On Lonesome Dreams, Lord Huron’s Ben Schneider creates a soundtrack for travel. Opener “Ends of the Earth” finds him telling his lover “There’s an island where everything is silent/I’m gonna whistle a tune,” among other evocative lines about getting the hell out of dodge. From there his Americana-fueled journey touches on hints of the exotic — the clanging percussion of “Time to Run” calling to mind the East while he sings concurrently about finding a life way out West. Along the way he discovers the loneliness of wide-open space on the spare title track; harmonicas haunt him on “The Ghost on the Shore,” hinting at nostalgia born from hitting the edge of the land and looking back. The whole thing gallops along with country jangle, nightsky atmosphere and Schneider’s throaty, impassioned vocals, and it’s nearly impossible not to get swept in its romanticism.
The whole thing could be thought of as a travelogue for Schneider’s own journey out west, travelling from his home in Michigan to New York, around the world and eventually to Los Angeles, where while pursuing a career in visual arts, his Lord Huron project took off. Comprising songs he recorded back in Michigan at Lake Huron, where he formatively would strum the guitar in his youth, his first EP Yours, Truly gained traction in the blogosphere, and Schneider formed a band to begin playing live in 2010. His debut record, Lonesome Dreams, is out now via IAMSOUND. Lord Huron play Amoeba Hollywood Monday Nov. 19 at 7:00 p.m. I took a minute to speak with Schneider about his journeys, musical and otherwise.
PST: How much of the lyrical content of Lonesome Dreams was inspired by your journey from Michigan to different places and eventually west to Los Angeles?
Schneider: That was definitely a big part of it. Just kind of a thing that’s always kind of run through my life, this duality where I have a real desire to get out in the world and travel around but also to be close with my family and get back to them, so I think I’m dealing a lot with that on the lyrics of this record.
PST: Given the Western vibe of the record, did you think about what it meant for you to travel west when writing these songs, and what it meant for others who had done the same in the past?
Schneider: Yeah absolutely. I think you can hear a little bit of pretty much everywhere I’ve been running through the record. Since the last considerable portion of my life has been here, in the West in LA and the surrounding areas, yeah, I think that’s definitely influenced the sound. And just Westerns and that sort of aesthetic has always been really appealing to me. I love Western music and movies and literature, so all of that stuff has sort of informed the aesthetic of this record.
PST: I detected hints of world music in songs like “Time to Run” and “The Man Who Lives Forever,” though their tough to pinpoint exactly — not a bad thing, as it melds into the music seamlessly. Were you inspired by the music of specific places (or just a general feeling gained from traveling to those places) while putting together those songs?
Schneider: Yeah some of it, I was really inspired actually by music in Indonesia when I traveled there. I ended up recording some samples there that I used on the record, so there’s actually musical fragments from different places that found their way onto the record. It’s not only an inspiration, but in this case I took some of that material and built around it.
PST: Lord Huron seems to have a very defined aesthetic. Did you always have a clear-cut idea of what Lord Huron would be and what it would sound like, or did that come into place over time?
Schneider: I guess when I started, I wasn’t exactly sure where it was headed, but I knew lots of elements I wanted to play with and sort of a very rough idea of what I wanted to sound like and it’s just kind of developed over time. The first couple of EPs I did were a little more on the world music side, which was great, and I loved experimenting with that stuff. For this one I kind of took elements of those early releases and kind of shed some of the stuff I thought was overdone and put more of myself into this one.
PST: How do you see that aesthetic evolving?
Schneider: It’s hard to say. I guess I’ll just let whatever’s inspiring me at the moment drive that. I’m just starting to work on new demos now, so I’m not really sure where it’s gonna go, but I’m sure a lot of it will be maintained. So far a lot of those themes you talked about run through all the music and the artwork and the overall universe of Lord Huron too. I’m sure a lot of that stuff will be retained, but I’m excited to see where it takes us next.
PST: I really like the orchestral touches on songs like “Lullaby,” with the marimba. Would you ever want to record something with a full orchestra? The music sort of lends itself to that.
Schneider: Yeah I’d love to do something like that. We’ve always said if we could tour with a small, 12-piece orchestra, that would be ideal, but obviously that’s not possible right now. But yeah, we’ve done a few things with our buddies The Calder Quartet, a local, great string quartet, we’ve played a few shows with them. Hope to do more of that. For some upcoming shows, we’re going to have a marimba player and some other fun things. We try to get that stuff in there as much as we can, but it’s not easy when you’re just starting out as a band to make that happen. But someday, that’d be great.
PST: I also read that the album is supposedly inspired by a Western book series by George Ranger Johnson — and that that book series and author don’t exist, yet you created a website and hard copies of the books. Is that a byproduct of your involvement in visual arts, to make an album that’s more than just an album, but has other facets to it as well? And is that something you plan to continue to do with your music?
Schneider: Yeah, absolutely. I guess that comes from me as a fan personally, I’ve always really liked to dig deep into things and immerse myself in a universe, whether it’s a band or a movie or an artist. The music stands on its own and people can enjoy just that element of it and it’s certainly the focus, but I wanted there to be more of a rabbit hole that people could go down if they wanted to that would hopefully add some color and dimension to the universe we’re trying to create. Videos are one way that we try to do that. And then beyond that there’s this other ephemera that we create. I’d love to keep developing that stuff as much as I can. I think it’s really fun for me to create, for one thing. But it also helps to add a little depth and context to what we’re doing musically.
PST: Any plans to expand that particular facet?
Schneider: I’m working on a couple projects involving George Ranger Johnson. I won’t give too much away about what they are, but hopefully they’ll be coming out in the next few months.