Not too long ago Creighton Barrett took his mother to see Eclipse, the third movie in the Twilight series. A theater full of screaming Team Edward/Jacob fans probably isn’t where you’d expect to see a 32-year-old rock dude. But the Band of Horses drummer had something special to share with his mom: one of his band’s songs is on the movie’s soundtrack.
But most of the time, Barrett says, he cringes when he hears his music. It’s not that he isn’t proud of what his band is doing; it’s just that he’d rather be listening to Kid Cudi, Gayngs’ bedroom R&B, or some kind of Turkish psychedelic rock — all of which are the furthest thing from Band of Horses’ sweet, sprawling ballads and colorful Americana indie rock.
Barrett joined Band of Horses shortly after frontman Ben Bridwell encouraged his old friend to move to Seattle. Barrett and Bridwell met as teens in South Carolina but moved to Washington in the early part of the millennium because of the city’s fruitful music scene. While Bridwell was playing with Carissa’s Wierd, Barrett spent his time drumming for punk, metal, and math-rock bands.
In 2004, Bridwell formed Horses (the “Band of” part came a little later), and Barrett had to relearn how to play this new music. “[It was difficult] coming from the background I’m used to, which is like retarded, whatever-you-want [drumming],” says Barrett. “Just being able to smash things behind the kit is a lot easier for me than being the anchor and really locking down on it and being the guy who’s driving the bus.”
An anchor is exactly what Band of Horses’ songs need. The title track to their third and latest album, Infinite Arms, sounds like rushing waves crashing into the shore before they gently recede. The tug and pull comes from Bridwell’s sweet-as-honey vocals and Tyler Ramsey’s gooey guitar droplets. Creighton ties these airy melodies together with slight and subtle cymbal crashes.
The five-piece band — whose current lineup came together after the release of 2007’s Cease to Begin — excels at creating delicate love songs and the kind of harmonies that make you tip your head back at the end of a long day and sigh. “I’ve always been enamored with harmonies, but I’ve never been in a band with anyone who could sing,” says Barrett. Now that he is, his perspective has shifted. “I really learned melody and harmony from these guys, and it’s really changed my mind about everything.”
New songs like “Blue Beard” show off the group’s quiet balladry, as do favorites from the first two albums. Cease to Begin’s “Detlef Schremf” floats on intricate finger-picking and an all-encompassing wash of keys; “The Funeral,” from the band’s 2006 debut, Everything All the Time, swells from reverb-tossed acoustics to a full-on rocker.
Infinite Arms features more sonically huge and upbeat numbers than the first two Band of Horses albums. Barrett says they were going through a lot of changes during the writing and recording of the record. They left Seattle and returned to sunnier Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, to be closer to their families. Plus, Bridwell wrote several songs while he was preparing to become a father for the first time.
And sometimes, simply enough, an album just calls for some upbeat songs. “You just kinda need a faster song just to make the record flow or to make some songs stick out from the others,” says Barrett. “You kinda just need some pop in there.”
“Dilly,” which Ramsey wrote, pops to life with a hooky chorus. And “NW Apt.” is a sharp turn from Infinite Arms’ slower songs, with guitars growling to life as Barrett thrillingly speeds over his percussion fills.
The album took two years to record, during which time the group was flying to Europe to play festival shows, pouring the money they made back into growing studio costs. Phil Ek produced parts of Infinite Arms, but by the time the record was in the can, the band was working almost entirely by itself. Barrett says they found this somewhat spontaneous process helpful.
“We would come home at night after spending a long day in the studio, and we would listen to everyone’s demos, and we’d be like, ‘Oh my God, we need to work on that — it’s rad!’” he recalls. “So the next day we’d go in there and work on that song from scratch. It was like a living will or something. It was crazy.
“But it’s hard to say what we were set on making,” he concludes. “We were changing it all the time. What we knew is that we had the chance to showcase this lineup, which is a solid lineup for the first time.” —Danielle Sills
BAND OF HORSES, WITH BRAD AND BLAKE MILLS. 8 p.m. at House of Blues. Tickets: $28, $25 in advance.
Going to the show? Let us know what you think of it in the comments.
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