Alternative indie-rock quintet Band of Horses release their fifth album Acoustic at The Ryman on February 11th, 2014. The record is a collection of live acoustic renditions of songs ranging from Band of Horses’ debut album Everything All the Time to songs off of the critically acclaimed Mirage Rock. On the same day the album is released, the band kick off an acoustic tour which starts in Los Angeles and (appropriately) ends at The Ryman. Ahead of Acoustic at The Ryman‘s release, I had the pleasure of speaking with Band of Horses’ keyboardist Ryan Monroe! We discussed recording at The Ryman, his love for The Funeral, pre-show rituals, and a hilarious story of getting lost in Munich. Enjoy:
AMBY: You’re set to release your new album Acoustic at The Ryman in February, but unlike your previous four records, the forthcoming release is acoustic. What was the inspiration behind putting the new album out as acoustic rather than studio recorded?
Band of Horses: We wanted to do something different on every record and we figured that we’re going to be doing a long tour. We weren’t quite ready to put out a full-length record yet because we’ve been playing live so much. We kind of figured why don’t we just record a live show and then if it’s good enough, we can release that. And while we release that, we could be writing for our other record… I guess it could buy us some time so we don’t fall off of the map, you know?
AMBY: That makes sense.
Band of Horses: Yea, and it turned out better than we had expected. We’re really excited about it and we were hoping it would turn out well and it did, so it just worked out. Plus, it was The Ryman and we were kind of hoping that would turn out [laughs]. We were hoping it would be worthy of a release and it was.
AMBY: Out of all of the shows and venues you’ve played over the years, why did you decide to release songs from the two shows you played at The Ryman rather than any other venue?
Band of Horses: We didn’t play many acoustic shows that tour. We recorded most of the electric shows but we opened for ourselves that night at The Ryman. We kind of had it in our heads like, “you know, let’s play acoustic at The Ryman and if it turns out really awesome let’s release it as an album or an EP or something.” We had some good electric shows but we didn’t want to just release an electric album, we wanted to release something different – like an acoustic record, which we did. If we’re going to do any acoustic or live record, The Ryman seemed like the best place to do that.
AMBY: When I first listened to the record, I went into it before reading any press releases. As I was listening to the songs, it turned out to pretty much be a greatest hits-like album with songs dating back to your debut release. With that said, which songs do you feel are the quintessential Band of Horses?
Band of Horses:Hmm… That’s very interesting. That’s a good question.
AMBY: Thank you.
Band of Horses: Wow, I don’t know. Which ones do you think?
AMBY: For me? I’d probably have to The Funeral. I mean, that was the first song I heard by Band of Horses and I’ve been hooked since then! That would probably be my quintessential track.
Band of Horses: Yea. The Funeral was the first song I heard, too. Ben and I grew up together and I knew he was in a band and I kind of was following them when I was living in South Carolina and he was in Seattle. We kind of kept in touch with each other through our parents, you know? But then when the Band of Horses record came out, The Funeral was the first song that I heard. I wasn’t in the band yet, and when we moved back to South Carolina they got me in the band and the pursuit began. I mean, I was a huge fan of the first record before I even joined the band. So, The Funeral to me as a fan of the first record, I would have to say yea.
AMBY: Sounds like we’ve come to a decision.
Band of Horses: We’ve come to a decision! The Funeral. And, that song still gives me chills whenever we play it live so there’s something to be said for that.
AMBY: That’s a good sign. As far as celebrating the release, what do you have planned?
Band of Horses: [laughs] You know what? We’re so boring! We haven’t really thought about much. This record is a good and kind of uninteresting way to release a record because there’s no real preparation for it; you record it and then kind of forget about it. There’s no big laborious process of going back and forth and mixing it. You just record it and release it. I honestly kind of forget we’re releasing a record because it doesn’t seem like we did a record. There’s really nothing special for the celebration or anything, we’re just all happy to get back on the road [laughs]. We take it pretty easy these days.
AMBY: I was going to actually bring up the tour. You soon embark on that which begins in Los Angeles and of course ends at The Ryman. What are you most looking forward to regarding that?
Band of Horses: To end it at The Ryman and bring it all home will be great.
AMBY: Before the band hits the stage, do you have any pre-show rituals?
Band of Horses: We get together in a huddle and we always connect and make a bunch of weird grunting noises. We’re kind of like a football team! Even though we’re the furthest thing from a football team that there is [laughs]. It’s kind of weird. I don’t know when we started doing that, but it’s more like a “come here yea yea”. I’m pretty sure we’ll do that because it’s turned into a habitual thing now. For the acoustic tour, it doesn’t really seem like we need to get too psyched up since it’s going to be a more mellow vibe. But I’m sure we’ll probably do it anyway.
AMBY: You can always lower your grunts even more and that will set the mellow tone.
Band of Horses: [laughs] Totally!
AMBY: While on tour, what’s one of the more bizarre things to happen to the band?
Band of Horses: The most bizarre thing to happen to the band… Oh wow. I got lost in Munich one time all night.
Band of Horses: I didn’t speak German, and no one spoke English, and I was drunk. I went to the American Embassy and I guess it was closed.
Band of Horses: I didn’t have any money and I basically just took a cab to Burger King from a bar and then the cab left me. I had no idea where I was. And when I thought I knew where I was, I ended up on the other side of town and walked around all night long [laughs]. I was going to get murdered! But everything turned out fine.
AMBY: You finally found your way back, that’s good.
Band of Horses: I guess getting lost in Munich – that always popped up in my head as kind of a strange thing. It’s a long story but as far as the band as a whole, I don’t know. Nothing that I guess I could really mention in your blog, I guess.
AMBY: That’s fine!
Band of Horses: [laughs]
AMBY: You recently came across a raw and really beautiful cover of your song Part One.
Band of Horses: Yep.
AMBY: In the end, the band ended up covering a cover of one of your originals. Can we expect any other covers in the near future?
Band of Horses: We’re going to try to do some different covers on the road, but they’re going to be a surprise.
AMBY: Oh, okay.
Band of Horses: I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.
AMBY: Many of our readers are in smaller bands who are just starting up, so what advice would you give these artists regarding the music industry?
Band of Horses: Just stick to your guns; don’t let anyone who isn’t evolved in the creative process of your music influence you to change any part of your art.
AMBY: Perfectly put. We’ve asked other artists that question and majority have come to the similar conclusion of sticking to your guns and doing what you think is right.
Band of Horses: Good, it’s true. Sometimes you end up doing it without even knowing it – you get kind of brainwashed. But, you just have to remember that.
AMBY: Absolutely. What are some of your favourite things to do outside of music?
Band of Horses: I like playing golf.
AMBY: Earlier I mentioned one of your Facebook posts, the cover song. Another thing I came across was how you wrote that things are picking up for you as you get back to the dream job of playing music for the world. What have been some of your highlights of being in Band of Horses?
Band of Horses: Oh, wow. Hanging out with Willie Nelson in Hawaii, that was fun and we played cards with him. Playing on stage in Central Park with Neil Young was pretty great. Basically, just getting to play with our idols; the people we grew up with, the old guys who are still playing who are cool enough to let us play with them. The whole thing of being able to do what we love for a living, being able to talk to nice people like you with really cool blogs.
AMBY: Why thank you.
Band of Horses: And to help everyone get more connected with our music in the smallest way possible and to help people feel good. That’s awesome.
AMBY: I want to say that we really do appreciate your work. I know that your work has been in a lot of my writers’ lives for a long time, so thank you for the music.
Band of Horses: Oh man, that’s very sweet of you to say. That makes it worth it right there.
AMBY: My pleasure. Now we have the last question of the interview: what’s something about Band of Horses that nobody knows yet?
Band of Horses: Everything!
Thank you Band of Horses, for giving us your answers!
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Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout