By Jolie Klefeker
Popcorn of Fear's self-titled record is Radio 1190's CD of the month. The album is a blend of light, intricate pop. While mellow synths dominate, the record is laden with tiny pockets of flute, violin and guitar playing. The whole thing is a gosh darn gift that keeps on giving, with each listen revealing another layer of complexity. It's sunny and amazing. This Tuesday, I hung out with my friend Ben Donehower, the man behind it all, at his house in Denver. In between playing with his loyal and adorable dog Karate, we talked about the record, Boulder, and Justin Bieber.
What exactly is Popcorn of Fear?
Popcorn of Fear is the band name, and I just happen to be the band. It was really just something that I came up with five years ago. It's just kind of been the band I've always wanted to be, and it had a sound to it. It felt like I heard what the music sounded like when I said the name.
Your music has a poppy energy to it, maybe not contemporary pop. But do you like pop? Do you make an effort to listen to what's popular these days?
I love pop. Pop is life. I've been thinking about this a lot and, like, all my shit is pop: Popcorn of Fear, Population Control (Donehower also makes music under the name DJ POP CTRL). Pop is people. Justin Bieber is important. His music is ubiquitous. He's a powerful image. Pop is the spectacle, and I'm so fascinated by pop as the spectacle but also pop as a form. And I spend a lot of time navigating between those two — this idea of "low art" or whatever and then also pop form: verse-chorus-verse. So yeah, I do really love who the kids are listening to, and I'm trying to keep up, but I'm feeling increasingly irrelevant.
in addition to Justin Bieber, who else do you listen to?
I love the new rap that's mainstream — Lil Yachty and Young Thug. It's all absurdist. It's all unique, and that's what the kids love, which is so weird. Robyn comes to mind as well. She's a great songwriter. I love her songs and her energy. You know what, though? There's not a lot of popular rock music I can think of. I mean, what's the biggest rock band right now? The thing about rock now is it's just an ironic representation of what it was 20 years ago. They say Nirvana was like the last huge, real rock band to happen, and everything else is just recreating this form that is decadent and not relevant. It's lost its mainstream appeal, and it can't compete with Young Thug, I don't think. The kids are telling us what's important these days. So people making rock music are just kind of mastering this form that's no longer in the conversation. It's like you restore an antique clock and you're really good at it, but there's digital clocks now, and you don't need to do this. But it's still really fun to pick apart a form, and you do come to the realization that you're not going to get a contract, there's no future. It's the process that's important.
Popcorn of Fear's self-titled record just came out on United Worker's Party, U.S.A. Check out the label and the album at Bandcamp. And as always, tune into Radio 1190 to listen to Popcorn of Fear and a buncha other stuff: 1190 AM, 98.9 FM and online at radio1190.org.