Lost Like Alice is the alias of Welsh singer-songwriter Ben Parker. His jaw-dropping soulful voice coupled with fragile guitars creates a surreal, emotional soundscape. Along with extremely personal lyrics, it gives the music an intimate feel, inviting the listener on an atmospheric journey.
Having received recognition from the NME, Ben toured his songs relentlessly across Wales, including opening for JP Cooper at the age of 14. He unleashed his debut EP ‘Thread’ in June last year, a collection of songs that dripped with raw emotion, while his reputation is set to increase following a support slot for indie rockers Blank Cheque at Manchester Academy in February.
Ben is tipped to make waves in 2018 with the dual release of ‘Crooked Lines’ and ‘What’s Missing’ later this month. Both tracks, taken from his upcoming EP ‘20’ convey strong emotion, the organic production enhancing the atmosphere, living up to comparisons with Jeff Buckley and John Mayer. You might expect all this hype and adulation to get to his head but when I spoke to him, he’s friendly, down to earth, and engaging.
Lost Like Alice is a name that conveys mystery. It’s unique for a solo artist to use an alias that’s reminiscent of a band, and Ben confirmed that this was the case. “It was just something I scribbled down one evening”, he says. “Lost Like Alice originally started off as an alternative rock band, which may sound odd to anyone who hasn’t heard my chilled out stuff.
“After a while, it wasn’t really working out and reverted back to being a solo artist where the name kind of stuck. I listen to a lot of rock music, especially bands, and I like the freedom that the name gives me, to explore the different genres as a solo artist with the freedom of a band.”
This demonstrates his open-mindedness to write and record music in new and intriguing ways. Both ‘What’s Missing?’ and ‘Crooked Lines’ tackle the same subject. The former, one of the first songs written for the EP, is about the realisation that life isn’t going the way you planned, while the latter which Ben wrote on Christmas morning, was the anger being replaced by a feeling of acceptance. Ben said the decision to release both tracks was obvious: “It’s the contrast of the two that create a very real image, almost as if each song is another step to recovery.”
The songwriting in ‘What’s Missing?’ and Crooked Lines’ differs from the songs on ‘Thread.’ It sounds more mature and I wanted to understand how this process had altered on the new songs. Ben responded that his songs are purely autobiographical and that he writes about every detail. In comparison to ‘Thread’, which explored new territories and created a massive wall of sound, the tracks on ‘20’ were about stripping the songs and lyrics back to increase their message. “I’ve always been interested in the use of imagery in songs. It allows a very clear but unique experience to each person that hears them.”
Ben explained the recording process to ‘What’s Missing’ and ‘Crooked Lines’ was entirely self-produced, as “every instrument, harmonies, even down to the engineering, that’s all me. It was something I had always wanted to do and am very proud of the outcome.” Having that creative freedom on how a song should sound is important because the artist can decide on which direction it will go. While ‘What’s Missing‘ addressed a stripped back aesthetic with almost solely acoustic guitars and vocals, ‘Crooked Lines’ was recorded a few months later. During this time, an artist’s perception of a song can change, with new elements and ideas incorporated all the time. In this case, Ben explained that he “wanted to explore with some ambient electric guitar riffs and really bring the song to a climactic end.”
Ben is a diverse artist, so I wanted to find out how he’d describe Lost Like Alice’s sound to someone who hasn’t heard him before. He experiments in different genres, for example on the bluesy ‘I Won’t Wait’ from the ‘Thread’ EP. He said the change to a stripped back sound was to give his music more of a live feel, but seemed pleased that there is “definitely something for everyone in my music and I will continue to evolve and find new styles in every project that I do.”
Ben initially grew up listening to the bulk of the Manchester music scene, so it was no surprise that his main inspiration lyrically was Morrissey. The “beauty in his poetic and bitter lyrics” resonated strongly, while hearing John Mayer when he was 11 inspired him to play guitar and write songs. Ben said the main reasons he writes songs are “the poetic interpretation of words, and soulful melodies and guitar riffs that allowed me to create an identity as an artist.”
I thought I’d ask Ben a question that would make him think. What is the best opening song from a first album?
After mulling over which tracks to choose, he eventually plumped for ‘Disorder’ by Joy Division from ‘Unknown Pleasures, or ‘Mojo Pin’ by Jeff Buckley from his 1994 debut ‘Grace.’ As for his favourite album, it was a toss up between John Mayer’s ‘Continuum’ and Jack Johnson’s ‘In Between Dreams’. At the moment, he’s really into Manchester Orchestra’s ‘A Black Mile to the Surface”, adding that he “saw them last year and they completely blew me away, such a great band.”
Talking of bands he’d see live, Ben said that Radiohead would headline his dream festival. Having been a huge fan since his Dad played their seminal 1997 classic ‘OK Computer’ all the time, he hopes to see them soon, saying “there is no-one else like them and would love to see that live.”
Finally, with plenty to look forward to from Lost Like Alice in 2018, I asked Ben what his ongoing plans for the rest of the year were. In addition to his excitement for the Blank Cheque support slot, he said he’d be “gigging all over the place and promoting the EP, which will be out in March sometime.” Ben is also hoping to announce some festival appearances and other opportunities in the near future.
With this down to earth attitude, Ben is taking the recognition in his stride. Lost Like Alice’s relatable hard-hitting songs have the potential to resonate with a wider audience, and once the ‘20’ EP comes out, you can expect to hear more about them in the future.