With their third, just-released album, 'Infinite Arms', American quintet Band of Horses look set to gain the wider audience they so richly deserve. They talk to Harry Guerin about making one of the records of 2010.
Harry Guerin: Was there a moment while making 'Infinite Arms' - during the recording, at the mixing - where you thought, 'We're really on to something here'?
Bill Reynolds (bass): I think it was during the first mastering [of the album] and we went back to the studio where we had been tracking the majority of the record. When you're mixing you go to different studios and stuff, so we went back to the original spot and listened to it on the speakers and finally heard the outcome and realised we were really proud of it.
Ryan Monroe (keyboards): A lot of records that I've been on you can't really tell - it might just be my ear - the difference between the final mix and the master. This was like a total jump-up, a whole different ballgame. It sounded really, really good.
Creighton Barrett (drums): Once we started producing it ourselves, towards the end of the record, it hit me that this was something great that I'd never been a part of [before]. The mastering was just more proof that we were pretty much capable of doing anything and making it sound pretty good!
Harry Guerin: Well, that's one thing that shines through: you can take your sound wherever you want, from pop to country to folk.
CB: Absolutely, there's a moment [making an album] where it's like anything is possible. You're not even worrying about the cohesiveness of the songs until the end. It's getting away from the staple of genres. Like, who cares? We just want to make a great record. At certain points in other records we've had producers say, 'This doesn't sound like you guys'. Well, we're going to make what we want we want to make.
Tyler Ramsey (guitars): When you get so far into a record, and you're kind of focussing on certain songs, when you go back and hear a song that you had actually done [finished] and forgotten about, that's a fun part of it. 'Wow, that song, I forgot we even did it!'
TR: That was a huge part of it for me! Still to this day I'll be like 'I forgot about that song!' And then there are the songs that didn't make the record, which are some of my favourite ones as well.
Harry Guerin: You had 25 songs that you narrowed down to 13.
BR: We started with 25 ideas. We went in [to the studio] and attempted to recreate the demos and at that point realised what we were going to be able to pull off at that time - what was working and what seemed liked it could be fun.
Harry Guerin: Can you see some of the songs that weren't used coming back in the future?
BR: There's songs that we're looking at now that didn't make 'Cease to Begin' [2007 album] that could be contenders. At that time maybe certain songs were similar and you didn't want to put them on the record because there were these two songs that were exactly alike - at the time you think they sound exactly alike. We'll probably dig back into treasure chest at some point.
Harry Guerin: One of the things that's very striking about the album is that it has a great live feel.
BR: There was definitely some trickery involved. We recorded it in a church, which in those terms you get a bigger sound. But then we actually took the tracks when we were in LA and blew them back through the 'Frank Sinatra Chamber' [echo chamber at Capitol Studios in Los Angeles]. That's where the famous 'Pet Sounds' reverbs are and we have a lot of reverbs like that. Some people say it was recorded in the same studio as 'Pet Sounds', but really we just blew it through the same chambers.
One of the good things about making a record and any kind of art is the limitations. As far as the recording format we put limitations on ourselves and that was a good way not to keep it super glossy. There's no way to machine it up. Some people might say it's over-produced because we put timpanis and strings on it but that's just what we were feeling at the time. The way we were writing, those kinds of sounds were coming out so we kept on them there.
Harry Guerin: And producing yourselves, did that lead to any friction?
Tyler Ramsey (guitars): We tend to get along pretty well. I don't remember any friction in the studio at all actually.
BR: If there's friction it's good friction. To make things good you can't be like, 'Oh, everything's great'. We communicate very well.
CB: We enjoy each other's company and we enjoy playing music together and I think it shows. I can't imagine being it a band where's it's [people] yelling at each other. A very big force, I think, with us is just enjoying each other's company. And we hope that it shows through in the music.
'Infinite Arms' is out now on Columbia Records.