Earlier today on Feb 21, 2014 I had the chance to chat with the creative force behind the indie folk band Lord Huron. Ben Schneider talked with us about the concept behind the newly released video for 'She Lit A Fire', the current headlining tour that is selling out across the country (including dates at the Fillmore in San Francisco Feb 25, and The Fonda in Los Angeles Feb 28th and March 1st), and the hopeful release of a sophomore album sometime late this year.
For those who don't know Ben Schneider moved out to Los Angeles to become a visual artist, but due to his concepts that were more conceptual he found minimal success. After working as an Art Director for an ad agency, he started creating music for his own entertainment, but after releasing his first EP at the Woodsist Festival in Big Sur he immediately received requests to play live. Ben didn't have a band together, so he called a bunch of his friends up who were also musicians, and Lord Huron as you know it today was formed.
So, how's everything going so far? Ben
Ben: Well, it's been a great tour so far. It's kind of been flying by to be honest, been through all kinds of weather, we've just come from Texas, heading back out to Denver. We're getting to cold weather again. There's snow on the ground. I was kind of enjoying the sunshine and warmth. I need to acclimate myself again I'm quite sure.
Yeah, well you'll pass through that soon and get back to California.
Ben: Yeah, exactly. Right.
You guys have been involved in some great tours and great festivals since Lonesome Dreams was released. What has been the most interesting thing that you've seen on tour?
Ben: That's a great question. We've been everywhere and to be honest, it's been kind of a blur the past couple of years. I guess the things that impress themselves the most upon you and just going to places you've never been before. For a lot of us, a lot of that took place overseas. It's always surprising to see anyone singing along in the audience. I remember the first time that ever happened, it was surprising. It still surprises me today. To see that in a foreign country, particularly one where English is not the primary language was pretty impressive, or impressed itself upon us. We're playing pretty small clubs overseas, but that was just a really interesting feeling, being someplace foreign and seeing that the music had touched people there in some way.
You just released a new video for She Lit a Fire, which has the same style of all the other videos that have been released for Lonesome Dreams. Was it your idea to shoot everything in that old '70s style originally, or did that kind of come up after the album was created?
Ben: Well, you know, we had this fun idea that Lonesome Dreams was kind of this series of old adventure tales. It's sort of a collection of pulp fiction and we wanted the videos to kind of reflect that and have that same feel and style. Yeah, with our limited resources, it's not like we're, it's not like we have a ton of money at our disposal or anything, but what we do have is a bunch of talented friends who are willing to pitch in. So, yeah, we set out to make as many of the songs as we could into these sort of short adventure movies. We're going to keep making them as long as we can. Hopefully, we'll get a couple more out before the album is done.
Working an ad agency, you know how important brand consistency is, but also being an artist you have to have new ideas floating around, do you think this style will carry forward to the new album or are you going to create a new aesthetic for that one?
Ben: Yeah, I think some of the elements will be retained, but I think it will be little, it exists in the same universe, but it will be a different sort of story in this next record. Whereas this one was sort of more based in this older adventure tale sort of world, I think we'll get out of that a little, although I still consider it all as living within the Lord Huron universe.
You're working on a new album right now, right?
Ben: Yeah, pretty far along in writing it, but got to get back and get into the studio when we're done with this tour.
Was the new album influenced again by Mr. George Ranger Johnson or is there a new writer created for the new one?
Ben: You'll have to wait and see I guess. I don't want to give too much away just yet.
Fair enough. When you're writing the music, do you try and make a cohesive body of work or do you kind of make stand-alone songs and then tie it into a larger album?
Ben: Well ... Yeah, I definitely try work more as a collection of songs, particularly with Lonesome Dreams I really wanted to do one cohesive body of work as opposed to songs that stand on their own. Most of the songs do stand on their own, but it's definitely meant to be listened to in sequence as one body of work. It has its pitfalls too, but I've always liked to perform it as an album as something you can immerse yourself with and lose yourself in. That's definitely what we set out to create when we make a record, the whole experience. What we've had fun doing is making it extend even beyond the album and into these other media, hopefully something you can spend a good amount of time in and lose yourself in a bit.
You obviously grew up listening to a lot of vinyl with artists like Neil Young and Bob Dylan. Do you still embrace that whole analog sound experience with the turntable and the Hi-Fi or have you gone mostly digital with your listening now?
Ben: Practically, since I'm on the road so much digital is what I listen to most of the time and in some ways I really like it and I like having all that stuff at my fingertips, but when I'm at home, I'm still kind of a vinyl nerd; I've got my records and I like to listen to my records when I can. It's not easy carting around your records when you're on the road, so I've had to resort to other things.
Have you ever tried digitizing the records so you have them on your phone or on your computer?
Ben: Yeah, there were a couple things that I couldn't find out there too, but I knew I wanted to take with me so I got one of those little USB hook-ups and converted some of the stuff. Sounds great.
What was the last album that you listened to all the way through?
Ben: Last album I listened to all the way through? Let's see. What was I listening to yesterday? Let me just look at my iTunes. I can't remember what the last thing was. Give me a sec. ... Looks like last album all the way through was Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen. Good driving album.
I'm spoiled with the whole Spotify "New Music Tuesday" thing.
Ben: I know. God, isn't that nice?
I just devour that every week.
Ben: That's cool.
You started Lord Huron as a solo recording project, but it's now evolved into a full-scale music experience. How does it feel to sell-out venues like the Fillmore and the Fonda in LA?
Ben: It's great. It's really, to be completely honest, it still is surprising. It's just been such a blur these past few years touring and every time we go back to a town there's more people there and more enthusiasm. That just feels so good. It feels like such a natural growth. This is probably the last big tour that we'll do for this record. It feels good to be ending on a high note, going to all these great cities and seeing how things are done. I don't know, it's just really satisfying, especially when you feel, as we do right now, just really confident in our show and how we're playing the songs; just really want to show these crowds what we've got and leaving with a smile on my face.
Obviously, you started out as more of a visual artist and then the music evolved from there. Lord Huron is kind of this more expansive artistic expression. Do you think that you'll ever get to a point where you'll say, "I'm done with Lord Huron as this art project," and move on to something else?
Ben: I wouldn't rule that out. I definitely would not rule that out. I'd like to keep doing this as long as I can and as long as I'm inspired to do it. I also can't deny my own nature and I know my nature is to always be looking to the next thing, but the great thing about how this project is step up, is that it can go so many ways. So, hopefully it will keep us all engaged for many years to come. That's the hope.
You live in LA? But your music is more nature-based, it seems. Where are you going in LA to get that nature fix?
Ben: What's great about living in southern California is that it's a good jumping off point for pretty much any kind of outdoor experience you're looking for. Although it's a huge sprawling city, very close by you have pretty remote desert, mountains, the ocean obviously is right there. So, I've kind of situated myself in the northeast part of town where it's easy for me to get to the mountains, up into the San Gabriel or it's easy for me to get on the 10 or the 210 and get to the desert. Wherever I have free time or the afternoon, I like to hit the road and maybe go camping or maybe just take an afternoon outside.
Great. So, you're writing the album now, pretty close to being finished, obviously you're touring, do you have any plans to hop in the studio after the tour?
Ben: We're hoping to get in there pretty much as soon as we get back, start getting it done. I think we'll be done recording everything within the next few months, Beyond that, it all becomes a mystery to me, so it's hard to know when it will come out exactly. I'm shooting for the end of this year or early next year for a release. The sooner the better from my perspective, but I have to be realistic about all the bullshit they make you go through to put a record out.
Right. Have you identified a producer yet or are you still looking on that? You doing self-production?
Ben: We might produce it again ourselves. I'm talking to some people, but nothing's locked down yet. We'll generally work, at least the beginning, we'll record some stuff ourselves and then maybe transition into a more proper studio when the time comes. We'll see. It might just be us producing it again.
Well, you know, that last one sounded pretty good.
Ben: Well, thank you.
Definitely looking forward to the show at the Fillmore.
Should be fun.
Ben: Please stop by and say hello if you see us around.
Yeah, definitely. You guys hang out at the merch table before hand or after?
Ben: Yeah, sometimes we do. We are also doing a DJ set after the, or I'm not sure if we are in San Francisco actually. We might do one, but we'll be hanging around. So, if you see us, please come say hey.