Lord Huron’s most recent album, Lonesome Dreams, begins with the words "Always a river that winds on forever/I’m going to see where it leads," and on cue the music careens into equal parts acoustic jam; rich, reverberated vocals; lingering violin; and foot-stomping percussion.
Honestly, it sounds like a band onboard a 17th-century sailing vessel headed toward an unknown destination, the sunset on the horizon, the wind at their backs, with a forested shore to the east -- the possibilities endless before them.
OK, so I’m not the most imaginative fellow on earth but even I was taken for a daydream adventure on first listen. For the unfamiliar, “Ends of the Earth,” the leadoff track to the 2012 full-length, is the perfect introduction: The LA-by-way-of-Michigan indie-folk band shows off its critically acclaimed combination of infectious melodies, gorgeously warm acoustics, and uptempo rhythms with songs about the all-encompassing search for the meaning of life and the importance of love within it. There are no jagged edges with Lord Huron. They are not angular or dissonant … and the better for it.
For all intents and purposes, the band is best heard with visual accompaniment, and it’s where they thrive, dwelling in the artistic sphere where musical meets visual -- and, if they’ve succeeded, ending in the spiritual. The group’s videos, especially for "Time to Run,"
embody the conjured landscapes of their respective songs so well that it’s hard not to feel immersed in the experience.
Before the band arrives at the Belly Up Tavern
Feb. 27, lead vocalist and primary songwriter Ben Schneider took a moment to discuss his approach to film and where Lord Huron is headed now.
Dustin Lothspeich: Lord Huron was pieced together over time. How does the writing/creative dynamic change now that you’ve got a solid lineup of musicians to work with?
Ben Schneider: It’s a natural progression, really. The band is obviously something I couldn’t do on my own. The great thing is: They’re more proficient than I am [laughs], so it’s definitely a good step. The genesis of the band was based around the live show -- that’s where we focus most of our energy.
DL: Do you feel like the band has settled in to its own identity with Lonesome Dreams?
BS: Well, we’re always progressing -- or trying to, anyway. I hope I’m getting better at writing songs. I’m proud of the record -- we all are.
DL: Are you collaborating on writing with them or is that mainly something you take on alone?
BS: It’s kind of been me up to this point. We have been collaborating lately, though. The sonic identity of the band, if you will, will be maintained. But the songwriting itself has taken on a more rock & roll direction; a little more rockabilly, if that makes sense.
DL: You started Lord Huron in your hometown of Okemos, Mich. Has the move to LA impacted your writing?
BS: I tend to take a little something from everywhere I’ve gone. I’ve moved away, and since then, it’s made me appreciate it more. I still go back a couple times a year. The northern parts of Michigan have an almost mystical quality. I’m definitely fonder of it now that I’ve been away for awhile. But I’m a strong believer of getting out in the world and seeing what’s out there -- as an artist and as a person.
DL: Do you ever feel like heading to a cabin in the woods in Michigan and emerging later with some kind of lonely masterpiece?
BS: [laughs] I actually do a lot of my writing in northern Michigan. And it’s actually where I recorded the first Lord Huron EP. I do tend to write well that way. But I’m also writing out west, too.
DL: With the band getting increasingly bigger, is it difficult to keep a personal connection with fans?
BS: We definitely think about that. It’s not the same when you’re two feet away from someone. There is a big difference when there’s a lot of space between you and the crowd. But I always take a little bit of time to meet people after the show -- and there’s other ways to do it too. We try to give fans new content on the Internet, here and there, to keep them interested and involved.
DL: Well, the videos on your web site are great. How does the visual aspect play into your artistic vision for your music?
BS: A lot of the time, we think about the music in a visual way. It’s just the way my mind works. We had strong ideas of videos we wanted to make, we’ve had a chance to make a few, and they’ve all turned out great. All the songs seem to have an adventure theme or a thematic element.
DL: Are you directly involved with the process? Some bands aren’t too hands-on with their videos.
BS: No, we do it all. It’s just how it has to be. Everything is tied together for us; every aspect is all kind of mixed up -- and, of course, it helps that we have extremely talented cameramen and directors to help us make it happen. But the videos are really important. I‘ve noticed that some music videos feel thrown together or don’t really have much to do with the music at all, but we try to combine the visual aspect with the songs. Every piece is just meant to be there.
Dustin Lothspeich plays in Old Tiger, Chess Wars, Boy King and Diamond Lakes. Follow his updates on Twitter or contact him directly.