Band Of Horses

BandofHorses hi res 3Band Of Horses may have been showing less of a country influence with each new release, but they turn that perception on its head with their latest album being recorded at the former home of the Grand Ole Oprey. CHRIS HAVERCROFT speaks to frontman, Ben Bridwell, about Band Of Horses’ two-night stint at the Ryman Auditorium.

Acoustic At The Ryman collects 10 acoustic renditions of Band Of Horses songs plucked from a couple of nights the band spent at the venue in April last year.

The band had intended to release a live album and went about capturing a month of shows from their tour around that time. It wasn’t until listening back to those shows that they realised that the acoustic sets were too good to overlook.

“We had definitely planned on choosing the best songs from various shows to put together what would be the best versions of our biggest songs I guess,” confirms singer/songwriter, Ben Bridwell. “The Ryman is such a legendary place to hear country music and acoustic music, the big brains at our management thought that we should do an electric show and an acoustic set, just to get a different vibe going. So, the way that it turned out, we listened back to the acoustic performance and it sounded far more dangerous.”
Band Of Horses had stepped onto the stage at The Ryman as opening act for Modest Mouse in 2007, but this was the first time that the Seattle rockers had run of the place. There is so much history at the venue that Bridwell and his bandmates made sure that they took in history and played the songs in the spirit of those who had gone before them.

“Whenever you get to play at the Ryman it is something special. It is a unique place. You stand on the stage and goodness gracious, the history of the place hits you. It is not even that though, the dressing rooms are all dedicated to a different artist. There is the Hank Williams room that will have a heap of posters up from his shows and a Johnny Cash room and everywhere you walk you wonder whose footsteps you are treading on.

“The last shows we played there we did the two sets so didn’t have an opening act and we had free reign of the place. It is one of those things where all the security guards and ushers are over 70 so if you don’t have respect for the venue, they will put you in your place.”

When it came to choosing the songs to put on the album, Bridwell says that there wasn’t too much dissention between the Band Of Horses members. The Funeral is worth the price of admission alone, but there is no shortage of great version with Factory and No One’s Gonna Love You being towards the top of the pile.
“We did about an hour’s worth of acoustic songs over both of the nights. We were also doing an electric set so there were limited songs we could choose from. I think there was about 15 over both nights. It was just with a couple that were pretty damn bad so they were off the table immediately, and we chose a few for bonus tracks so it was obvious what we would leave to put on the album.

“It is as exciting as hell that we get to play acoustic now to promote the record. We are now working on putting together a strange set of acoustic numbers that we think that we’ll be able to pull off. This gives us a second chance to not only play those songs better, but also to include some of the songs that we didn’t get to play over those two nights at the Ryman that ended up on the record. We are hoping to dig deep into the catalogue and see what we find.”

Playing the tunes at a lower volume must be a brief moment of respite for a band who is known to enjoy turning up the guitars in the live setting to put a fair amount of meat to the bones of their tunes. Bridwell confirms that it is a different beast, but it isn’t all beer and skittles.

“Man, it can be difficult trying to hear things correctly in that quiet environment. It’s a format that is not as forgiving as others. In a couple of the shows it can be maddening as you can’t hear shit, so I’m not sure I’m giving my ears a rest. I think I am rather stepping out of the comfort zone of when it is loud. When you add in the drums it can be maddening because we have five different musicians that want to hear different things.
“It is funny because I do have a lot of material that I am working on for the next album and it is very much the opposite to this live record. There are some slow moments in the new songs I am writing, but it is also a bit loud! Obviously it is exciting to experience the songs in this way but I also can’t wait to get back being loud as crap. It is great to see the other side of it too.”

Bridwell stumbled across a fans stripped back cover of their track, Plan One, and were so blown away that he decided to revisit the song himself, and cover the fan’s (Denai Moore) version of his own song. He then sent a copy of the tune to Moore along with a message thanking her for her interpretation of the original.

“I have been working with a lot of back catalogue Band Of Horses songs and I thought, why not take into account the nuances that she brought to the song and use that and try and do another version of Plan One? I’ll get some crazy Irish jig of The Funeral sent to me next. I always love it when someone cares about our music enough to make it their own. People put their heart and soul into that stuff, so I love that.

“I’m not going to go searching the internet for a whole heap of versions, but if something special pops up, why not? It is such a dream job, where we get to regurgitate our past glories, this is the job that keeps on giving.”