What can Benjamin Kheng not do? Since starting out as a founding member of The Sam Willows in 2012, the former national swimmer-turned-singer has been, literally, going places.
As part of the alluring pop foursome, he parlays his gifts – musical talent plus brooding, good looks – to excellent effect. The group has performed overseas at the SXSW Festival in Austin, the Canadian Music Festival in Toronto, MU:CON and Zandari Festa in Seoul, the Singapore F1 Grand Prix, and the Western Australian Music Festival in Perth.
With the band on hiatus, Benjamin has been busy with solo projects. He’s exercised his acting chops, taking on comedies and musicals along the way. He played Romeo in Toy Factory’s theatre production Romeo & Juliet and recruit Ken Chow in Running Into The Sun’s musical adaptation of the film Ah Boys to Men. More recently, he has gone into writing and performing comedy sketches, posting clips on TikTok, and diving deep into satire in the YouTube series, The BenZi Project, billed by Today newspaper as “the smartest and funniest show on the Internet”.
He returned to music in November 2019, with his first solo single ‘Wicked’, followed by two other singles ‘Find Me’ and ‘Lovers Forever’. In June 2020, he released his debut EP, A Sea That Never Stops, a six-track offering which includes the previous singles, as well as three new tracks, ‘Shiny’, ‘Already Home’ and ‘Make Do’. It presents Benjamin leaning towards an alternative R&B/electro-soul direction – think Sam Smith meets The Weeknd, bruised face included.
Ahead of his performance, alongside those by lewloh and Marian Carmel, in the inaugural Flock at The Nest, Benjamin shares with us some of his cultural favourites.
My Favourite Music Artist: Samm Henshaw (for this season). He’s like Leon Bridges with beats, and I like Leon Bridges, and I like beats. He’s also Sam Cooke reborn! Check out his EP The Sound Experiment.
My Favourite Sound: My dog panting. She’s such a calming presence in my life and she loves the company. It’s also a nice reminder that life can be simple and fulfilling.
My Favourite Album: Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper. I grew up with a lot of gospel and soul around the house, so to see it find a modern home was amazing. I love Chance’s music choices and energy too. What a fella.
My Favourite Film: The Prestige. One of Christopher Nolan’s lesser known works, but still holds up so well today. Essentially a non-linear Nolan classic against the backdrop of the artistry of magicians. I also love period films so this just ticked all the boxes.
My Favourite Soundtrack: Blood Diamond – James Newton Howard. This was the first full film soundtrack I really sunk my teeth into as a kid. Packed full of hooks and motifs with the right blend of indigenous instrumentation, and peaks and troughs. I’m not a massive JNH fan but this one really did it for me.
My Favourite TV Series: Black Mirror. Not selling out here but how can this not be in anyone’s top 5? This series is a goldmine of incredible ideas packed into an hour of succinct storytelling. And who doesn’t love bleak, dystopian outlooks? It’s like pizza; even when it sucks it’s awesome.
My Favourite Hobby: Watching and angry tweeting about the NBA (National Basketball Association). Got hooked when I was 20 and never turned back. A hundred times more exciting than football. Lifelong Lakers fan (sellout again).
Catch Benjamin Kheng at Flock at The Nest, on Friday, 9 October 2020, from 8pm. Get tickets here: https://24owls.sg/tickets/