When Band of Horses tapped legendary British music producer Glyn Johns (The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who) to engineer, mix, and produce Mirage Rock, frontman Ben Bridwell knew full well that he needed to go into the studio less prepared than he'd been on previous albums.
"[Johns] really wanted us to actually be less prepared than we were," he says. "He wanted us to write in front of him while the tape was rolling, while we were all in that room. [That's] not really our modus operandi or whatever, but he really wanted us to stretch how we felt what a song is supposed to sound like."
Johns' approach worked. Mirage Rock debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, and was heralded for its confident blend of stripped-down elements, ranging from 1970s Neil Young ("Dumpster World"), early '90s Seattle grunge ("Feud"), and Shooter Jennings-like mid-2000s outlaw alt-county ("Electric Music").
That's pretty gnarly for a group who doesn't generate much radio buzz.
"I don't see us so much as a singles band anyway," Bridwell says. "Our most popular song never even charted."
The BOH leader is referring to the group's first single, "The Funeral," off debut album, Everything All the Time. Despite its appearance in several films, television shows, and a few commercials, the song never made it onto a Billboard chart.
However, the group's noticeable absence from radio airwaves hasn't hindered Band of Horses' steady ascension to alt-rock prominence. Last year, Bridwell and crew picked up a Best Alternative Album Grammy nod for 2010's Infinite Arms despite lackluster support from radio station programmers.
When asked if the nomination meant added pressure on Mirage Rock, Bridwell says that he doesn't "think the Grammy thing came into play" at all during the writing and recording process. He does admit, however, that some longtime BOH fans felt Infintie Arms was a major directional shift in sound compared to the first two records.
"I only do what comes naturally and really hope for the best," Bridwell says.
"The major pressure was trying to recapture some of that initial sloppiness of the first record for our fans' sake."
Clearly, Band of Horses' followers mean a lot to Bridwell. He and his band were set to hop aboard the Railroad Revival Tour this fall with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, and John C. Reilly, but promoters unexpectedly pulled the plug earlier this week.
(New Times tried reaching Railroad Revival tour organizers for this article, but we're still waiting to hear back.)
While the group rescheduled a lot of the shows in and around the would-be Railroad Revival tour stops, Bridwell's still bummed that his family won't have the opportunity to travel the country by rail.
"I'm severely disappointed," says Bridwell. "I refused to believe [the tour] was actually going to happen until maybe a week ago. I finally told my kids, 'All right, we're going -- this is really happening. Be prepared to go on a train.' To say that out loud to my kids to be made a liar, I think, is the most disappointing thing ever."
Bridwell didn't give many details as to why the tour was nixed, but suggested money played a major role. "Promoters are only really interested in their bottom line. If that bottom line isn't being met, I imagine you can draw your own conclusion there."
Band of Horses. Tuesday, October 16. Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave, Miami Beach. The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $27.50 to $30.50 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages. Call 305-673-7300 or visit fillmoremb.com.
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