There are times when a band’s primary songwriter comes up with music so personal (i.e., Green Day’s “Good Riddance”), it almost defies categorization to the point that it doesn’t quite fit under the band’s moniker. This is the way that Maryland native, Ben DeHan, approaches all of his songwriting, and it’s the reason that he releases music under his own name.
For some, there may be lingering memory of his time playing with American Diary, specifically at the 2008 Warped Tour, but after a hiatus from the band (and music in general), he returned with a newfound energy as a solo artist. Since then, he and his wife, collaborator and cellist, Lauren have worked hard to establish the authenticity and versatility of their pop-punk act.
“I think our unique blend of pop-punk and cello combined with Lauren and I’s writing chemistry sets us apart sonically and energetically” he says. “I think most important for any aspiring musician though is to remain honest. By that I mean, writing songs you love and that mean something to you. I think when you do that, your audience finds you because it’s real.”
An undeniable nostalgic charm pulses through each song that DeHan puts out, especially for fans Warped Tour’s heyday. Wedged somewhere between the musical and lyrical aesthetics of Blink-182’s later discography and the electro pop punk stylings of Machine Gun Kelly, the duo produces an electric ether with their larger-than-life tunes.
Their most recent release, “Broken Bones,” manifests their hybrid musical approach aplomb with surging synthesizers and thoughtful lyrics delivered with a defiant resilience. The single spawned out of a creative prompt inspired an iconic pop song that may come as a surprise. DeHan says that “Upon learning that Adele wrote ‘Hello’ as a letter to herself in the past, I was fascinated by the concept and thus wrote “Broken Bones” as a letter to myself when I was on Warped Tour 2008 and really struggling.”
It’s a nice twist to the song’s lyrics, which would otherwise be interpreted as DeHan talking to the listener or about some unnamed character. But his introspective approach to building nostalgia and telling his own story works well.
No strength you’re feeling so broke down
Save face, get out of that ghost town
Keep faith cause you’re getting close now
You won’t be left behind; you’ll never be left behind
Where the first two lines of the song are an admission of being near-defeated and looking for a way out, the second two lines (which act like an in-stanza chorus) are both the validation and comfort that DeHan’s past younger self could have used. The song’s outro shouts the repetitious line “Reset” in hopes of a new beginning and ends on a hopeful note of being “in a strange place at the right time.”
“We came up with the synth in the studio, and I wrote the beats and lyrics on the spot,” DeHan recalls. “It’s about everything I was going through as a 20-year-old kid while looping the country in a 15-passenger van for months at a time and playing monstrous festivals every day. The fear, the doubt, the breakup, the first panic attack, the feeling of total isolation in a sea of people. The lyrics are everything I would’ve needed to hear at the time: That I’d make it through, that I’d be okay, that I’d grow from the experience, and that amazing things were just around the corner.”
Along with their first single of 2023, the DeHan clan has plenty of plans for the rest of the year, which include the release of their new EP, Blank Check. It collects their 3 most recent singles “Broken Bones,” “The Dream,” and “Comeback Kid” into a neat package.
“The EP is a snapshot into our lives last year,” Ben says. “It’s got highs and lows and it’s a bit more brooding than the New Nostalgia EP and ends with a bit of optimism in ‘Broken Bones.’” The official CD release also includes an exclusive acoustic version of “The Dream” that is not currently available to stream. Purchase details can be found on Ben DeHan’s official website.
Beyond that, Ben says they will also have a steady schedule of new releases planned for 2023. “We will be hitting the studio with Matt Malpass (Blink 182, MGK) and then back on the road! People can expect singles to be dropped throughout the year every 6 weeks.” Be sure to follow him on his various social media channels like Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, and Twitter for updates on future releases and events. In the meantime, “Broken Bones” and Blank Check are both available now on major streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, SoundCloud, and TIDAL.
Charlie Maybee is a dancer, musician, educator, and writer based in Charleston, South Carolina who currently teaches with the Dance Program at the College of Charleston. His primary work as an artist is with his performing collective, Polymath Performance Project, through which he makes interdisciplinary performance art that centers tap dance as the primary medium of expression and research. He also currently plays rhythm guitar for the Charleston-based punk band, Anergy, and releases music as a solo artist under the name Nox Eterna.