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Hotstar


12:00 AM Monday, 5/3/04 |   |

This is the dream of Ben Kweller: "Get a house outside of Austin, Texas, have a nice Chevy pickup truck, and then I'll have the Volvo Cross Country for the family car, and then I'll have Dad's car that you just go in on occasion, like the old Camaro or a fucking GTO."

Fans of the indie rocker, or anybody who knows a little about him, would probably be surprised to learn that Kweller is a muscle car aficionado. When Pollstar tracked him down somewhere in Georgia, he was buying car magazines, including a copy of Auto Trader, and pining for, say, a '69 Camaro.

But as a New York denizen who knows the issues that come with owning a nice car in a large city, he's sticking with his '92 Volvo

the car he got when he was 16. He can park the Volvo on the street and not care if it gets beat up, "but if I got an old car that was really decked out and all tough and shit, I would have to get a garage for it.

"I'm just saying if I ever move back down South to raise a family, Daddy's getting a muscle car," he explained.

The suburban dream of kids and cars is probably a way off for Kweller, who's still in his early 20s and has just released his second album for ATO Records, On My Way.

For now, he's going to stay in New York with his wife and friends, and "keep making records and touring so much, you know?"

As for the history of the singer/songwriter, his name may sound familiar. Some years ago, he was a teen-age member of Texas band Radish, which garnered attention for the young age of its key member, Kweller. Radish released one album, Restraining Bolt, on PolyGram Records before its members went their separate ways.

Kweller then headed for NYC and gradually established his solo career. Toward the beginning of his residence in the Big Apple, he met Ryan Miller from the band Guster, who introduced Kweller to that band's manager, Dalton Sim.

"We hit it off and I didn't have a manager at the time and he was helping me out with little stuff, like booking me shows around New York," Kweller said. "And then one day, I was, like, 'Are you my manager?'

"And he said, 'I want to be your manager. Do you want me to be your manager?' And I was, like, 'Yeah.' So we just started working together."

Since, Kweller has released three albums, done countless tours around the country and three in Europe, with more scheduled for the remainder of the year.

Currently, he and his band are on a co-headlining tour with Death Cab For Cutie, playing multiple dates in places like San Francisco, Chicago, New York and Seattle.

Kweller's ability to adapt to difficult situations became evident when, hours before the second Chicago gig at the Vic, his bassist injured his wrist, rendering him unable to perform.

"Luckily, he's fine," Kweller explained a few days later. "Well, he's got a cast that he's gotta wear for like two months, but his fingers are free. So I think in the next three days he'll be able to start playing again.

"So what I've been doing is just playing by myself each night, acoustic. We toyed around with the idea of flying another bass player out. ... But I've just been doing these shows by myself and I think I'm just going to keep doing that until Josh is ready to go. We're in the middle of this tour, so we're kind of into this groove, and bringing someone else out could totally change the dynamic."

The audiences didn't seem to mind, he said. In fact, he began his post-Radish career by playing solo acoustic shows opening for Evan Dando, formerly of The Lemonheads, who had taken Kweller under his wing. But, he said, "The majority of my fan base hasn't seen me like that, so it's pretty cool for them."

After the Death Cab tour, Kweller heads to Europe for a promo run that will take in the U.K., France and Germany, then back to Texas for his sister's high school graduation, and then out to Oklahoma for the annual Kings of Leon family reunion.

No, really. For the second year, the extended Followill family has invited Kweller and his wife, Liz, to the family's yearly shindig.

"For a few days, you go out and sleep in these cabins that their family has on all these acres of land, then you just barbeque all day and play horseshoes at night. And fish. It's fucking great, dude."

Monterey Peninsula Artists' Jackie Nalpant told Pollstar that Kweller is so down with fishing that sometimes part of her job is routing his tour through the fishing hot spots. She first laid eyes on Kweller at NYC's Fez Club three years ago and has been helping build his career since, from supporting acts like the Strokes, Wilco, and Dave Matthews to headlining his own dates.

"I think the turnaround was the Dashboard Confessional tour," she said. "He connected so well with that audience and it's been really no looking back since then. ... We've consistently toured the right rooms at the right ticket price. Small, affordable. It has grown quietly, to where we do 1,000 to 2,000 people."


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