Band of Horses' last album, Infinite Arms, was an unqualified success, reaching No. 7 on the album charts and earning a Grammy nomination. But the band, which dismissed producer Phil Ek early in the sessions for that album in order to self-produce, have gone in a new direction with the follow-up, Mirage Rock, out Sept. 18. They hired rock legend Glyn Johns, who helped record everyone from the Rolling Stones and the Who to the Clash, to produce, and the result is a more freewheeling rock-and-roll affair. Singer Ben Bridwell tells us to expect cuts from the new album-which they've barely rehearsed since recording-at their Merriweather Post Pavilion gig with My Morning Jacket this Saturday, Aug. 18, and also fills us in on changing directions, going on the road, and moving back to South Carolina.
City Paper: Have you rehearsed live versions of the songs from the new record?
Ben Bridwell: We have not, actually. We would do like a song a day in the studio, then move on to the next song the next day. So, honestly, it's going to be like Christmas Day, going in and unwrapping all of our presents. The album comes out while we're on the road, so we'll start throwing out little bits here and there and see what's working, and hopefully by the time it comes out, we'll know at least the majority of it.
CP: Are you one of those musicians who thinks a song isn't fully formed until you play it live?
BB: Yeah, sometimes I won't know what they're about until we play [them] live. I'll have one of those epiphanies after playing a show, That's what I was talking about, right! The muse is very secretive with me sometimes. Sometimes I have no idea what I'm talking about. Sometimes I do and I just forget. Once the band actually gets a hold of them-especially a lot of the old material, the albums that they weren't on-it breathes new life in 'em sometimes, or sometimes they strip 'em away and pull something different out of them, some emotion that gives people at a show a different experience of the song.
CP: It sounds like this album is a bit of a departure from the last.
BB: Yes. The album before it, we had done the majority of the producing ourselves, after working a little bit with the producer who had done the record before that. It got to be a little bit like the lunatics running the asylum, basically. I stand behind that record, and I love that we challenged ourselves like that, but with this one, we wanted to take a different approach and do it a lot more flying by the seat of the pants and live, just to kind of get the feel of what it's like to hear us in a room playing, instead of all these overdubs and a lot of editing. It's just a bit more down-to-earth.
CP: A lot of people really loved that record. Do you think people who discovered you through it will like this one?
BB: I hope that it comes as a breath of fresh air. On the other one, maybe the pot boiled over a little bit. Hopefully it's a fresh perspective on a bit more earthier thing, but it could be a bit jarring because it also sounds really loose at times, and you can even hear mistakes and things like that 'cause that's what happens when people don't edit themselves too much. I really don't know if it's going to be a drag and sound like we didn't work hard enough, or if it's gonna be like, "Oh, cool, they're just like, doing it how humans are supposed to."
CP: Is the first single, "Knock Knock," a good indication of what the rest of it sounds like?
BB: Actually, I don't believe that song sounds that similar to any other song on the record. It is the most poppy-sounding I guess, and I guess the most radio-friendly sounding one, but it's supposed to be, because it's almost like a piss take; it's almost like a joke. Even the title is supposed to allude to some sort of joke, but what that joke is, I'd kinda like for people to maybe figure out before I give it away. The rest of the record does have a lot of rock on it, but it's also a lot of rock and roll. Glyn Johns brought to the table his history of really helping invent rock and roll. We couldn't help but want to bring some of that flavor in, a la Rolling Stones or the Who or something like that. But it's a bit more rowdy instead of just rock.
CP: How have things changed since you moved to Charleston-it's close to where you grew up, right?
BB: I grew up just down the road, actually, in Irmo, South Carolina, in the middle of the state, right outside of Columbia, which my family nicknamed "the screen door to hell." It's so freakin' hot, man. I always wanted to live in Charleston. My older brother went to college here, and even just moving him into the dorm, I was enamored with the city's culture. Coming from Irmo, it's not hard to be bowled over by some culture [laughs]. But I always wanted to live here, and my family is close by, and this is where all my roots are. It's great to be just down the road from there, have that nostalgia peek its head out when someone cuts the grass or something.
CP: I moved back to my hometown a few years ago too. It's nice to be familiar with your surroundings again, isn't it?
BB: Yeah, it is. Maybe it's just me settling into my middle age or something as well, but I do really appreciate the comforts of home and having a family-I have two kids and a wife-those things start to really pull you back, the more tangible things in life. It's easy to miss 'em now. Before, it was all about rock and roll and weed and pussy-no, it wasn't about that, it was just a bit of a rougher life, and now I appreciate the simpler things a lot more.
CP: How old are your kids?
BB: I have a 4-year-old and my youngest will be 2 in November.
CP: Did you think about bringing them on tour?
BB: I would except I just got back from a vacation with them, and they were monsters. Flying with them sucks, man.
CP: Have you started working on new material again?
BB: I've been moving with my family for the last month, so I haven't had time to do anything except sweat my balls off. I'm looking forward to being on tour and having the day off in the hotel, just to pick up a guitar again.
Band of Horses play with My Morning Jacket at Merriweather Post Pavilion Aug. 18.