and kind of disappear.
AH: What would someone learn about you in sitting down to listen to GUV III front to back?
Guv: That I’m one lonely, sad fuck! (Laughter)
AH: This is not your first double-album offering. Your GUV I and GUV II set was released in a similar fashion. From an outside perspective, this would suggest that you have a lot to say when you are ready to say it. With that in mind, do you have a difficult time turning off your brain and finding peace from the songwriting process, even when you feel like you need to step away?
Guv: I usually step away for a long time after something like this. I’m pretty extreme. I torture myself for not writing when I am not and then it comes out eventually in a big way. I’ve been subletting and haven’t had a proper apartment or my own “home” for, going on, four to five years now. It’s started to feel extremely disorienting and I forget what it’s like to have that. I can’t make any more music until I sort this out. Despite my endless incessant wandering, I’m a homebody. (Laughter) It’s my goal for 2022 to find some peace inside and build out a place to continue making songs, collaborating, and helping my friends.
AH: No one knows your music better than you. How has your songwriting changed the most from your earliest days to where you are today with GUV IV set for release?
Guv: I think as you grow as a songwriter you obviously hone your skills, but you also develop a sharper ear for what isn’t shit. This is really important. I’ve worked with artists who think every single thing they make is the best shit ever. Learning to edit yourself without hating yourself is the goal. When I listen back on songs I have done in my past I hear an unpolished songwriter, of course. I am happy with my growth and where I am at now in terms of catchy, smart songwriting, in whatever form. I hit my stride with GUV I & II, this new 2xLP is taking things a bit further. I have connected with Tommy Major in a big way in terms of psychic songwriting collaboration. I think the next decade of songs for us will bring the best work yet. But who knows. Maybe I’ll never make another song ever again! (Laughter)
AH: What was the first song you ever wrote and recorded and is it something that you still revisit today in a live setting or when it is just you and your guitar?
Guv: It was a pop punk demo called “The Smegheads.” I was like 12 or 13. There was a song about global warming and also a song about Pamela Anderson. Kinda ahead of its time, man. (Laughter)
AH: What would the Ben who first picked up a guitar think about how his musical career has played out so far? Would he be surprised?
Guv: He’d be stoked.
AH: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Guv: Nah. I need an apartment first. No more traveling. Not even time travel. (Laughter)
For all the latest on Young Guv, visit www.youngguv.com.