Over the last few years, Lord Huron has inched its way up the charts as an indie folk band to watch. The four-piece act took its name from the lake Ben Schneider, the band’s main songwriter, singer, and guitarist, grew up on. As woodsy as the description sets the band up to be, Lord Huron steeps itself in a more retro feel, stripping things back to toy around with a more whimsical flair rather than a stomping, roots-driven sound.
This style reaches a new peak with Vide Noir, the band’s third and newest record from earlier this spring. Schneider said the record focused around late-night trips he would go on around Los Angeles. While that sounds like it should be bursting with city life, instead it means the record enjoys the laid-back side of exploring. “Wait By the River” reflects with a calm tempo. “When the Night Is Over” trots around like the easy hike up a small Californian hill. It’s a sound that suits Lord Huron well, especially when paired with his lyrics.
“These nighttime trips,are a mix of driving and walking,” Schneider explains. “The crazy thing about Los Angeles is that it incorporates what you’re used to of the city—streets lined with neon signs and buildings with concrete—paired with other beautiful things—beautiful foothills, beginnings of the desert, and the ocean. What inspired me about it was its vastness, what seemed like the unlimited possibilities that lay before me every time I head out at night. One of the things I liked to do is deviate from the routes I would usually take. The most surprising thing is how quickly you can feel like you’re not in the city anymore. You can go up a winding road and suddenly feel like you’re in the wilderness. There’s always unexpected people you meet too at a 24-hour restaurant, too.”
To better understand the curious mind of Lord Huron, we interviewed Ben Schneider for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Vide Noir as the prompt, his answers carry an undertone of curiosity—a feeling that will be onstage when the band headlines the House of Blues this Sunday.
1) “Lost in Time and Space”
DIGBOSTON: If you could go visit another planet for a week, which would you choose and why?
SCHNEIDER: Interesting. Well, it seems like Mars is the only one we have any shot of existing on for any time. The week limit is interesting because that’s a one-way trip. You have to be ready to take that one-way trip. I’ve talked to my friends about that a lot, about if you’re asked to go on that trip but told you may not get to come back, would you do it? I’d have to consider that pretty closely. I’m one of the guys that would probably volunteer for that. I think it would be very interesting. So I’d go to Mars, but one-way.
2) “Never Ever”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the craziest thing you’ve been dared to do?
SCHNEIDER: I was dared to ride a BMX bike off a roof into a pool. That was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I did accept the dare because I was young. I was probably 12 or 13. It was in Michigan where I grew up up. Definitely not normal for me, though, as I’m not an Evel Knievel type.
3) “Ancient Names (Part I)”
DIGBOSTON: Which name would you give yourself if you could have chosen your name at birth?
SCHNEIDER: Huh, that’s a good one. I feel pretty at home in my own name. But I guess I’d want something maybe more… I don’t know. I’ve never considered this before. Maybe I’d take something a little rough around the edges like Gus. [laughs] Yeah, Gus. It’s a good one, isn’t it? It could be short for a few things too, like August or… Augustus [laughs]. I guess those are pretty much the same, huh?
4) “Ancient Names (Part II)”
DIGBOSTON: If you were named after an animal, what would your name be and which animal would that name take its inspiration from?
SCHNEIDER: Going to think about this for a second. Well, I do really like bears. They’re one of my favorite animals. But Bear seems like a weird name that wouldn’t suit me too well. What’s a good name that’s bear-related? Um. I keep thinking of a polar bear, so how about Bjorn? I think that means bear, actually, in Swedish. I’ll go with Bjorn!
5) “Wait by the River”
DIGBOSTON: What was your backyard like where you grew up?
SCHNEIDER: Well, the house I grew up in for most of my childhood had a cool backyard. It was on a small hill, which felt like a big hill when I was a kid. There was a lot of space to run around in and big, tall trees. The previous owners built a playhouse out of plywood or something. That was one of my favorite retreats to go experiment with matches, smash stuff in, and learn about bugs. It was my laboratory of sorts. I grew up with three siblings, so we shared that space. If you went in after my sisters had been in there, it would be all gussied up with curtains in the windows. If you went after my brother, things were destroyed and there would probably be some fire damage in the corner.
6) “Secret of Life”
DIGBOSTON: Is there any secret or line of advice that’s been passed down to you that you’ve found to be true so far?
SCHNEIDER: One of the best pieces of advice that I keep going back to has held up for me. It’s to unquestioningly pursue things you’re interested in. Especially with creative things. This was given to me by a painting teacher when I was studying painting. Instead of trying to force meaning into the work you do, just follow things you’re interested in. Generally meaning will be there waiting for you. It was good advice for me. The teacher’s name was Al Hinton. It was who taught at the University of Michigan at the time.
7) “Back from the Edge”
DIGBOSTON: Which song would you love to see U2 perform live?
SCHNEIDER: U2? [laughs] I would have to say something interesting to see them play. How about something that would be really fun to see Bono doing, like some rap song. I would say Old Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya.”
8) “The Balancer’s Eye”
DIGBOSTON: How would you describe your ability to balance and your center of gravity?
SCHNEIDER: It’s definitely a constant struggle. Being on the road a lot, especially in the business we’re in, it can be hard to keep an eye on your normal life, keeping a balance on what you’re doing for a profession and the rest of your life. It’s a work in progress. We haven’t figure it out yet, or at least I haven’t. It goes along with the two parts of my personality well: I like to go out and explore, but I also don’t have many friends, I just have a few I hold dear. It’s hard to be away from my family and friends for so long. That seems to be the big constant in life, trying to find that balance.
9) “When the Night is Over”
DIGBOSTON: Do you have any pre-bedtime routines?
SCHNEIDER: It depends which mode I’m in. On tour, your work day ends around 11:30 or midnight when you get off stage. I don’t like to go right to sleep. If I can, I like to get out and take a walk, and then read a little before I go to bed. Generally I need to do something to unwind after a show. When I’m at home, reading is something I do pretty much every day before bed.
DIGBOSTON: Who or what do you think of when you look at the moon?
SCHNEIDER: I think of my wife, Sasha. Kinda like it says in that song, there’s a sense of longing and love. Yeah. She’s radiant in a similar way, but also has a [laughs] shroud of darkness to her. She’s gonna love that.
11) “Vide Noir”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen while driving late at night?
SCHNEIDER: I was actually walking, but one of the times I got out of the car and hiked around was to see the highest peak in the city proper of Los Angeles. You look out over the city from up there. I saw a mountain lion up there one time. It wasn’t too frightening because it was ahead of me and I could see it was moving on, but it was still close. It was 30 yards or so. It wasn’t as big as I thought it would be. So at first I was like, “Damn, that’s a big cat.” [laughs] But then I realized it was an actual mountain lion. That was cool.
12) “Emerald Star”
DIGBOSTON: What do you think the prettiest shade of green is?
SCHNEIDER: Hm. There’s that early summer blazing green that happens in the Midwest and the Northeast before it gets to the height of summer, just before things start to lose their lust. That leaf green of spring. The green in mid-to-late May.