It’s not often that the worlds of modern pop mix so tastefully with those of classic rock and contemporary hip-hop, and even less frequently that you hear the results described as “heartwarming” or “low-key.” But with his newest single “Strawberry Candy,” up-and-coming artist Ben Chandler manages to marry all of his varied influences together, creating a feel-good track reminiscent of Harry Styles, Omar Apollo, The Grateful Dead and The 1975 all in equal parts, while remaining idiosyncratically himself.
The lyrics of “Strawberry Candy” will feel familiar to anyone nostalgic for their time experiencing first love, while at the same time tactfully bring up all the awkward and sometimes painful memories that we tend to push away from those simpler times. Chandler opened up about that love, saying “I thought of my first love and how it was good, but it was also really toxic. I wanted to be out of it, but every time we kissed I felt like, ‘Fuck, I can’t move.’ It was like looking at Medusa and turning to stone. I was stuck in a bad relationship.”
That feeling is surely a relatable one for those looking back on truly any failed relationship, but what makes the song so approachable is the way in which Chandler seamlessly confronts such a personal subject through the medium of a catchy chants, handclaps and a wonderfully relaxing guitar riff reminiscent of easy summer days relaxing on the grass. The toxicity of the relationship is important context, but secondary on “Strawberry Candy,” with Chandler choosing to highlight all the warm and fuzzy feelings that come with first love; the butterflies and jitters, not the fights and anxiety.
That focus on the good is intentional. Chandler stated as much himself: “I’m all about making people happy. I enjoy music more than anything else and want to let everyone know I care about them as much as I care about myself.” It is a sentiment that bleeds into all of his tacks, like previous single “Red Line,” also about a past relationship. Again aiming squarely at the good times, Chandler says the song “about this girl I met. She was really influential on my life. ‘Red Line’ shows my appreciation for her helping me become a better person.” The track also shows off more of his modern influences, sporting a glitchy hip-hop beat over breezy acoustic riffs.
Ben Chandler’s path to today is a rapid and prolific one. A self-identifying introvert in his hometown of Pittsburg, PA, Chandler was tired of being seen as “the quiet kid,” knowing that through his music he was as loud and emotional as can be. So when he was presented the opportunity to move to Naples, FL, he jumped, knowing that “moving was a way to restart my life and do something I actually wanted to do for myself.” From there it was all music, as Chandler immersed himself in the scene, quickly making friends with locals like Dominic Fike (with whom he teamed up with on “This Thing Called Love” in 2016) and releasing his own tunes.
The indie artist’s influences are quite vast, making a point to highlight his upbringing on classic acts like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Marvin Gaye, while still leaving plenty of room for modern hip-hop acts like Frank Ocean, Tyler, The Creator and the Odd Future collective. It is the DIY spirit of the latter’s approach that makes its way into Chandler’s music the most. At heart Chandler is a bedroom artist, dropping his first ever song, “With U,” because of a promise made on a whim over Instagram. From there, after releasing the 2020 EP Sweet Dreams, Sweet Heart, Atlantic Records almost immediately were at attention, signing the artist quickly and paving the way for his upcoming Sweeter Than Sugar EP, coming in 2021.
Though his style is crafted so expertly for an artist so early in their career, Ben Chandler doesn’t get hung up too much on making sure everything sounds a particular way, choosing instead to prioritize authenticity: “I’ve learned you don’t have to impress other people. I make the best music when I’m having fun. That goes for everything. If I had a message, it would be to be yourself no matter what and just enjoy it.”