Way back in 2010 I opened my mouth to say that Infinite Arms felt to me like it was the first Band of Horses record. I was trying to imply that I finally had the band I'd always dreamt of, that the album was a celebratory debut of this unit. Or was I joking? That's the thing: I've finally become comfortable enough in this band that sometimes I don't even know when I'm joking.
To me, Band of Horses has always been a study in contradictions. Not just high / low or dark / light. I'm talking absolute piss-taking jokes that no one will ever get vs. serious as a heart-attack paranoia or wallowing sadness.
Where does that leave us to go now? If Infinite Arms was our beloved pet that we possibly spoiled rotten and stuffed full of too many "treats," then Mirage Rock would be his surprise little brother left on our doorstep. Maybe a bit rougher around the edges, but the same wily, feral bloodline.
Mirage Rock was more fun and easier to make than any record I've ever played on. For much of that, I can't give enough credit to Creighton Barrett, Ryan Monroe, Bill Reynolds and Tyler Ramsey. In the five or so years that this line-up has been writing, recording and solidifying as a live powerhouse and second family, we've all learned how crucial collaboration is to our formula, and that no one person's idea is more important than another's.
Then there's the guy who created the environment that enabled us to have the most fun ever had making a Band of Horses record: Glyn Johns. As fate would have it, Glyn was finishing up--or had just finished, I really don't know--an album for one of our manager's other clients, heard some of our primal demos for this record, and before we knew it he was part of the process: at the controls, on the tape machine, and in the producer's chair. It was a natural fit: Given how much Glyn's fingerprints were all over the parents' record collections we grew up on, it's not hard to imagine how Glyn influenced so much of not only our tastes and musical voices and personalities, but Rock n Roll as we know it: The Stones, The Beatles, The Who, The Small Faces, The Clash, Clapton... Glyn is part of the fabric of this music and it's all been part of us since childhood.
So of course we wanted to bring some Rock n Roll to Glyn Johns. If not just to prove that we could record an album with everyone playing at the same time in the same room with minimal overdubs, then to just to see if we could make the old man boogie a bit and get into his wheelhouse. What we ended up with in the end is an album that visits many of the textures that I feel we work best with--and also the opportunity to challenge ourselves with a few new ones. The larger sound of the arena-baiting "Knock Knock" and the sloppy dirge of "Feud" may remind the listener of an earlier Horses. The straight-forward honesty of "How to Live" and "Everything's Gonna Be Undone" may conjure a longtime listener's favorite Horses concert memory. And the sincere "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" hopefully pulls every one of you into a story in which you're the main character.
And as with all great experiences, Mirage Rock left us with some questions too: Is "Dumpster World" a joke? Is "Heartbreak On The 101" the saddest song we've ever recorded? Is it even meant to be sad?
Really, I'm asking you. I can't even tell what number album this is for Band of Horses.
(Ben Bridwell is lead singer and guitarist of Band of Horses, which he founded in 2004 and whose discography includes the albums Everything All The Time, Cease To Begin, 2010's Grammy-nominated Infinite Arms and the new Mirage Rock. Bridwell resides in his native South Carolina with his family and enjoys weekly trivia nights when his band is off the road, which is not too often these days.)