Sunday, 9 December 2012

Interview with Band of Horses

On December 6th, Band of Horses played a show at the Métropolis in Montréal. Throughout 2012, the groups has been touring in support of their fourth album "Mirage Rock". Ryan Monroe, along with founder Ben Bridwell (lead vocals, guitar), Tyler Ramsey (guitar), Bill Reynolds (bass), and Creighton Barrett (drums) make up Band of Horses. Monroe, who plays guitar, the keyboards, the organ and also does vocals, has been a member of Band of Horses since 2007.
Before their show, I had the opportunity to sit down with Monroe to discuss the new album, talk about the tour and see what's next for Band of Horses. Thanks to for giving me the opportunity to do the interview.
Julie Cormier-Doiron: So how are you feeling today? Are you guys excited to play in Montréal?
Ryan Monroe: Absolutely. We got up early today and walked around the area. We saw some very cool graffiti around this block. Also, the venue is amazing. We never played a venue this big in Montréal before, so we're very excited.
JCD: As a band, do you prefer to play live shows in smaller, more intimate venues like this one or do you prefer to play in large arenas or large outdoor spaces?
RM: We like to play both. The bigger shows, we like to approach them like they're small gigs, and we approach the smaller shows like they're big gigs. So we try to bring the energy of a small, intimate keg party to the bigger venues so it doesn't seem so disconnected with the crowd, because some of these venues are huge. 
JCD: Band of Horses has an extensive lineup of materials produced with over the years. How do you guys choose what to include in your setlist when you go on tour?
RM: Ben [Bridwell] toils over that an hour at least every night, because we have so many songs [to choose from]. We have four albums worth of materials and we play covers. We try to keep it fresh and we want to play material from every record. Every setlist is different every night, so it's kinda like we roll the dice.
After the soundcheck, we get a feel from the venue and a feel of what would sound good and what we think we would enjoy playing that night. We refer back to what we played last time we were in Montréal to make sure it's not the same set. We try to keep it fresh and mix it up all the time. That just keeps it interesting, because we play so many shows.
JCD: This past year, the group has been touring all around the world. Can you tell me some of the highlights from your tour so far?
RM: We played the Roundhouse in London with Jack White for the iTunes Festival, that was pretty cool. We played lots of gorgeous venues. We opened for My Morning Jacket for part of the summer, and they're like our favourite [band]. They're good friends of ours. That whole tour was like a dream come true. All of it seems like a dream, we're so lucky to be doing it. All of it seems like a big highlight, as far as I'm concerned.
JCD: In September, you guys shared the stage with major acts like Neil Young, Foo Fighters and the Black Keys at the Global Citizen Festival. What was that experience like?
RM: Oh yeah, [the show] in Central Park. That could be a highlight (laughs). Good call! That was amazing!  To be part of something so special, [like] the Global Poverty Project, that was just insane. To play right before the Black Keyes was really cool and to be able to watch them. I hadn't seen them play in a long time, and they're just killing it right now. A good friend of ours, Gus, plays the bass with them, so it was good to catch up with him too.
We got to sing onstage with Neil Young during his set [at the festival]. We came up and sang "Keep On Rocking in The Free World" with him; that was pretty crazy. That was the second time he asked us to join him on stage. The first time was at the Bridge School Benefit [Concert] in San Francisco a couple of years ago. We were just hanging out backstage and he came up to us and said "We're gonna do an old song of mine, I don't know if you guys are going to be around, to come up and play "There Comes a Time". There will be a pump organ and all these different instruments that you can play." We told him "Yeah, I guess we can stick around and play with you" (laughs). It was so funny, he politely asked us and we were like "Of course". Norah Jones came up and played with him and we all just came on stage and played [together]. I hope we can play with Neil a lot more. I'm glad to see him out playing so much, with Crazy Horse too. That was just insane.
JCD: Ben [Bridwell] had previously mentioned that the recording process for "Mirage Rock" was a little different this time around. Can you tell me more about that? Was it more challenging for you guys as a group in the recording studio?
RM: We were going into it, hoping for a huge departure from the last record. The last record ["Infinite Arms"] was so surgical; we edited and overdubbed so many things. This time was just straight to tape. It's the way that [producer] Glyn Johns wanted it. It was a challenge for us because we played 8 hours straight as a band. We don't really do that that often. We all live in different cities. Now that we're on the road so much, the only time we get together and play is at shows or during soundcheck. So it really helped us grow as a band to be in the same room, always plugged up together and playing 8 or 9 hours straight every day. And we just kept the best [takes].
It was cool, because we were really meticulous about mistakes and everything on the last record. We didn't let anything slide, [the record] had to be a perfect thing. But on this record, mistakes were welcomed. We wanted to sound as human as possible. Glyn Johns was more about capturing the energy than a flawless performance.  We've always had energy and definitely had some flawed performances, that's easy. He helped us become a better band, and we learned to play off each other a little more.
JCD: Would you consider recording your next album in the same process as this one?
RM: I don't know. We loved doing it. We kinda looked at it as an art project. We didn't think of it as "this is our new, big release".  Maybe we should have... We  were just like, "we have an opportunity to work with Glyn Johns. He wants to do it this way, so we'll do it that way". We didn't give it too much thought because it was kind off a no-brainer. We'll make a record in the process of working with a legend.
So the next time, it depends where our heads are at. We might combine the two [recording styles]. We'll probably end up doing something completely different because that's just our nature. No use beating a dead horse, no pun intended (laughs).
JCD: How have the fans been responding to the new material?
RM: They like it, at least it seems like they like it. When we play "Dumpster World", we get people scratching their heads still, because if they haven't heard the new record, I don't think they really understand that song. A lot of the new record is easy to play because basically what you hear live is how we recorded [it]. So "Mirage Rock" is a good representation of how we sound live, except our live shows are amped up a little more.
I think the longer the record has been out, the more receptive people have been to it. I'm like that too; I like to hear familiar things when I go see a band that I like. I think the reception will gradually be warmer as the years pass, once the record sinks in a little bit.
JCD: When you look at "Mirage Rock" compared to the other three albums, the record is a lot more rock 'n' roll, with a much harder sound. Was that intentional or was that just a result of the recording process?
RM: I think it was a result of the recording process. We didn't have time to be like "oh, let's take out the drums", or "let's take this out". It was just five dudes, playing in a room. It was rock music, like how they recorded it in the sixties. Glyn didn't even want us to use pedals. He was like "just plug your guitar straight into the amp. What's all this crap you have here?" So [the record] was just like bare bones, rocking out.
JCD: 2012 has been a big year for Band of Horses. What are you most looking forward to in 2013?

RM: Well, we get to play places we've never played before, like Singapore. We're going back in Australia for a big tour. We'll be doing lot of festivals. In 2012, we didn't do that many festivals. So next year, it'll be fun to hit up all the big festivals around the world. I think that's what we're looking forward to. And we'll probably be kicking around some song ideas, like we always do.

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