One of Australia’s most characterful musical exports, Donny Benét is back on the road, bringing his trunk of funk to Band on the Wall on 12 March.
You’d have to have a heart of stone to resist the seductive charms of Donny Benét, an unabashedly romantic human disco ball whose music is as luscious as his finely coiffed handlebar moustache.
A third generation musician, Ben Waples (now better known by his alter-ego Donny Benét) moved to Sydney in 2000 to study jazz double bass at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, honing his skills playing with Australian jazz masters Mike Nock, Bernie McGann and Vince Jones while founding the loop-based jazz trio Triosk. After 10 years of performing both in Australia and throughout the world, a chance encounter at a vintage synthesiser shop in Tokyo led to Waples purchasing his first drum machine, which reconnected him to his love of funk and electric bass.
After humble lo-fi beginnings as a solo artist in the Australian art-pop underground, the bass virtuoso broke out with his fourth album, The Don (2018). It was an exercise in sublime disco pop that announced the arrival of Ben Waples’ vaguely outrageous alter-ego – one that straddles the line between irony and sincerity, humour and dedicated musicianship. The Don was lapped up around the world, leading to back-to-back sold out European, US and Australian tours and festival appearances. But to sustain all of this, the follow-up had to be good. It had to be really good.
Enter Mr Experience (2020), a deal sealer if there ever was one. Laying genuine emotion on a kitsch platter, its lyrics speak to our most fundamental desires, but it sounds like the soundtrack to a wayward dinner party set in the late 1980s. Full of vintage synths and drum machines, it’s a masterclass in modern disco, whose melodic earworms and infectious grooves were all written, performed and recorded by the man himself. A cunning character Donny Benét may be, but he’s the real deal.
The year is 2024. Donny Benét’s older now, more refined, more thoughtful and wise. He’s travelled the world. He’s seen some things. And he’s poured it all into his next album, Infinite Desires (coming 29 February 2024). Its killer first single is above, with the wider LP billed as “playful and potent. Passionate and self-assured. He’s talking about romance but he’s also talking about respect. He’s talking about intimacy and gratification but he’s also talking about consent. And he’s bringing it all to life with the same display of muscular musicality that’s been electrifying audiences around the globe for years.”
More than a decade since the world first fell for his charms, The Don is back in Manchester, performing Infinite Desires in its entirety at Band on the Wall.