The Lone Bellow had “stories we wanted to tell” on their upcoming album Half Moon Light, the group’s Zach Williams tells Billboard. And the track “Good Times,” premiering exclusively on Billboard today (Jan. 9), is actually a song about being told some of those stories over the years.
“I’ve had some fun late-night conversations and the great joy of hearing epic stories told by adventurous souls,” Williams, who initially wrote the rhythmic, joyous “Good Times” as a poem, tells Billboard. “Some were told on old boats way out in the middle of the ocean, some in Irish pubs in Manhattan, some in backyards down south, some on hospital beds. So the song’s just a celebration of these stories and these people who grabbed life by the horns and let no good time slip away.”
The singer-guitarist adds that many of the stories came from Peter Pulitzer, the late publishing heir, while Williams was serving as a hand on his fishing boat during the early ‘00s. “The dude was a complicated man — a plane-crashing, pirate-fighting, bloodthirsty legend,” Williams recalls. “He had all these epic, near-death experiences throughout his life. If you stayed up late enough he would open up and start telling all these insane stories that I still love.”
Half Moon Light is the trio’s fourth studio album and follow-up to 2017’s Walk Into a Storm. It finds the group working again with Aaron Dessner of The National, who also produced the Lone Bellow’s sophomore release Then Came the Morning in 2015. “It was really nice having that friendship already in place,” Williams says. “We already had some understandings of how we see the world.”
Dessner did push the group in some areas, however, including changing song keys that were different than Williams’ usual go-to spots. “He kept saying, ‘I’m clipping the eagle’s wings. You guys have already hit all the high notes and hollered and screamed and all that. I want to try to find another kind of life force in your music,'” Williams says. The Lone Below, meanwhile, made its own change in writing and arranging.
“We flipped the way we produced the songs,” Williams explains. “Before we’d lay [the instruments] down and then the lyrics and singing would sit on top of that. This time we would hum the songs and then build the vocals and the rest of the song on top of that. Aaron really liked that idea as well, and there’s a few songs where we kept the hums in there and made them like another instrument.”
With Half Moon Light coming Feb. 7, the Lone Bellow hits the road again on Jan. 22 in London, returning to the U.S. to play at the Ann Arbor Folk Festival on Jan. 31 and then start a tour Feb. 12-13 at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.
“I’m excited about it,” Williams says. “With most bands, as you play songs through a record cycle they start to morph and change. This record leaves a lot of room for us to experience new sounds and vibes as the touring continues, so we’re looking forward to getting them out there.”
Listen to “Good Times” below.