emerged out of misty obscurity and wholly captivated us with the 2010 EPs Into the Sun
, records that combined American folk with the likes of Caribbean and African traditions. Like a Fleet Foxes with worldly ambition. Ben Schneider is the man behind the Great Lakes moniker, a musician/visual artist with a focused but endless imagination. Need an example? For Lord Huron's debut album Lonesome Dreams
(out on 10/9), Schneider and his band dreamed up a fictional author named George Ranger Johnson who "authored" a series of fictional Western tales in the 60s and 70s, going as far as creating a website
and actual hard-copies. The result is a debut album that exists in a world completely to itself -- kind of like J.R.R. Tolkien drawing elaborate maps of Middle Earth. It doesn't hurt at all that Lonesome Dreams
is a stunning, transportive listen.We got Ben Schneider on the phone to see if we could get into his mind a little bit, and this is what we got.
What are you up to right now?
Just getting out this morning, might go fishing for a little while. Just to the San Gabriel Mountains up here, I live pretty close to them in LA.
Let's talk about Lonesome Dreams -- it seems like a pretty rounded out project.
I guess I was working on it for quite awhile. I was just looking it at like sort of a series of pulp Western tales -- romanticized versions of things that happened to me in my life, things I've been thinking about since I moved out West. I decided to run with that idea and see where it took me.
So the songs came before the George Ranger Johnson concept?
It kind of all happened together, I guess.
What about the whole Western aesthetic attracted you?
It's something I've always been interested in -- Western stories, Western movies, Western fiction. They're such adventures but very personal journeys that the characters go through.
So what's your favorite one?
I've always really loved High Noon
because there's a love story in it too. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
is a great one. I like a lot of them. In terms of books there's a great poetry book called The Collected Works of Billy the Kid
that I've always read a lot when I'm doing songs. It's just kind this great narrative told in a very lyrical way that I always thought was a very informative tool for songwriting.
How much did growing up in Michigan inspire this album?
Quite a bit. I don't know what it is about that place -- being a kid and growing up there, I kind of gave it these mythological proportions. I don't know, I kind of just grew up imagining these fantastical stories. I think that's been a big part of my creativity.
Listening to Lonesome Dreams, I just felt like there was a real momentum to it, you know?
Yeah, I guess I could see that. I definitely think that you're constantly moving. Just because of the way my life's been lately that feeling comes through -- restlessness and that desire to get out in the world.
How many people played on the album?
There's us five guys that tour in the band, then we had some string players, a couple extra percussionists, a couple vocalists doing choir stuff. So in total it was ten or twelve people.
Gearing up for the live show, how has it been reproducing the sound that you achieved on the album?
I mean, we can't do everything we did on the record -- I wish we could have a twelve-piece orchestra touring with us.
[Laughs] Yeah, exactly. But for now we just have to work at adapting those parts, combining parts, doing what we can to make it sound as full as it is on the record.
Is this going to be Lord Huron's first big tour?
We've done a couple national tours, actually. We played at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands last year, which enabled us to tour a bit around those places. So we've got a little bit of touring under our belt, which is definitely a good position to be in heading into our first headlining tour.
What cities have been the best to play in?
Man, we've had fun in a lot of places. We had a lot of fun playing in Birmingham, Alabama; Tucson, Arizona. Sometimes it's the smaller towns that we've had the most fun in.
The video for "Time to Run" definitely gets that Western feel we were talking about. Who helped you out with it?
The guys who come and help me out are all guys from the band. And the bad guys in the video are just friends and actors and whatnot.
How was making the video?
Oh, it was really fun. We drove about two hours outside of LA just to a big tract of nothing -- we didn't have any permits so we had to find place kind of, remote. And it was hot -- ideally, we would've done that in the fall, not in the middle of the summer. I was running for the better part of eight hours, in 102 degree heat. But it was all friends working on it, so it was a pretty good time.
It ends with a "To Be Continued..." When can we expect more?
I wish we could make it fast, but we'll be heading out on tour for awhile. When we get back, we'll be making the next installment. We'll be working on it while we're on the road as well.
Do you plan to do one for every song?
I would love to do one for every song. Whether that's possible financially depends on many factors. We'll at least do a couple more, and they'll all exist within the same universe.