When Band Of Horses chose the legendary and well-credentialed Glyn Johns ( Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the Who, Led Zeppelin, the Eagles) to produce its forthcoming fourth album, "Mirage Rock," the group knew it was making a conscious decision to go with an old school kind of recording process.
"That became a really exciting prospect, that we'd probably not be working in the edit-heavy machinery end of modern technology and going back to just punching some tape," frontman Ben Bridwell tells Billboard. "That became kind of the M.O. (Johns) wouldn't even use the automation on the console! He was just incredibly hands-on, and without the benefits of not only technology but also overdoing it with too many other people who aren't in the band. He was like, 'That's what you play in the band. Why don't you just play that and we'll keep overdubs to a minimum."
Bridwell adds that the live-on-the-floor aspect of the recording "is terrifying for a lead singer" but, he feels, yielded results he's proud of on the 12-song set. "You have to just accept that it's for the better of what this thing is," he explains. "This is not 'Infinite Arms, Part 2' or 'Everything All the Time, Part 2.' This is its own project and should be its own beast. If that's what it's calling for, then embrace it and allow those flaws to be celebrated, in a way."
But Johns and Band Of Horses were also committed to keeping any "flaws" to a minimum -- as the accompanying video tracking the making of the song "Slow Cruel Hands of Time" demonstrates. Bridwell says the troupe went through most of the 50-plus songs under consideration on acoustic guitars first, discussing their merits and which direction they might take. "Those were probably the most awkward conversations," Bridwell recalls. "With everyone contributing to the songwriting process, including Glyn, they're going to get some feelings hurt, maybe -- even me. But you kind of realized where (the song's) heart is and if it's worth exploring. Sometimes we'd attempt that and realize, 'Maybe this isn't the right song for right now. This (song) is an art project. Just because we have the color lime green doesn't mean we have to paint with it this time."
Bridwell says Johns also taught him a new vocabulary for songwriting and a different perspective for the material. "It's like your dad at the batting cage or something, telling you to keep your head down," he recalls. While working on "Slow Cruel Hands of Time," for instance, Johns and the band have a discussion about whether the song "resolves" itself properly. "When he told me that, I was like, 'I think it does' -- but I don't know if I really knew what 'resolves' meant," Bridwell says with a laugh. "I've kind of fumbled along this whole trajectory with blinders on or something. I don't understand what my trappings are. I think (Johns) even mentions, 'Oh, you're calling that the chorus?' I don't even know what a chorus is, I guess. But that was about as tense as it got, really. We had a great time making (the album)."
"Mirage Rock" is due out Sept. 18 (pre-order on iTunes here ). The quintet is heading to Europe for promotion and a performance at the iTunes Festival on Sept. 8 in London, then starts a U.S. run that includes a Sept. 29 show at the Global Festival in New York's Central Park and the eight-date Railroad Revival Tour Oct. 20-28 with Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and the John Reilly Band. Band Of Horses is also part of the Big Day Out tour during January in Australia.