Lord Huron, the mysterious band that appeared out of thin air earlier this summer, is actually the work of musician Benji Schneider. In a short period of time, he’s created a buzz similar to that surrounding Bon Iver several years back. Bands hate comparisons; still, the first time I heard Lord Huron’s music, I thought of Fleet Foxes, but with a pulse. Make no mistake about it: Benji’s band is worth all of the hype and attention that it’s received thus far. Benji creates music that makes you want to tell everyone you know about it.
Benji is a soft-spoken, humble guy from Michigan. I did find it a bit odd that he would only let me address him as Lord during our interviews, but hey: it is Los Angeles. Our first meeting took place at Barbrix in Silver Lake. Lord joined me with his drummer and childhood friend Mark Barry. We had a great time drinking beers, chatting, and eating average food, but the recording of our conversation turned out to be shit, so we caught up a couple days later by phone. Lord expressed his enthusiasm for his forthcoming EP and his excitement to spread the gospel beyond Los Angeles. Here’s what went down on our call.
R&G: Lord Huron popped up out of nowhere. Tell me a little about the background of your band.
Lord: I spent a lot of my childhood summers in north Michigan on Lake Huron. I still go up there every now and then to relax and see family and friends. A couple of my friends were there getting married, so I decided to spend a week vacation there. I brought along some of my gear – my old guitar – and I had left some instruments there already. I had a few ideas that I had been floating around, as well as a few recordings that I had taken in Indonesia and Mexico. I had an idea of what I wanted to do, so I just sat down and wrote a bunch of music and three of those songs became our first EP, Into the Sun. I burned those songs onto a CD. I was heading up to Big Sur for the Woodsist music festival with my sister; we just said, “Let’s bring them along and hand them out.” Someone picked up the CD and heard it and it kind of took off from there.
R&G: Was it something that you expected? Did you feel like you put together a solid piece of work at the time of the recording?
Lord: Yeah, I definitely had a good feeling about what I had made. I’ve been making music my whole life, but this CD felt like the best thing I had done so far. I didn’t have any expectations for it. Personal taste varies so much, and it’s hard to know what’s going to catch people’s attention, but I definitely felt good about it and wanted to try and get people to listen to it. I’m glad they are.
R&G: Was there an inspiration behind the album?
Lord: Not really. The traveling I had done the previous year was definitely inspirational, as was the setting up in Michigan. The beaches there are beautiful and parts of them are extremely remote, so you’re kind of in the woods, but you’re also kind of on this tropical beach. I’ve always drawn a lot of inspiration from that part of the world. So being in Michigan combined with the traveling that I had done both influenced the sound that came out when I recorded the songs. The music has this kind of travelogue feel and a lot of instrumentation, but I think it’s very rooted in my home, which is Michigan and American soil.
R&G: Tropical sounds are prevalent on the album. What are your musical influences?
Lord: I’ve always really liked old Calypso recordings: those great Cook recordings from the carnival tents in Trinidad. It’s just great music. It’s inspiring to me not just for the recording but also for the live show because you can hear in the crowd how much they are enjoying the music and being there and being part of this community and having a great time. That is definitely one of our musical influences, but aside from that a lot of more standard stuff like folk singers: Neil Young, Leonard Cohen. Great storytellers are big for me too.
R&G: You’ve only played a handful shows, yet you’ve assembled a solid band in a short period of time. How did you find your bandmates?
Lord: After people started writing about the record, it put the fire in me to put a band together. I’d always wanted to get a band together, but that kind of gave me a reason to do it fast. I sent the recordings to my good friend Mark [Barry, drummer] who I grew up playing music with. He was at the time just off a contract playing aboard a cruise ship and was living in Nashville. He didn’t have a day job. He was just gigging around. It had been a long time since we’d played music together and he didn’t really know what I was up to, but I asked him to come to LA and help me get a band going. He may have been taken aback, but he liked the idea and headed out here to help. We found two guys who had played on cruise ships in the Caribbean and were, coincidentally, from Michigan. The third person we found, Brett, our guitar player, is also from Michigan. It’s kind of cool that we’re all Michigan boys.
R&G: How were the first practices? Did they pick up the music pretty fast?
Lord: Yeah. I had sent them the recordings. Everybody has really different taste in music and a really different background in music. Some of these guys are jazz guys, but everyone’s pretty eclectic in their taste. I think everyone knew the stuff I was referencing at some points and they kind of understood where I was coming from, but what’s cool is that the live show is different from the record and that each musician brings his own perspective, which makes the live show much better. Anyhow they’re all just great guys, so it went pretty easily, actually. We had a few things to figure out in terms of how to do some of the electronic stuff live. We really didn’t want to use any backing tracks. We wanted to make sure it was all live and actually happening. That took a little bit of figuring out. I think we rehearsed for two weeks. We only had two practices where the whole band was there and we played our first show. Luckily, nothing went too terribly wrong and we’ve been working on the show and tightening it up ever since.
R&G: Are you officially a band now?
Lord: Yeah. There are still some kinks to be worked out in the line-up. Not everybody lives here in LA yet. We’ve had a couple substitutions in subsequent shows, but at the last show that you saw we had our ideal line-up again. Hopefully this will stay the way it is, but it seems that the core of me, Mark, and the bass player Miguel are pretty much in it for the long haul, so we at least have that core and hopefully we’ll hang onto the guitar players for the long haul too.
R&G: I hear you’re putting the finishing touches on a new album. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
Lord: We’re just finishing up a new EP, Mighty.It’s probably going to be four songs. I’m still working out what I’m going to put on there and what I’m going to save for later or rework, but I’m pretty excited about it. Some of the starts of those songs happened the same time Into the Sun did, so there’s definitely a similar feel to it. I think the sound is evolving and it’s going to be a little different from the first EP, but I think in a pretty positive way.
R&G: Do you guys have label support?
Lord: No, we’re talking to a few people, but I think that for this EP, we’ll probably just self-release again like we did for the first one. Maybe we’ll get label support for a vinyl release, but we’ll probably release the EP ourselves in October or so.
R&G: What’s your current profession by day?
Lord: I am actually just getting out of the field of art direction. I’m leaving that behind for a while. I’m taking on a teaching gig to help pay the bills. I’ll be a teacher for the first time and just probably be doing some freelancing to help supplement my income while I get things going, but I’m trying to focus on the music now.
R&G: What are you going to be teaching?
Lord: I’m going to be teaching at art school, at Otis.
R&G: Will you tell your students about Lord Huron?
Lord: I’m not going to talk about it, but I wonder if any of them will know the band. I’m kind of curious to see if any of them know who Lord Huron is or have ever heard of it.
R&G: Your sister, Kiko, is your manager. How are the two of you getting along with this new dynamic?
Lord: Great. She’s like four years younger than me. We were a pretty close family growing up. She moved out here from Michigan about six months ago, and it’s just been great, man. She lives real close to me and she knows when to kick me in the ass and how to motivate me and keep me in line. She’s kind of the ideal manager. She can be really honest and that’s been helpful at live shows and in the recording process. I’ll play her stuff and she’ll say, “I don’t know about this.” It’s really helpful having someone to bounce that stuff off who I can trust and who knows me really well.
R&G: So what is next for the band?
Lord: We’re going to venture out of state for the first time, go play some shows in New York in October, and go to CMJ. We’re looking into extending that trip and playing some more shows out east. The main thing right now is just to play out a lot, play as many shows as we can, get the live show really really good, and then hopefully head out on tour next year and release a full-length next year.
Lord Huron – Into The Sun EP (click here)