Lord Huron’s Multiple Dreams
Ben Schneider was living a parallel life as an artist when Lord Huron’s debut EP catapulted him into the blogosphere. The Michigan native initially moved to his current Los Angeles homebase in 2005 to follow a girl and focus on visual art. Though he worked on music in his spare time, it wasn’t until Schneider recorded his first EP during a trip home to Michigan that his local LA music community took note. The EP’s lyrically driven imagery and psychedelic, indie-folk sound caught on almost instantly and caused Schneider to reevaluate his artistic priorities. Calling upon a number of his old pals, he put together the Lord Huron live band and released the full-length Lonesome Dreams in 2012. Now, the ensemble are poised to be one of this summer’s festival stars. Schneider recently spoke with Jambands.com about his creative process, visual background and how Lord Huron has developed into a true “gang.”
Though you’ve played music for many years, you started out as a visual artist who occasionally performed on the side. At what point did your two passions switch priorities?
I started playing music when I was really young. I would pick up my dad’s guitar and play with these melodies. I was always writing ditties. I think that actually may have hindered my technical development as a guitarist—I never really learned a lot of songs, I was always figuring out my own [ideas]. In high school, I played double-bass in the orchestra and I decided to go to [college] for art. But music was always a part of it: I was playing in bands and I would do these multi-media projects where I would incorporate music. Sometime’s they’d be ambient sounds in the gallery or we’d have an act in an actual exhibit. But at some point around 2010 that shifted and now music is really the center of it.
Your live shows still have a visual element. The first time I saw you—at New York’s Mercury Lounge last year—you played in front of these road motif projections. I assume you created those as well?
I generally get it going but I value everyone’s opinion so we try to put out heads together. Especially when it comes to the live show, we’re a very collaborative gang. We try to incorporate that into our live show when we can. It’s tough without much of a production budget but we do it when we can. Hopefully, things will continue to grow in the next couple of years and we can incorporate more of that it into the live show.
You mentioned you picked up your dad’s guitar at a young age. What type of music did he have playing around that you were exposed to?
I was lucky that my parents had pretty good taste in music. They played a lot of classic stuff like The Beatles and Elvis. My dad was really into Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young and a lot of folk singers. My mom was one of the hugest Bruce Springsteen fans I’ve ever encountered. So I soaked up all of that stuff growing up and a lot of country music, Johnny cash
Did she ever take you to see Bruce?
The only time I went I was still in the womb. She went to see them at the Fox in Detroit. I guess it technically doesn’t count as seeing him but I think it has some influence on me, even though it was pre-birth!
Shifting back to the band’s origins, you have something of a unique story. While you were living in LA you started recording as Lord Huron in a remote Michigan setting. How did you wind up back home recording by yourself after being in LA?
I initially moved to LA in 2005 to follow a girl but also work on painting, which I was doing at the time. I did a few shows but I never really found my place in that world. The few shows I played didn’t turn out so great, and I was working a day job as an art director to pay the bills. With the little money I had left I would go home and record songs. So I took a little vacation to go to a friend’s wedding in Michigan and took the opportunity to spend some serious time on the songs. I came back with the first EP, Michigan. I actually recorded it up there in Michigan—I did all the tracking there. Then I mixed it back in LA. I still like to go back up there to record whenever I can. A lot of Local Dreams was done up there as well. I was so happy I took some time off to work on that because it has been a great change since that happened. Well, it doesn’t feel so much like a big change in terms of what I was making. It is just that the focus shifted from artwork back to music a little more. The artwork is still important, it is just secondary.
Lord Huron started out as a solo project, but at this point it feels like a real band. At what point did you start putting together the Lord Huron band?
Well, as soon as I started getting offered shows, which happened, pretty quickly, I started looking for some people to play with. I put the EP out in the middle of June, 2010 and by July we had been offered shows that happened in August. I knew I had to get a band together but I was kind of out of the music world in LA. I wasn’t sure who to call so I called the only people I knew—my old friends I played with growing up. Mark Barry, our drummer, was the first person I called. He was down in Nashville playing as a session musician at the time, and I said, “Would you be interested in coming out here and playing a few shows with me?” He’s been out here every since. It kind of just worked out. I am really happy they agreed to follow me on this trip
And you used them on your full-length debut, 2012’s Lonesome Dreams, right?
Yup! Mark played drums on this record and Miguel Briseño, another guy I grew up with, played bass. Tom Renaud another friend I grew up with played guitar on the album. These were guys I had my first bands with and now we are back together. It’s great.