“Freaking hacks,” jokes Ben Bridwell. “Don’t put an intern on that job.” He’s laughing about an error in the national press recently about Band of Horses. Entertainment Weekly called them a “North Carolina band” in the opening line of its review for their 2010 album, Infinite Arms. But SPIN Magazine‘s faux pas may be truly unforgivable: When Bridwell mentioned the Bulldogs, his favorite football team, the publication specified South Carolina State in parentheses. (Bridwell’s a lifelong Georgia fan).
To the writers’ credit, Band of Horses doesn’t make pegging their geographical roots easy. Although Bridwell, keyboardist Ryan Monroe, and drummer Creighton Barrett are all South Carolina natives, the band formed in Seattle. Reviewers still hang a “post-grunge” label on the group. They relocated to the Lowcountry before recording their sophomore album, 2007’s Cease to Begin, in Asheville. And while Infinite Arms was also tracked in North Carolina, many of its songs were written by Bridwell during a stint living in Minnesota, hence lyrics like “The Midwestern sky is gray and cold/The sun never shines, but that’s alright,” in the track “Blue Beard.”
Bridwell says that when introducing themselves at big shows like the Bridge School Benefit or Farm Aid, the band always claims South Carolina as its home. But his affinity for the Georgia Bulldogs complicates things even further. After Cee-Lo Green covered Band of Horses’ “No One’s Gonna Love You,” Bridwell returned the favor with his own version of the R&B star’s song, “Georgia,” featuring the UGA Redcoat Marching Band. The song was released on the band’s website earlier this month.
“I’d been thinking about doing something for the football team, and once I put two and two together, I realized he had the best song ever for my tribute to Georgia,” says Bridwell. “I fell in love with the idea.”
In the tune, he sings, “Georgia, you’ll always be home to me/ I belong to you, yes you belong to me/ When they ask me where I’m from, proud to say that I’m your son.”
Cue another round of confused reporters.
Although he grew up in Irmo, Bridwell’s got a place in Huger now. After Friday’s show at the Performing Arts Center, the band plays Saturday in Atlanta before taking a little time off until a European tour in the spring.
“I’m going to stay close to home as much as I can and relax with the family and do a lot of writing,” says Bridwell. “I’m just hoping to lay low as much as possible. Mostly, I just obsess on writing at all times and obsess on being a dad.”
With a five-piece roster that finally appears to be a lasting lineup, rounded out by Tyler Ramsey on lead guitar and Bill Reynolds on bass, Bridwell’s been trying to write songs that utilize the band’s individual talents, but found himself penning ballads.
“With some of the new songs I’ve been writing, it’s kind of hard to imagine them being Band of Horses songs. Some of them don’t really utilize the tools that we have right now. The last album had a lot of midtempo stuff. [On the next disc], I’d like to avoid having a really mellow album,” says the songwriter. “The fact that we do have such great players makes me rethink if a song is too boring, that I should use it for something weird. But you’re supposed to stick to your instincts and not over think music too much.”
Band of Horses vary their setlists from night to night, including new arrangements and random covers.
“We’ve been trying to adapt a lot of the new songs into the set, to please the new fans, but also trying to make sure there’s a good balance for the fans that despise Infinite Arms. And trying to put some exciting random shit in there as well, to challenge ourselves,” he explains. “I just know what feels good to us.”
Last year, Band of Horses took Company (a.k.a. Co.) on tour with them, and Bridwell offered up background vocals on local songwriter James Justin Burke’s debut, Southern Son, So Far. Those are just a few of the acts Bridwell says show promise in Charleston.
“There’s a lot of talent. It’s a ripe season for us down there,” he says. “It’s looking pretty bright for our music scene, except that we lost 52.5, which fucking sucks.”
Bridwell credits 52.5 Records with turning him on to more than a few new artists and great albums.
“I’ve been going to that store for almost 15 years. That’s more consistent than any relationship I’ve ever had. I think about being 18 and going into that store. We were all total indie rock nerds,” says Bridwell, getting sentimental about his late teenage years. “Clay has always been a huge asset to some sort of cool culture in Charleston. It’s a huge loss. He always thought I was going to steal something.”
A portion of the proceeds from Friday’s show will benefit local chapters of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Charleston Waterkeepers.