We chat to afro-indie fusion act, Ben Day & The Concrete Lions discussing their origination, creative process and latest single, ‘The Sirens’.
You guys have a really interesting name, where did it originate from?
During the recording of one of the band’s earlier singles – One Day – lead guitarist, Ongama Mona, sang “Conquering Lions”. The band asked if he had said “Concrete Lion”. The name stuck from there…
For the people out there that do not know you, please tell us about who you guys are as a band?
Ben Dey and The Concrete Lions (BDCL) are an Afro/Indie pop-rock band from Cape Town. While many refer to them simply as Ben Dey, taken from the lead singer’s name, the term Concrete Lions bears equal significance. It represents the strength and tenacity found in African culture. It’s the juxtaposition of the concrete jungle with the struggle of modern day township living.
We create music that showcases this powerful force among African people; our philosophy is that music speaks a universal language and can be used to uplift and inspire communities the world over. BDCL is the result of an unlikely friendship between self-taught musicians Ben and Ongama and the ability of music to bring people together. Both from different walks of life, collectively they are the driving force behind the band and despite some line-up changes over the years, the music has remained much the same.
Your sound is unique. What are your influences?
A geology student at Stellenbosch University, lead singer Benjamin Dey is a prolific lyricist who draws inspiration from everyday life. He spends much of his time outdoors (climbing, running, riding, surfing) and the music he creates aims to harness the nuanced rhythms of the elements.
What are your fondest musical memories growing up? In your house? In your neighbourhood or town?
Ben started playing the violin at age five, shaping his high school years. The problem however, was the inability to sing while playing the beloved instrument. In 2010, his father bought him the NOW 00s CD for Christmas and after hearing Coldplay’s Viva La Vida, he went out and bought his first guitar. Teaching himself to play, he hasn’t looked back since and neither have his fans, though many remain curious to see him draw a bow on the violin.
Tell us about the songwriting process.
Ben will always look for a melody/chord progression first. The lyrics then follow on a topic that has importance in the current socio-economic status of the country.
I really like the approach to the track ‘The Sirens’. How was it putting this song together?
The Sirens was re-recorded at Sunset Studios in Franschhoek last month using the full-band. The aim was to create a more commercial/African rhythmic song using the influential and talented hooks of Ongama Mona. Unbelievably, Ben used one take for the full vocals of the song.