A couple of things have changed since the last time Clash met up with Band Of Horses. It was March 2012, we were in Austin, Texas, and in the evening of the day we met, the quintet headlined an outdoor show whereby their emotional outpourings and stunning video backdrop of mountainous landscapes defined the heartland of America and captivated souls. Today, on an empty section of a busy East London road, they look a little like fish out of water. Secondly, our initial conversation was on the eve of their third album, ‘Infinite Arms’. Now, we find them - in the wake of that record’s success - heralded as champions of American indie rock. Surely then, with success now in their grasp, they’d repeat a similar process for new album ‘Mirage Rock’ to guarantee the same results?
“I don’t think so,” counters Ben Bridwell, lead Horse and singer. “The success of it didn’t enter the picture at all. If anything, we made this record in spite of it, I guess, by doing things completely differently, by doing it live on analogue and in the shortest amount of time possible.”
Yes, as it turns out, pretty much everything throughout the process of creating ‘Mirage Rock’ was the complete opposite to that of ‘Infinite Arms’. As Bridwell told Clash at the time, he had funded the time and sessions himself. This time, a confident major label was happy to supply the bucks. Where he’d previously produced himself, this time round Ben hired legendary English producer Glyn Johns. And where that album was long, laborious and often stressful, this one was quick and easy. The only thing to remain that was encouraged on ‘Infinite Arms’ was the contributions of each Horse as songwriter to the fold.
The current line-up of the group was only consolidated just before work began on ‘Infinite Arms’ - while drummer Creighton Barrett has been with Ben since 2006, keyboard player Ryan Monroe joined a year later, while guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds soon followed. With each now totally comfortable in their roles, their responsibilities have become even more vital to the Band Of Horses sound. “It was such an effort for everyone to come together and realise what kind of band this band is,” Creighton reveals, “which means taking songs from any direction and any influence and making it our own, whether that be upbeat rock ‘n’ roll, or a slower, country-ish sounding thing. We finalised that this band can do multiple genres, and we tried doing them as well as possible.”
It’s admirable that Ben, therefore, can appreciate that the group he founded is now the sum of its parts. Whereas ‘Infinite Arms’ was written when he took himself off alone into the wilderness, ‘Mirage Rock’ is definitely an album of distinct personalities. “We’re all so into the process now,” Bridwell enthuses. “Immediately on the tour of ‘Infinite Arms’, we were all excited to start throwing stuff into the mix. Bill wrote a ton for this album - I think it probably lit a spark under him that he started cranking out songs. But at the same time we all wrote them separately. It wasn’t like we were all, ‘Hey, let’s all meet up at the rehearsal space, and this one’s in G!’ It was mostly like sending each other songs, and just throwing it all at the wall and seeing what sticks.”
And since they were so inspired on tour, the effect has been the influence of live recording in the studio to capture their energy. “The albums are becoming easier because the shows have become easier,” Ben continues. “We’re so used to not rehearsing together; we end up rehearsing at a festival gig - we don’t all live in the same town - we’ll end up flying to fucking Norway or something and, ‘Hey, your first show’s in front of ten thousand people’, and you haven’t played in a couple months. We’ve gotten so used to doing shit on the fly that way that the album process has become easier as well, because it’s always touch and go.”
Words: Simon Harper
Photographer: Rory Van Millingen
Fashion: John Colver
This is an excerpt from the November 2012 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.