Band of the Week: Horse Lords

Band of the Week: Horse Lords
Photo by Theo Anthony

Meet the Band: Andrew Bernstein (saxophone, percussion), Owen Gardner (guitar), Max Eilbacher (bass), Sam Haberman (drums)

A CAN-DO ATTITUDE: The band formed in 2010 in Baltimore, about six years ago this summer. It started as a trio with guitarist Owen Gardner who was asked to play a concert and put the band together to play the concert. He had been playing with bassist Max Eilbacher and drummer Sam Haberman. The band essentially covered a Can song and played one riff for 15 to 20 minutes. The group then established itself with its self-titled debut, which featured custom electric guitars and basses refretted by Gardner. "Owen refretted both the guitar and bass to a microtonal just intonation scale," says Bernstein. "He and I became interested in microtonality and just intonation a while ago, back in college. I was inspired by different music. Owen cited Rhys Chatham as an early influence who showed that you could play microtonal music with a guitar. Owen is also a cellist and had explored those interests on the cello and put down the guitar for a time. That inspired him to take the plunge and tear off the frets and put new ones on." While the earliest Horse Lords releases concentrate on "linear performance," a trio of mixtape cassettes suggested a new direction, one that the band further explores on its new album Interventions.

Why You Should Hear Them: On Interventions, the group uses a variety of off-kilter rhythms as it explores "experimental musique concrète territory." "We focused on playing the parts well but more of the focus was using the studio as a tool," says Bernstein. "That's the process behind the record. We have a series of three mixtapes — we're working on a fourth — and that stuff has been lower pressure. We don't spend as much time making them and the production quality varies. We have half ideas that we record and then cut to tape and make a couple of hundred and then sell on the road. We used those experiences to make this into a higher quality mix tape." The album's opening tune, "Truthers," features a hypnotic guitar riff that builds in intensity as it mixes with fluttering electronic bleeps and blips. "Owen came up with the pattern, and he writes his guitar part around it," says Bernstein. "I write my saxophone part around that, and Max comes up with his bass line. We worked out some variations. It is slow going, composing this music. We don't have a set formula." Bernstein describes the live show as "ecstatic." "We do want to challenge listeners, but we want it to be engaging and in that way we try to play music that's fun to play and satisfying to listen to," he says. "We don't think about accessibility in a mainstream way, but we want the music to be a satisfying listening experience, even if it's challenging, which I think makes it a more satisfying listening experience. We don't want to be so difficult as to be unlistenable."

Where you can hear them:

Where you can see them: Horse Lords perform with ONO and Spacebeach at 8 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 19, at the Museum of Contemporary Art.

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Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected].
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