Since its formation in 2004, the Ben Miller Band has staked out an iconoclastic niche that’s established them as both a one-of-a-kind creative unit and a grass-roots fan favorite. Channeling a century’s worth of far-flung American musical influences into rousing songcraft that radiates with smarts and soul, miller’s tunes achieve a musical and emotional depth that belies the material’s (and the musicians’) rough exterior.
The hard-working unit first won a regional fan base through old-fashioned ingenuity and an unstinting work ethic, generating a national buzz and a high-profile 2013 tour of Europe with ZZ top, thanks to the patronage of avowed BMB fan Billy Gibbons.
The Ben Miller Band’s early diy approach extended to the lo-tech, largely self-built, instruments that the members still play on stage, including miller’s thrift-shop guitars and banjos and Scott Leeper’s one-string washtub bass. The band’s use of offbeat instrumentation, however, shouldn’t be misunderstood as a gimmick.
“What I really care about is songs, and the rest of it is just a vehicle to get you to that destination,” Miller asserts, adding, “we have no interest in being some kind of wacky novelty act, and just because we use junk to make music doesn’t mean we aren’t serious about it.”
Growing up in rural Curlew, Washington, Ben Miller began playing guitar at 16, turning his back on a promising career as a visual artist to focus on music. He gained experience busking and performing in open-mike nights while road-tripping around America, and during an extended stint in eastern Europe. He eventually found kindred spirits in Scott Leeper and original BMB drummer Doug Dicharry.
The three like-minded players joined forces, and before long their diligent touring regimen allowed them to conquer an ever-widening fan base. In 2012, the Ben Miller band took its first tentative steps in the recording studio, resulting in the self-released cd heavy load, which attracted a good deal of fan praise and critical acclaim.
Word of the BMB’s charismatic live shows and regional popularity eventually began to generate a national buzz, winning them a spot on new west records’ roster. The band made its new west debut with 2014’s any way, shape or form, recorded in Nashville with renowned producer Vance Powell.
Now, with Choke Cherry Tree ready for unveiling, Ben Miller is enjoying his band’s new four-person lineup. “The audiences seem to like it as much as ever,” he observes, adding, “our two new members are great and exude personality from the stage, so i feel like we’re an all-star band now. I love having a female presence on stage, which creates a different energy that you can’t get with just dudes. I think it adds a tension that’s different, but we’re still high-energy on stage, and we still play crazy instruments and move around a lot.”
Miller is careful, though, not to allow the novelty of the band’s homemade instruments to overshadow the more substantial aspects of the band’s output.
“If our only selling point was ‘come and check out the weird instruments,’ it would get old real fast,” Miller states. “It got us in the door, but once we got in the door, the songs became our focus. Where I put most of my energy is trying to serve the songs, and trying to make them as good as they can be.”