- Photo by Josh Sanseri
- Lord Huron
First and foremost, Ben Schneider is a storyteller. With five releases under his belt – including two well-received folk-flecked indie rock full-lengths – the Los Angeles-based leader of Lord Huron has had plenty of time to tell stories through song. And he's spun some yarns: stories of cowboys and lovers and gangs and undertakers.
But he doesn't stop there. The graphic designer, now 31 and touring full time, threw in movie trailers and a comic book or two, plus frequent illustrations released on the band's Instagram account. Ben Schneider is world-building, and his world is Wild West dusty, guided by (fictional) author George Ranger Johnson (also a Schneider creation), whose Lonesome Dreams adventure novel series provides the backbone to Lord Huron's 2013 album of the same name – or is it the other way around? Taking a wide view, Schneider's creating an indie band Alternate Reality Game, executed over a series of years and releases. Up close, well, singles like “Fool For Love” are just as catchy without any of the associated clues and contexts.
He'll bring his band back to Indianapolis on Tuesday. I grabbed a few minutes on the phone with him before then. Here's a bit of Schneider's thoughts on the lure of magical realism and the wilds of his childhood home in northern Michigan and adulthood home in the Wild West.
“There's so many interesting characters in [the Wild West] because time and whatever other impulses we have have allowed them to become these legends, sort of half-fictional characters, which to me is really appealing. I've always loved the literary tradition of magical realism because it allows for so much of that. To me, that's really interesting because I find that a lot of the time you can get to the truth a little faster with fiction, in a weird way. You can paint a clear picture.
“It's not like I'm writing specifically about Western characters so much, especially not anymore. There's a great book by [Michael Ondaatje] called The Collected Works of Billy The Kid that's kind of a portrait of that historical character but told in verse, partially, and also a few snippets of prose. It's really great because it paints this incomplete picture, and your mind just has to fill in the blanks. I think that's a really beautiful way to tell a story. I think a lot of the characters that come out of this part of the world are like that. We know certain things about them, and other things we don't know, and we've allowed the cultural subconscious to create the rest. Some people think that's damaging to the historical record, but to me the positive sides of the legends and lore outweigh the bad.
"Similar to the West — I lived in Michigan, in my part of the Midwest — there's sort of this mystery and mysticism tied up with the natural landscapes up there for me. You know, it can get pretty remote, especially in Northern Michigan. You kind of has that feeling of being a frontier or an unexplored territory like the West does. I think that's always appealed to me since I was a kid running around up there. When I moved out West, you feel that on a bigger scale. Obviously, there's a lot more lore and legends and storytelling that goes with this part of the world. Not that it was too conscious, but I think a lot of the stuff that impressed me when I was impressionable in my early years has just sort of carried through to my experiences out here in the western part of the country. The Midwest is a place that I draw a lot of inspiration from. Just naturally having spent my childhood there, it's kind of that deep-rooted subconscious stuff that sort of informs our music I think."
This interview was condensed and edited.