On a warm summer afternoon, Ben Schneider lets me into his charming apartment at the top of one of those narrow, winding hills in Mount Washington. (The kind where if a car's coming the other way you are basically screwed.) Schneider is the frontman of Lord Huron, a solo project that has become a full-fledged indie sensation over the past couple years. Their brand of tropically infused rock — held together with gorgeous harmonies and adventurous rhythms — has been winning over critics.
Hailing from Michigan, Schneider came to L.A. to be an art teacher. But having been in bands most of his life, he started recording songs on vacation for fun. It wasn't until he went to the Woodsist Festival in Big Sur in 2010 and passed around his EP Into the Sun that blogs suddenly started writing about him. (Who knew the “passing out CDs” technique actually worked?) Suddenly pressed to put on live shows, Schneider called his hometown buddies scattered all over the U.S., and Lord Huron officially became a band.
In person, Schneider is gracious, soft-spoken and relaxed. He's eager to talk about his debut record, Lonesome Dreams, which will be released in the fall on local label IAMSOUND Records. Sitting down with country music on the record player and the neighbor's black lab Boomer sleeping on my feet, we delve deep into the themes running through his new album and other subjects.
Have you had any recurring dreams lately?
Yes, actually the title song “Lonesome Dreams” is about a recurring dream I had where I was in a world that was completely empty except for myself. It was like a Twilight Zone episode. It was a strange almost beautiful dream because I was always in a place that was really amazing. It was an incredibly beautiful outdoor space, but I was always completely alone and I couldn't find anybody. In that dream I knew that there was no one else in the world. It was a weird feeling, sad but at the same time liberating.
There are a lot of ghosts on this album, both literal and figurative. Do you actually believe in them?
Not literally, but I definitely think we have these presences around us that are either imagined or whatnot, the kind that follow us around our lives. I don't know if I really believe in apparitions floating in the night, but I definitely have people who are not in my life anymore whose presence I still feel.
You have a lyric in one of your songs that says, “I knew I wasn't ready to die for you.” Is that a requirement in your love affairs?
Well…I'm a man of extremes.
One of my favorite songs is “Man that Lives Forever.” How do you feel about immortality?
I've often had the feeling that the protagonist in the song has wondering why life can't go on forever, but the beauty of life is about the journey to death. I guess when I was writing that song in particular, I was feeling really good about a relationship in my life and just wondering why it couldn't just go on forever. I think a lot of people have felt that way.
Sure! Even about little things, like I've felt that way about ferris wheel rides.
Yeah! Or a good sandwich. But if you've watched vampire movies you know that being immortal is actually tortuous. I thought that was an interesting idea to write a song about. The protagonist has somehow figured out a way to do it, but the person they love refuses. That's kind of like the ultimate tragedy, having your loved one refuse to live forever with you.