Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lord Huron Interview

It isn't every day that a music lover is fortunate enough to come across a band that not only provides beautifully crafted lyrics, but an entire visual journey as well.  Lord Huron is that band.  They started performing in August of 2010 and recently released their first LP, Lonesome Dreams.

As you might have guessed from the band's title, Ben Schneider, the group's founder, hails from Michigan.  He moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue a career in marketing and visual arts. His musical work started with visuals and transitioned into stories that were told best through song.  Schneider developed his first few songs independently on the shores of Lake Huron.  This side project quickly turned in to live shows around L.A. which gained recognition and praise from critics and fans.                                               

As opportunity grew, so did the band.  Schneider invited his long-time friends and fellow musicians from his hometown of Michigan to join him in this new endeavor. Mark Barry plays the drums, Miguel Briseno provides the bass and percussion, while Tom Renaud and Karl Kerfoot (from Sacramento, CA) play the guitar. 

Listening to the new album, Lonesome Dreams, is a true musical experience.  The idea spawned "through
the lens" of a fictitious character conceived by Schneider named George Ranger Johnson.  According to his creator, Johnson is an "under appreciated author; very obscure."  Johnson is given credit for writing several fake western novels that developed in to drawings, videos, and songs that make the Lonesome Dreams vision complete.  Details of this fictional author can be found on his website,  

                                                                                                  Photo Credit:  Jessica Yurasek
The album reads like a novel with ten story-telling songs filled with thoughtful and sometimes haunting lyrics.  These poetic lyrics are supported by exotic sounds that mix Americana-folk with world music. "She Lit a Fire" hints of love lost while "Lonesome Dreams" shares the torment of feeling alone.  The album expresses the journey of life, appreciating both positive and negative aspects, and experiencing constant growth. 

While traveling through Montana in the most recent polar vortex of the season, singer, songwriter, and Lord Huron creator, Ben Schneider,  took time to speak with The Triangle Beat via phone about their first LP, Lonesome Dreams.  

TTB:  Working as a solo artist in the beginning, how difficult was it to adjust to recording with a band?

SCHNEIDER:  Well, you know, it’s just kind of a natural progression of things. Once I started getting asked to play shows it wasn’t something I could pull off myself.  Once there was an opportunity to get my friends involved who are a lot more proficient at their instruments than I am, it just made a lot of sense.  As soon as I got the chance, we got together and now we’ve been on the road for two and a half years. We’re starting to work more on the next record, so it’s exciting.

TTB:  It sounds like you have known the band members for a long time.  How did everyone come together?

SCHNEIDER:  Yea, uh, I was in a band with two of the guys way back in middle school, so I’ve known these guys for a long time.  We met the bass player, Miguel, in high school and then Karl we met out in Western California.  He joined the band about a year and a half ago.  We have a nice little crew together.  It’s cool because we have a lot of personal chemistry, but a lot of musical chemistry as well.  We get along and we can make some great music together.  You can’t really beat just traveling around with your buddies and playing music every day.

TTB:  Do you have a specific process for creating new music?

SCHNEIDER:  I don’t really have a set process because when we’re on the road, it’s really not possible to have a set schedule.  The way it kind of works for me is, I gather snippets over time, little bits of lyrics or melodies or visual things.  I kind of just collect that stuff for when I get back home or in short breaks between tours and I’ll lay it all out and piece it all together to see where it’s headed.  Then I’ll try to start crafting something out of it.

TTB:  What role does George Ranger Johnson play in the album?

SCHNEIDER:  He’s a really under appreciated author; very obscure.  When I start creating work I always like to start from some place personal, from something that’s happened to me or someone close to me.   I just wanted to look at those stories from the lens of an old adventure novel, so I invented this author to filter it all through.  I don’t know, it’s kind of a strange way of working I suppose, but it just helps me get into the mode of what I’m trying to work on.

TTB:  So, did everything start with the creation of this character or did you start with lyrics first?

SCHNEIDER:  Yea, I had some of the lyrics and stories that I wanted to tell that I created through this filter.  I had a bunch of bits and pieces of songs and artwork that I used to try and convey this idea and then just ran it all through the George Ranger Johnson filter.

TTB:  Was it intentional for the album to flow from beginning to end like a novel or was that a natural occurrence as you were writing?

SCHNEIDER:  That’s definitely the feeling I wanted it to have.  I’ve always loved albums like that,  that feel like one piece of work.  Ideally people will listen to songs together, as a series, and I think it paints more of a vivid picture that way.  It all kind of flows together, it’s all one body of work, with these parts of clarity in all the songs.

TTB:  When listening to the album there's a great mix of folk sounds meshed with world music.  Where do your strongest musical influences stem from?

SCHNEIDER:  I think from a lot of different places. I think one of the things that helped with the personal development of this project is that I don’t ignore any of the things that influence me, I just try to let it all be in there.  There were days when I’d think I should be ashamed of certain things, like a guilty pleasure, or maybe there was an element that didn't  fit with the aesthetic; but I made a decision to let it all live together and hope that it all came out as something more personal and unique. I think it does.  I’m just really embracing it and letting everything I am interested in inform the music.  That’s everything from traditional folk and country stuff, Hank Williams and Bob Dylan, mixed with Japanese music and stuff from Africa.  It’s maybe not as prevalent as the folk, but I think that’s what helps give it some spice.

TTB:  Were these worldly sounds influenced directly by places you've traveled?

SCHNEIDER:  Yea, a few places, I really enjoy trying to soak up music from different spots. A few years back when I was traveling quite a bit, I spent time in Indonesia and Mexico among other places. I listened to a lot of music and I definitely think that influenced me quite a bit.  I had a recorder that I carried around and, yea, it was a cool experience.

TTB:  After the tour and the Shaky Knees fest in May, what is next for Lord Huron?

SCHNEIDER:  Yea, we’re pretty far along with writing the second album.  We started recording a little bit, but when we get back, we’ll really kind of dig into that over the next two months.

Locally, Lord Huron will perform at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw on February 11. The Superhumanoids will open the show. Take a look at Lord Huron's website for a complete musical and visual experience as well as tour and festival dates. 

Every young boy dreams of being the star of his very own western. Watch the gentlemen of Lord Huron achieve this goal in "Lonesome Dreams."

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