Band of Horses strips down Acoustic

Band of Horses ditched the amps for their current tour.
Band of Horses ditched the amps for their current tour.

Band of Horses didn’t plan on going on an acoustic tour. They didn’t even plan on releasing an acoustic album. But, according to guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Monroe, it just sort of happened.

“We recorded a random acoustic set opening up for ourselves at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville [“Acoustic at the Ryman”] and it turned out really well,” he says.”In the back of our heads we were kind of hoping that we would get an imitation of that. We liked what we heard and it was about time to put out a new record. So we were like, ‘hey this is cool, let’s do this.’ We kind of planned the tour around the record, which was kind of an accident.”

A happy accident, as it turns out. Band of Horses’ brand of lilting, folksy indie rock seems tailor-made for acoustic performance — so much so that it’s rather surprising that they haven’t recorded an acoustic album until now. The delicate melancholia of tracks like “The Funeral” find new, wistful life on the acoustic album, for which the band is currently on a limited-engagement tour.

The stops on the tour are all far more intimate venues than those a band of their stature would usually play; smaller theaters and clubs that lend themselves to a stripped down performance. That intimacy, Monroe says, makes for a far more personal experience — both for the audience and the band.

“It’s a really fun learning experience for all of us,” he says. “To be able to hear each other better on stage is great. We can hear deeper dynamics, and we can better communicate, musically.”

Not that this is a band that has ever had much trouble finding musical harmony. With four critically well-received studio albums under their belts, Monroe says that now, more than ever, the band is in a place where they can make exactly the kind of music they want to make, uncompromised.

“We used to have these clips of us just messing around backstage, and we would always say, ‘hey, maybe we should save those for when we can put stuff out that we really want,’” he explains. “Now we can throw out those little nuggets whenever we want. And, as far as what music to release, and what to write, we feel like we can do whatever we want. We really do believe that notion.”

That said, fans can expect some new tricks from Band of Horses on their next studio release.

“[Singer] Ben [Bridwell] has been writing a lot, really trying to hone in on his songwriting craft, and [his writing] has been a lot darker. I think ‘Mirage Rock’ was a little bit of a brighter record, it’s time to go back full circle,” Monroe says. “We’re going to go back into the studio in April and get down, it’s going to be a conglomeration of everything we’ve learned — good and bad — from our experiences of being in this band. It’s going to be an electrified record because we are definitely ready to crank it back up again.”

Living and Playing in Boston

Monroe, whose fiancé attends MassArt has lived in the South End for two years. We asked him about some of his all-time favorite artists and the spots he frequents most around town.

If you could collaborate with anyone, who would you choose?

I d like to write a song with Bill Callahan, just so he could chill me right out.

If you could see any artist, living or dead, perform, who would it be?

I just watched a Big Star documentary. I’d like to see all those dudes playing live, like, in 1976 or something.

What are some of your favorite places in Boston to hang out?

I saw Bill Callahan at the Sinclair, that was killer. I like the Beehive. I really like the coffee place on Newbury, the one with the dog in the name. [The Wireless Puppy] It’s supposed to be the strongest coffee!

Where do you check out live music around here?

Great Scott is awesome. I also like Brighton Music Hall.

Yeah, there’s really no bad place to stand there — whereas at the Paradise you have those huge poles…

Oh yeah, we’ve played there. Just looking from the stage it looks like a tricky place to see a show at, but it just has so much history as a venue, a legendary venue.


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