Concert preview: Band of Horses hits the road while working on follow-up to 'Mirage Rock'

Band of Horses hits the road while working on follow-up to 'Mirage Rock'

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On its last trip here, Band of Horses was in an opening slot for My Morning Jacket at Stage AE in one of the better pure musical bills of 2012. At the time, BOH was about to release its fourth album, "Mirage Rock."

On the return trip to Stage AE Sunday, singer Ben Bridwell says, "We're kind of in the awkward teen phase where we're making a record right now. We're excited by that and enthused by it but still leaning toward older material. It's a chance to get out there and have some fun. It's nice to play music for people and make them happy."

Band of Horses

With: Midlake.

Where: Stage AE, North Shore.

When: Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Sunday.

Tickets: $36; $40 day of show;

He said of Band of Horses, which came out of Seattle in 2006 with a harmony-rich indie sound that owed a debt to Crazy Horse and the Byrds, "Sometimes we don't look very busy from the outside, but there's always something going on, and it usually involves playing shows."

Over the past year, it released the stripped-down "Acoustic at the Ryman" album and the frontman also ventured out on a solo project under the moniker of Birdsmell. It was the result of having some down time and material that didn't quite fit for the band.

"I guess some of the songs were even more tongue-in-cheek than the Band of Horses stuff, and Lord knows I slip in my little stupid jokes in the Band of Horses canon, but I guess I was more free to be stupid without anyone looking over my shoulder or being worried about people reviewing it. I could just be free to release some of the most depressing or some of the most hilarious rock numbers or tongue-in-cheek country songs without worrying about it fitting together in some neat package or something."

To promote it, he says, " 'I just wanted to get out and experience the road in a different way. I wanted to get out there and drive the miles myself, so I rented one of those Cruise America campers and went out with a couple buddies of mine, and we camped at night instead of staying at motels and getting like the posh treatment of being in a bigger band provides. I wanted to experience more of the dirt and just get more involved in the whole process instead of being just a passenger."

The focus now is back on the band -- which is spread out these days between Charleston, S.C., Nashville and North Carolina -- working on what will be its fifth record. Mr. Bridwell is proud to have enlisted the production help of one of his favorite musicians, Jason Lytle of '90s indie stalwarts Grandaddy.

"I got this idea stuck in my craw that I wanted to do something different than 'Mirage Rock' that was so spur of the moment and live and raw. I really wanted to go a bit heavier and denser on this album. So knowing Jason a little bit and being a big fan of his and understanding his talents with production, it just seemed like a really good fit. The new direction I suppose is you can hear some of those tones hanging out, some of the chunkier guitars and stuff like that. So far, it's a 180 degrees from 'Mirage Rock,' back into some more dense territory."

In the meantime, BOH is breaking away to make a little money on the festivals -- including the Forecastle Festival and Newport Folk Festival -- while spinning off to do a handful of headlining shows like the one at Stage AE.

"Usually when there's a new album to promote, there's like a whole new production look or a deeper well of songs to choose from, but I think with any Band of Horses show, we just try to make people just have fun or feel happy or sad with the songs and try to have a good time. The aim is just to go out and do a great job and hope people come away with a great experience."

Hitting the road is harder for him personally than it's ever been, as he has two young daughters to leave behind.

"As I've grown older and understand more what I do and understand more how time works, it's a bit depressing to realize you're going to be gone for weeks. I think that's the hardest part. Honest, I'm lucky to have a woman who can handle me being gone -- and probably prefers it most of the time," he laughs. "But I'm like '[Damn], I miss these kids, and I hate breaking their hearts leaving all the time."

Scott Mervis: or 412-263-2576.

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