Lord Huron

May 07/2018
INTERVIEW Lisa Babiuk PHOTOGRAPH Pamela Littky

What do you get when you combine the start of a worldwide tour and the release of a highly-anticipated album on the same day? Ask Lord Huron’s founder and frontman, Ben Schneider, and he’ll say a pretty damn exciting journey ahead.

The band’s third album, Vide Noir, released April 20, is already receiving accolades for its raw, lyrical storytelling from songs like “Wait by the River” and “When the Night is Over”. To engage fans at a deeper level, the band plans on creating immersive experiences that elevate the album’s narratives. Lord Huron’s tour includes a stop at Toronto’s Sony Centre on July 25, and at Osheaga in Montreal on August 4.

Schneider spoke to us about his love of storytelling, Raymond Chandler influences, and what it was like working with Flaming Lips’ producer David Fridmann.

G—You grew up in Michigan. Is that where your interest in music began?

BS—There was always music on at our house, and I remember imagining the people the songs were about. The storytelling of songs is what’s always captured me most. As time went on, I was able to convince my parents to let me play bass in the orchestra, which led to me playing bass guitar with my friends, who still play music with me in the band. It’s strange to see how things have progressed for us since back then.

G—How did you transition from a solo artist to a band?

BS—Music started as a primary hobby while I was pursuing a career in painting and graphic design. During that time, I decided to make a couple of EPs and self-release them, with no expectations it would go anywhere. But then I started getting asked to play shows. I knew I couldn’t pull off the music myself in a live setting. The only musicians I knew were the guys I played with in high school, so I called Mark Berry (the drummer), who’s also one of my best friends and asked him if he’d be interested in playing one show with me. He said sure, came out, and never left. From there, we slowly gathered the rest of our buddies to join the band, and have been touring ever since.

G—You have a style to your music. Is this the type of music you’ve always gravitated toward when writing  and performing?

BS—It goes back to the storytelling element of music. Traditionally, this gets associated with folk or rock and roll, which is what I listened to a lot growing up. But my interests definitely evolved over the years. I went through a hip hop phase, a punk phase, even dove deep into instrumental music. I’ve tried to soak up something from every stage I’ve gone through, and think this new album really reflects my musical journey in a way that is hopefully appealing to others. 

G—You really started gaining exposure when your songs “Ends of the Earth” and “The Night We Met” were played on numerous TV shows. How was this experience for you?

BS—It was somewhat surreal to me because of the circumstances. I had taken a few months off to travel abroad and was mainly off the grid when this all started happening. I’d hear from my manager every now and then, and he’d tell me the songs were taking off, but I didn’t really understand what that meant. It wasn’t until I came back and started booking this tour that I could feel something happening. It’s kind of similar to when your song starts getting played on the radio. But now, there’s this other platform (TV) that seems to be more acceptable than it has been in the past, and it seems to be resonating with a lot of people. I’m always happy to turn people on to our music however we can.

G—Now that you have a couple albums under your belt, does the release of your new album, Vide Noir, feel different?

BS—Not really. One thing we were able to do differently this album was time it better. Usually, the album will either come out and then we’ll eventually go on tour, or we’ll go on tour and the album will come out in the middle of it. This time, it comes out the day we start the tour, which makes it feel more like an auspicious day. We’re more proud of this than anything we’ve done before, and are excited to hear what people think of it.

G—Tell me about the genesis behind Vide Noir.

BS—The way it generally starts for me is with fragments of ideas, songs or melodies that I’ll collect over time while touring, then re-explore once I have a break. I also found myself driving around L.A. at night to clear my head, at which time, I started conceiving this character going on a nocturnal odyssey through the city, encountering different types of people, music and experiences. I took this and worked on finding a way to express it through the songs on this album.

G—How does this compare to your previous LPs?

BS—We’ve touched on some of the bigger questions on our previous albums. But I think we take that further on this one, especially when it comes to life and our place in this universe.

G—I’ve read that Vide Noir was inspired by novelist Raymond Chandler. In what way would you say this record is Chandler-esque?

BS—I like extreme situations where human experiences are laid bare, which I think is true of a lot of Chandler’s fiction. That’s what always intrigued me about his writing—the world he created, and all the strange characters who lived in it. Living in Los Angeles, I see the echoes of this very vivid, evocative landscape he painted so long ago. I think this album presents an updated version of that world he so eloquently described. It’s colorful and interesting, much like his writings.

G—You collaborated with producer David Fridmann, known for his work with the Flaming Lips, MGMT and Tame Impala. How did those experiences filter into the new record?

BS—When I was first writing the album, I had David in mind because of the types of sounds and spaces I wanted to create. His name has popped up on so many albums I have liked over the last 25 years of my life, so I knew he’d bring something special to the album that could help me tell these stories. I learned a lot from him—not only sonically—but personally. He’s such an incredible guy who has a strong point of view, but does it in a way that is ego-less. He shares his opinions in a way that you know is solely to make the music better. And he’s found a way to balance his work and life, which is something I value a lot.

G—Was this recorded at his Tarbox Studios in West New York?

BS—We actually recorded the album at our studio in Whispering Pines, and then mixed it at Tarbox.

G—So, where is the ideal place to listen to Vide Noir?

BS—It’s really up where you feel most at ease. I think for this record, find a place where you can feel comfort and openness. Close your eyes and open your mind, and see where the music takes you.

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