Band of Horses: the wild stallions of rock

Entertainment Life

Katherine Travers talks to  Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses about playing Wembley, collaborating with Cee Lo Green and how indie doesn’t exist.

The bearded five-some which are Band of Horses have risen to global stardom over the past year. Last year’s Grammy nominated album, Infinite Arms, won them international acclaim and a touring schedule including their upcoming gig playing alongside Foo Fighters at Wembley Arena.

So, how does it feel for the kings of American independent music to have broken Europe? “It’s so exciting! I mean holy-moley!  We when made the record, we didn’t know that people would like it so much. It is really a blessing.  We didn’t think we were going to the big-time or anything…”

Yet that is exactly what the Seattle rockers have done. Naturally, this has led to accusations of ‘selling out’; after all, they have now moved to a major label and their most popular track ‘The Funeral’ has been used in countless television shows and advertisements, including the trailer for Danny Boyle’s latest release ‘127 Hours’. “Yeah, we were just like whatever… It’s necessary to an extent. It’s like the modern day radio. Radio’s really going out, and that’s so sad.”

It seems that commercialism just can’t be helped. So, does ‘indie’ still exist? “No, I don’t think so. I don’t even know what that means anymore. Maybe it means that your music is less fucked with by your label and that there are less hands in the pot.”

When it comes to creative control, however, Band of Horses is definitely very independent. Infinite Arms was a self-produced affair – although it wasn’t always going to be that way. “We were working with our producer Phil [Ek] – who we love – and it just came down to time constraints. We weren’t really thinking about anything, we just wanted to get in the studio, hear how it sounded and make our own stuff. We tried it and it worked. We rolled the dice.”

Taking a gamble with the production is by no means the most unorthodox part of the group’s creative process. Band founder Ben Bridwell writes most of the material in isolation, detuning the strings on his guitar until he finds a sound that he likes. He then records himself and identifies the chords later. “We don’t really think about things as A, B, C, D chords, we just use our ears. It’s not set in stone. Sometimes Ben just won’t know what he’s written – he has loads of guitars, tuned differently, and you just hand him one and he will know what he has written on that guitar. He’s a bit of a genius like that.”

Ever full of surprises, this month the band released a 7”with Cee Lo Green, including his cover of their song ‘No One’s Gonna Love You’ – featured on his album ‘The Lady Killer’ – and their cover of Cee Lo’s ‘Georgia’. “It’s really fun and exciting to do something like that. There’s not such an attachment to [the song]; you’re not like – ‘we’ve got to make this perfect’. Getting to work with a marching band was great too. We met them on a parking lot at nine A.M.  It was crazy. These kids didn’t know what it was about! There were just these indie guys there telling them what to do!”

They are not the only band to be experimenting right now. Sam Beam, better known as Iron and Wine, has been experimenting with a funk inspired sound on his new album. Band of Horses supported him back in the early days and the two acts share a longstanding friendship – and they completely support his new album. “Yeah, I love that stuff. He’s coming to California, we will definitely be seeing him then.”

While conscious of the risks attached to experimenting, ultimately, Reynolds is optimistic.  “Sometimes fans get mad at you… but then they like you again, I suppose!”