On a cold Friday evening in November, I had the opportunity to interview Benny Fulton, the drummer of The Tales. Part of the Kingston music scene, The Tales is a band featuring both Queen’s students and alumni. The energy of this folk-rock band is described by Benny as “melodic but a gritty bar band that is upbeat as it wants to have fun.” The members of the band also include Benny’s brother Max Fulton on the guitar, trumpeter Matt Simpson, and guitarists Sam Beber and Innis Reid.
Benny entered with a soft smile explaining that he had come from having some pints and playing corn hole with his buddies. His laid-back character instantly set the mood for the entire conversation we would have. He sat down, wearing a necklace that reads “Believe” and ordered a Molson as I had a glass of wine. Influenced by Benny’s ambience, I began by asking a very simple question, “do you sing in the shower?” To which Benny responded, “Oh yea, all the fucking time. I think it depends on my mood. If I’m hungover, I’ll curl up in a ball and sing Johnny Cash and if I’m getting fired up I’ll play Katy Perry.”
Benny began by explaining how he had gotten into music insisting that it’s just how he grew up. It was the sort of thing kids had to do when younger, like playing a sport. He chuckled lightly, admitting that the first concert that he ever went to was Hilary Duff. “Some Disney Channel Shit. Right after Hilary Duff, my next concert in grade 5 was ACDC. So that was a big jump. So from a young age, I’ve loved ACDC, hard rock, but it’s simple as well. I remember learning their songs and playing them when I was little.” As he got older, he and his brother, Max, began playing songs together and testing harmonies. This sort of chemistry is translated into the band today as Benny explains that there is not a single song where they are not singing together.
According to Benny, his creative process is not as simple as one may think. “Music is always made first before the lyrics. When I have the music, I’ll hum along and get the melody going and bullshit the lyrics. The first draft of the lyrics you write is the cheesiest shit ever. I want to, like, beat myself up for writing them; they’re so bad.” However, this process is highly subject to changes as he explains, “Honestly, it depends on the song so much. On our last EP (extended play) I wrote this song in two days and it came so fast both lyrics and music-wise. Whereas the new EP we’re about to release called “Georgian Bay,” I had the music done last summer. I liked it but spent six months wondering what this hell the song was about. You need to have the inspiration to get it going.
I asked Benny, “if there was any band, dead or alive that you could open for, who would it be?” This question seemed very clear to him. “The Tragically Hip. An iconic Canadian band.” Cheekily, Benny added, “But, like, if The Beatles asked us to open for them I wouldn’t say no, you know?” The Tales is managed by the same agency that managed the widely celebrated band, The Tragically Hip. I asked Benny if there’s any pressure given that The Tales is managed by the same agency and also playing in Kingston, where the Tragically Hip originated. Benny responded, “Yea, definitely recently. Especially when we were playing at the Horseshoe Tavern or gigs where there is a big poster of Gord Downie on the wall watching.”
Being a musician during a pandemic is difficult, especially considering that musicians can’t perform due to gathering restrictions. However, the Tales seem to be successful in finding a silver lining. “It sucks because the best part of being in a band is playing live. But it’s so nice being able to step back and write new stuff. For a while, we had a gig every week and it was tiring after the weekend and we had our school work so we spent most of our time rehearsing and playing, but not enough time focused on writing, so that has been very nice.”
I asked Benny to speak about his last album called “Of Our Youth.” His face lit up as he began to explain its significance to him. “It’s a cool story. We didn’t come up with its name until right before we were about to put it on Spotify. It’s hard to come up with an album name versus putting a name on one of the songs in the album. So we began to reflect on the songs that made up the album. A lot of them are just like from high school almost; high school memories. For example, in “Free World” my brother wrote about his ex-girlfriend that he dated in high school. “The Break” is about this girl from grade 12 that I liked. It’s about what could have been maybe if we didn’t both go to different universities. “Coming Home” is a transition song because it’s the last song of the EP. The first songs are about loving life and freedom, and the last song coming home was like this is sick, but I need a break and I need to come home. So “Of Our Youth” is a lot about ending a chapter in our life. A lot of the songs weren’t written in high school but were started there. So we have some memories from there and then experienced change finishing the songs going into university as we were introduced to a lot of different stuff.”
The Tales has a new album that is to be released very soon. This album is different from their last, according to Benny, as he expresses that they have grown as writers and musicians. “The new song I wrote is about life. I’m trying to be like the big writers, like Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney. For them, songs were more than just a girl. On one of their songs, it’s about 10 years of their life and that’s sort of what I’m trying to do and I think that the whole band is trying to do that as well.” However, the band is still in touch with its roots. “It’s different, but we still have our sitting on the dock song, our stoner song and our rock song type of thing, you know?”
With that, Benny and I finished our drinks and continued chatting. Benny’s passion for music was present in all of his answers as was his warm glow and sweet smile. Make sure to keep an eye out for their upcoming album and check out their previous album, “Of Our Youth,” if you haven’t already.