Lord Huron Share Strange Fictional Backstory Behind Their New Hit Album
By Casey Lewis
Ben Schneider, the frontman of Lord Huron , isn’t just a singer. He’s also an art-school grad and gifted illustrator who logged time working a graphic design gig in Los Angeles before his musical side-project took off. Now the frontman of one of the biggest indie-folk bands of the moment has found a way to incorporate his artistic background -- while making both his English teachers and his record label very happy.
MTV News recently caught up with the 31-year-old Michigan native, who dreamt up the elaborate fictional worlds that inspire Lord Huron’s debut album, Lonesome Dreams, and its brand-new follow-up, Strange Trails. There are complex characters and expertly woven narratives, mapped out with the help of movie trailers and comic books. At a time when most discographies read more like personal diaries -- we’re looking at you, Taylor Swift -- it’s unexpected (and awesome) to listen to an album that weaves a story as compelling as a Serial podcast.
I’ve always found, at least for me personally, fiction can speak more succinctly and eloquently about reality than a documentary can, especially when it's crafted carefully,' Schneider said, calling in from a tour stop in Santa Cruz, California.
The cover of the 'Strange Trails' comic book:
hit MTV series . But you probably can’t name a single band member -- and that's the way they like it.
I’m a pretty private person, and I like to keep my private life mine and not bare it all to the world. (Mission accomplished.)
Instead of confessional ballads or autobiographical anthems, Schneider writes songs about made-up villains and heroines, often rooted in Western lore. And though the second album touches on a lot of the same topics as the first -- there’s romance and adventure and tragedy -- it’s far from a sequel. I imagine the albums exist in the same world, but it’s a different time, different characters and a different place, he said. A lot of the same themes are explored, and a lot of the vibes are similar.
The debut was based on adventure novels by George Ranger Johnson (stop hanging your head in shame because you’ve never heard of him -- he’s not real ), and while the sophomore record’s initial influences were slightly less fantastical -- he drew inspiration from Kilgore Trout, a fictional character invented by Kurt Vonnegut --the reoccurring cast of characters on the 14-track LP are of Schneider’s own imagining.
One of the greasers in the World Ender gang inspired by Track 4, Hurricane (Johnnie’s Theme):
A photo posted by @lordhuron on Mar 31, 2015 at 7:12am PDT
Through the music videos and story-spinning lyrics, Schneider introduces personas like Frankie Lou, Buck Vernon, and Lily, the object of Buck’s affection who we meet in Fool for Love, the first single off Strange Trails . The music video, co-directed by Schneider, shows our protagonist attempting to win over his lady by picking a fight in a saloon with a Western gang called The World Enders, which also happens to be the name of another song on the album. The video includes a very real phone number you can call to join in the story, choose your own adventure-style.https://youtu.be/fl1FOuZnOAg
This kind of participatory storytelling extends to Lord Huron’s social media too. Rather than press promos and behind-the-scenes tour snapshots, the band's Instagram account is an inspired work of art, filled with hand-drawn illustrations that Ben mindlessly sketches while writing music. There’s a visual component accompanying every single track on Strange Trails, and if Schneider has his way, that’s only the beginning.
This idea of Strange Trails was conceived as a movie, he said. It's been hard to get that going because that's a whole other world that I'm not initiated in yet. We're trying to find ways to get it made. We’re willing to bet they’ll be successful.
A truly frightening undertaker inspired by Track 8, Meet Me In the Woods:
A photo posted by @lordhuron on Apr 1, 2015 at 9:41am PDT
A super creepy skeleton inspired by Track 12, Way Out There:
A photo posted by @lordhuron on Apr 4, 2015 at 1:25am PDT