With his first album, Liam Benzvi proves that even when you feel like you’re standing still, the world is still moving around you if you choose to see it; it’s just a matter of perspective. It’s a homecoming of meeting yourself on the other side, more confident, calm, and reassured that maybe things couldn’t have happened any other way. We had the chance to talk to him about the album Acts of Service (Terrible Records, 2022), the process of making it, deconstructing relationships, the mainstreaming of queerness, his own Tears for Fears moment in the album, and more.
There seems to be a barrier for artists of this generation when it comes to recognition. Millennial’s creativity is often concealed by the fact that someone “already did it and did it better”. Sometimes this boring narrative runs out into its own edge when someone unleashes astonishing dazzling music.

This is the case of New York’s alt-pop crooner and heartthrob Liam Benzvi, who has just released his debut album this week, Acts of Service. The record is his best music yet, and a string of four majestic singles has already proven it, but there’s so much more to it.
From opening for Azealia Banks to Janelle Monáe to The Drums to Porches, Benzvi has been able to blend in and out of various indie spaces seamlessly. After leading different bands, including super-frantic-pop Strange Names, his talent became undeniable in 2019 with the release of his EP Amnesia, USA. Back then he was going through other people’s experiences as it they were his own to dig into the abilities of his songwriting.

After the pandemic, three years in the making and spending time mastering his craft as an instrumentalist, Acts of Service is already a reality. Benzvi sounds like a generous yet enigmatic narrator of this special approach to the language of love. You can jump in your bedroom to Hypno while getting ready to go out, dance to Limes in a great bar, and come back home with Get Some in your earphones as the dawn is coming, and you feel inspired and vulnerable.

But also enjoy other reflexive and intimate lyrical moments in the standout tracks The Verge (Can you take me to the centre of the earth? I want nothing less than the verge), Not as Good (I can’t be sure if I am cute enough to hold your attention for months when we’re apart) and No Hard Feelings (I am the sun and I’m in my orbit but a piece of you is out order). 

Hiccup is one of the best songs released last year, an impressive, sweet pop-rock song that takes you to a cinematic universe. “For so long, I was writing from the perspective of other people and how I imagined they were experiencing me and for this record I wanted to write through what I was feeling about the world and see what it looks like on the page.” Well, it looks stunning. The album is co-produced along with Joe Valle (from the band Wet), and he even mentions Frou Frou in this interview! Indie music is approaching a new narrative and representation for the times we live in; and when it comes to Liam Benzvi’s work it always feels like a rush of newness that leaves you wanting more.
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Hello Liam. Thank you so much for taking your time to speak to METAL! How are you doing given this surreal global situation we all are living in?
My pleasure. It honestly feels like that Curb Your Enthusiasm joke where after the few days following January 1st it’s weird to keep wishing people a happy new year. We’re so steeped in it, the surreal has become the norm.
Last week we’ve been able to finally listen to your debut album, Acts of service. It’s interesting to read the word debut because you have been making music for quite a while now. Do you think this album is sort of your presentation as a solo artist? What differences with your previous work will we find in the album?
I’ve been making music under various titles and with bands for basically a decade, but yes it feels like a debut because this one’s all mine. The only difference between this album and my previous work is that I think it’s better. I think everyone gets better with age.
You have been working on the album for three years. How was the process of making it in the middle of a global pandemic? Apart from the fact that it must have made more difficult the logistics of it, did this environment influence the lyrical content of this new songs?
The environmental influence of quarantine just pushed me further into my daydreaming habits, so in a lot of ways it opened doors for songwriting that I wouldn’t have necessarily explored. Ironically, in February of 2020 I played 3 shows and told myself when they were done that I was going to take a break from live performance until I finished my record. Then March came along and we all know what happened. I’ve been fortunate to not have experienced any health woes, either with myself or with loved ones, so I was able to comfortably welcome the cultural reset.
When you published your EP Amnesia, USA (2019), the lyrical theme was conducted through these psychological phenomena of embedding others’ experiences into your own memory. This time there’s “a shift of perspective and approach to writing” and you’re doing it directly from your experiences towards the world. And from the songs we’ve already heard, there seems to be honesty portrayed in a mysterious way, with humour and a poetic expression. Was it more difficult to draw these 10 new songs using your feelings?
I think the more time I spent with my instruments over the last few years, the less I relied upon intellectualising the lyrics. That’s been the biggest change. The approach I took to these album songs, musically, verses the EP songs, was less conceptual and more impulsive because I had time to nurture my skills as a musician.
As someone with a professional acting background, was it difficult to take this new approach for your first album?
I leaned in to music over acting because I felt stifled by scripts. I wanted full creative agency over the content I performed. Musicians obviously still need a captive audience, so that part hasn’t gone away. The approach is just scarier because it’s my own writing and only I can really hold myself accountable for the performance I want to give.
When you released your new single, Get Some, you explained that is quite literally about your boyfriend and you entering into an open relationship. Musically it’s calmer than the three singles we’ve listened before, it’s soothing. Not only does it seem interesting since the way we sustain our relationships are changing nowadays, and romantic love is currently (and rightfully so) being deconstructed, but also in the context of the record named as one of the love languages. How did this song come about?
We all have emotional codes. Get Some is about generosity of spirit, and maintaining that kind of attitude with the people you care about—as an act of service, hence the album title. I still have bouts of neurosis and jealousy and torment, and it’s important to acknowledge all of that, but as you say—in deconstructing relationships—it all comes down to self worth and being happy for someone else.
Both the first 2 singles Hypno and Limes are quite guitar driven in terms of raw sound, like the 80s alternative rock radio sound, but with a subtle veil of pop structure. What else can people expect sonically from the record? What is the song that represents the whole concept best, or the one you feel closer to yourself, musically?
Pretty much more of the same! I don’t know if I can pick one song to represent the whole record. Maybe the title track, Acts of Service, which is also track 1. It tows the line between soft and hard.
Hiccup is such a brilliant song. It has one of the best choruses I’ve ever heard, the melody is just fantastic, and the lyrics seem to point into a situation so frenetic that fantasy enters the room and plays an interesting romantic part. They are also quite intriguing; somehow the feeling is so contagious for the listener, yet it feels like some of the images you create have a deeper meaning to you, and only to yourself. It has a great cinematic feel to it, and it certainly works very well when you’re listening to it with good earphones while walking with your thoughts. Was it difficult to take this idea into a song? How do you work with your melodies?
I wanted an epic pop number for the album, and this was what I brought. It actually started with the chorus hook and stemmed from there. The idea of walking with your thoughts and listening to music is inherent for me, so the song led to the action rather than the other way around. Melodies for me come randomly. I keep an overwhelming amount of voice notes on my phone. The only premeditating I did for this song was the swing beat. I wanted a Tears for Fears moment.
Literature is within music, and there’s been some debate online due to different events that lead us to think that music writers don’t get as much credit as they deserve for their lyrical creations. Book writers seem to have a different prestige, and it’s curious to see that somehow young songwriters are not valued the same way nowadays, as some older figures used to be and still are. How do you experience the process of writing your lyrics? What are the literary writers that have you taken for company during the shaping of Acts of Service?
It’s funny because most of my lyrics I write come from vowels and sounds that I imagine pairing with the music. So if I’m humming gibberish, I’ll try and match the gibberish with the closest sounding words and the narrative comes from that. I have a lot of respect for artists that operate in that way. I don’t understand everything SZA sings but I resonate with the sounds she makes. So that makes it a different experience from reading a book. I’ve read a handful of sci-fi realism type books in the last few years so those images I’ve kept in my mind when writing.
I recently found out about your interest in Adam Curtis’ work. His documentaries are fantastic and his narrative is profound but has a slight sense of absurdity and pop aesthetic. It kind of makes sense to listen to your music after watching his work, there’s a fictional element in common that works in harmony. What other artist inspired you during the recording of the new album?
I love Adam Curtis. And 100% what makes his movies extra compelling is the music curation he adds to them. I listened to a lot of the albums that have felt seminal to me over the years. I spent a lot of time revisiting the albums from my childhood CD case, some of which I inherited from my parents and others that I downloaded—Blonde Redhead, Frou Frou, The Cure, Madonna’s early 00s albums…not so much to emulate what I was hearing, but more to aid in my attempt to access vulnerability in myself.
The music videos of your recent songs have been directed by Luca Vender, and the cover for the record was shot by Samuel Clark. You have produced album along with Joe Valle (from the band Wet). Could you tell us a bit about how is it to work with other artist to bring your work to life but preserving your own imaginary?
Luca Venter is my right hand. He’s been so generous with me over the years, and I will collaborate with him on visuals til the end of time. Sam Clarke I wanted to work with because the textures he brings to his images. Joe has become one of my closest friends over the course of this process—his attitude and inclinations were integral to the completion of this record. Working with all of them was hugely rewarding and allowed me to carve out way more space for my imaginative tendencies than I would have been able to on my own.
During these last years we’ve seen how the pandemic has highlighted a lot of social issues that we’ve might have thought were already conquered, and the reality is quite unfortunate, sadly. As an artist, how do you see the situation for LGTBIQ people in the USA now? How does it affect your work or your life?
I feel like we’re on a precipice at the moment. The mainstreaming of queerness has opened a lot of doors for young kids, but it’s also made a lot of people very angry. So now the next step is exploring all the nuances of LGBTQIA freedom that can’t be captured by cringey media exposés or cancellations. It will take many many years to unpack all of the predicaments that come from the intertwining [experience] of race gender and sexuality, but I feel like it’s at least all out there on the table. We just need to keep standing up for our marginalised friends and family, first and foremost. On the positive end of things, my TikTok algorithm is so gay all the time I feel like damn if the kids are seeing what I’m seeing on a daily basis they must know they’re not alone in the world.
Are you still in touch with your bandmates from Strange Names? Do you plan to keep singing some of the band’s songs in your setlist for your upcoming shows?
I am still in touch with them! Francis is one of my very best friends. That being said, I could never perform a Strange Names song without Strange Names.
The listeners and fans’ experience of listening to their favourite artist’s new album is such a ritual. Last Friday, when Acts of Service got released, what did you recommend friends and fans to do as a ritual before the first listen?
Get a good nights sleep, drink water, and stretch.
Acts of Service is out now and you can listen to or buy the record on Bandcamp.