In a career full of steady growth, 2016 proved to be the strongest year yet for indie folk Band of Horses. This isn’t hyperbole either. The South Carolina-based outfit released their fifth studio album Why Are You OK? to much acclaim. Their songs were top notch, and their work with producer Jason Lytle, formerly of Granddaddy, brought out the band’s trademark anthemic sound and channeled it into debatably their best record in years.
Songs like “Casual Party,” “Whatever, Wherever” and “Lying Under Oak” were some of Band of Horses’ finest in recent memory, which was reflected in singer Ben Bridwell’s straightforward lyrics and top notch vocals.
This year, however, things have been a bit murkier for the outfit. A few weeks after we caught up with Bridwell, guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds left the band within a few hours of one another according to social media posts. The band roped in Archers of Loaf bassist Matt Gentling (who actually toured with BoH in 2007) and guitarist Richie Kirkpatrick as touring members for the time being.
Even down to a trio of horses, the band isn’t ready to stop galloping forward. Bridwell, has been indie supergroup BNQT (pronounced Banquet), which includes members of Franz Ferdinand (Alex Kapranos), Midlake (Eric Pulido), Travis (Fran Healy) and Granddaddy (the aforementioned Lytle). He was roped in by Lytle to participate, and the group has a whole have been working on-and-off since 2013. “Not having Jason breathing down my neck for once was nice,” he quips.
Departures from his main outfit withstanding, Bridwell has been loosely working on new material that he’s been recording in a storage shed. He’s not quite sure what will come of those demos or if they’re even gong to be for Band of Horses, but he “sure as fuck hopes so.” Though a bit dismissive of what he’s coming up with so far (“They’re garbage and weird,” he says), the two-chord songs are making the writing process fun for him so far. But writing the same song over and over, he says, is hilarious.
“The last record helped bring the chickens home to roost in a way,” the singer said in his Southern drawl. “The demo shit couldn’t exist in our real album making process. Maybe now its more invigorating to record some shit that’s my whack-ass rudimentary style, and maybe it will make it onto something. I’m going full on with this and am hoping that it makes the record.”
At this point, he and his remaining bandmates are still navigating their way through what was an exhaustive launch for Why Are You Ok?
“The onslaught that was the album-push thing takes a lot out of you,” he said, perhaps alluding what was to come in the weeks ahead. “That was a good run of about a year of hitting it really hard. It’s difficult to reset your clock in a way when you’re home and to be normal. But, there’s an acclimation process, then it’s on to the next thing.”
They’ve been been mum about the comings-and-goings, but with the addition of tour dates, Band of Horses, on the surface, appear to have a busy rest of 2016 ahead of them. With “no hard and fast rules” with what they do, the future is as unclear for the group as its been since the beginning of the decade. Even if Bridwell’s optimism about his new material holds firm, with new members in the mix for the first time, Band of Horses could have their most challenging work ahead of them.
“It’s not lost on me that it’s a very lucky situation we’re in,” he said at the time. “Hopefully you don’t think about the levity of the big picture, but you keep in your peripheral.”
Band of Horses perform tonight at the Greek Theatre. For full details and ticket info, click here.
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.