Band of Horses brings heartfelt sounds to Milwaukee
With the thunderous roar of a white rapids river or the silence in a far-away, frozen and snow-covered forest, Seattle's Band of Horses gallops into the unsteady and expansive terrains of Americana, folk and rock.
They stamped their way onwards, always in a state of motion but with ever-in-mind notion to take snapshots of flashing glimpses of life -- the big and small hinges of life that sometimes can get overlooked -- and emotions they bring or are associated with.
Things like faith, love, birth, death and discovering yourself are topics that the band steps around or tramples into.
With singer Ben Bridwell leading the way with an instantly gravitating voice, soaked in dusty Americana and the honesty of singers like Neil Young, Band of Horses quickly found a large audience, memorized in the band's unique and fresh take on the genre.
Their debut album, "Everything All the Time," was released in 2006 and was followed by "Cease to Begin" in 2007. Both albums were on the Sub Pop label.
Just as the band's music can be in the state of motion, the lineup frequently found itself in flux in the years surrounding both releases (not that the music ever really suffered though).
More recently, after several shifts and a decision to stay a five-piece band, a permanent lineup consisting of Bridwell, Ryan Monroe, Tyler Ramsey, Bill Reynolds and Creighton Barrett came together.
With their Sub Pop contract expiring, the band set out on its own (with additional help from producer Phil Ek) to put together, "Infinite Arms" -- a process that saw the band traverse the country from North Carolina to California a number of times over a 16-month-period.
"The contract with Sub Pop was up after the second record, and since the band was finally solidified after a bunch of member changes, it seemed natural to switch things up," says Monroe, who handles keyboard duties. "We funded and produced this record ourselves. It was nice to not have any deadlines or anyone checking our work."
Following Bridwell writing most of the record in Minnesota and South Carolina, the band traveled to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studios in Alabama with plenty of ideas and had a promising first session. After a little touring break, the band ventured to Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, N.C., the same studio where they recorded "Cease to Begin."
The band used a bit of the same by the book approach but that soon gave way to more of an "experimental party that lasted for the better part of a year in between small tours that were necessary to pay for the studio time."
"Same studio this time, a lot of the same equipment, but this go 'round we actually had a bass player in the band, Bill, along with Tyler's guitar work both of which put large stamps on Infinite Arms," recalls Monroe. "Since we had a real band now we were able to record some tunes live in the same room, crazy concept, huh?"
Even while they weren't recording for the album, the band's eagerness to play led to hours and hours of jamming together.
"I think those late nights of just [expletive] around is what I'll remember most about the end of the Infinite Arms sessions, surprisingly enough," says Monroe. "I remember it being very conversational jamming. It's all on tape somewhere."
"Infinite Arms" found the band working more collaboratively than in the past. Monroe said that these sessions went smoothly as there weren't any egos getting in the way and the band could work for long periods without many breaks.
Among other things, Bridwell and the rest of the band used the lush landscape of their native Northwest and various other places they've traveled to for inspiration, giving the album a bit of a traveling or journeying feeling (whether it be physical or mental/spiritual).
The video for "Compliments," in fact, featured scenes of snow-covered mountains, frosted forests and the like that rapidly transitioned and faded into each other in tune to their upbeat country rock tune.
"Trees and mountains are easier to work with than humans," says Monroe jokingly. "They really check their egos at the door and can work around the clock without taking many breaks."
When it came to seriously finding a label to release the album on, they found they had many options, with major and indie labels. The band decided to take the middle ground, signing with the smaller Fat Possum label as well as larger Columbia Records.
"We felt comfortable with Fat Possum and Columbia because they had specific expertise in different aspects of the business," says Monroe. "They are both very creative labels with artists that we enjoy listening to with both sides of our random faces."
In between days in the recording studio the band appreciates chances to play live to new and old fans. They strive to their shows lively and in motion, with their spacious and commanding melodies able to captivate audiences.
"I really enjoy trying out new covers and originals without much practice," says Monroe. "It keeps you on your toes and it's healthy to take some risks on stage, especially if you're in the middle of a long tour. It's rare, but when we do it, hopefully the crowd laughs with us when we fire clams around."
Alex | July 16, 2010 at 2:36 p.m. (report)
First Josh Miller article with an expletive. Nice. I [expletive] like it! Keep up the good writing and don't forget to reserve some Miller Time every once and awhile.
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