South Carolina’s rock ‘n’ roll darlings are back with a brand-new record. Paste catches up with the guys on their European tour for some incredible music and a few cheap backstage laughs
For someone who touched down in Paris less than 24 hours ago and only has a vague concept of where exactly he is in this sprawling city, Band of Horses frontman Ben Bridwell looks remarkably unperturbed.
The bearded crooner is wedged into the corner of a back leather couch, one cowboy-booted foot draped over the opposite knee. He’s teasing a bandmate with a scrotum joke after overhearing him remark, “I need to go grab my bag in the other room.” Bam!
What many fans don’t realize is that touring—even in glamorous locales—is frequently a crushing bore: killing time in a series of enclosed spaces, waiting to play the same songs you played the night before, and the night before that. Laughter keeps this cyclical tedium from eating one’s brain. And when your entourage consists of 11 dudes—five band, six crew—a quip like “that’s what she said” falls on the cerebral end of a touring band’s humor continuum.
Hanging out in Band of Horses’ dressing room, especially when there’s jetlag and alcohol in the mix, feels like crashing the South Park writers’ office. When I ask keyboardist Ryan Monroe if he’s had a chance to do anything fun since arriving in France, bassist Bill Reynolds spins around without missing a beat, “Yeah, Ryan, what was her name again?” More snickering.
Anyway, this is what Bridwell knows for certain: He’s backstage at a television studio somewhere in the dreary northern outskirts of Paris. The sky outside is grey and drizzling. A couple hours from now, in front of a studio audience, his band will record a 50-minute set to be aired later on what he’s heard is “the coolest music program kind of thing for TV here.” Beyond that, details get a bit fuzzy. “I don’t really know much about it,” Bridwell confesses. “I just know we’re supposed to show up and try to do good.”
L’Album de la Semaine (“The Album of the Week”) might as well be France’s answer to the UK’s Later…with Jools Holland. The show features a steady deluge of musical talent, pivoting between stellar emerging bands—Vampire Weekend, The xx and Cat Power have all dropped by—and established stars such as Björk, R.E.M. and The Killers. In the hallway outside the band’s dressing room, framed photo collages hang on the walls, displaying snapshots of past performers: Beck’s familiar blank stare, the Green Day posse smirking through soot-black eyeliner.
The show’s previous rosters may seem like heady company, but this evening’s guests have more pressing concerns than who’s previously occupied their dressing room. Several pizza boxes just arrived. Everyone seems to have ditched the catered trays of health-conscious sandwich fixings, flocking instead to the scent of pizza dough and melted mozzarella. You can’t visit France, after all, without sampling the country’s delectable bread and cheese. Check…and check.