The Un-Prodigal Son

Charleston City Paper | September 30, 2006
Band of Horses’s debut album, Everything All the Time, has garnered rave reviews across the board — from NPR to Rolling Stone. Recorded for the Sub Pop label and produced by Phil Ek (who also worked with The Shins), the album has already been heralded as the best of the year by Filter and other magazines.

Guitarist/vocalist Ben Bridwell (formerly of indie rock band Carissa’s Wierd) seems unaffected by the media attention, the appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, or the comparisons to Neil Young and The Flaming Lips. In fact, Bridwell would be pleased as punch to be selling boiled peanuts in a trailer park.

“Fuckin’ fuck that would be great! I’d never have to go to the grocery store. It would be like two birds with one stone. I would never have to eat anything else,” says Bridwell.

Bridwell grew up in Irmo, S.C. just outside of Columbia. He lived in Charleston for a short time, suffering a string of bad luck.

“There was a fire… I burnt down a house — accidently of course — then I got hit by a car,” he remembers. “This all happened within the same couple of weeks. And then I got thrown into jail. That was when I was like, ‘Shit. Maybe I’ve got to move.’”

Bridwell ended up in Seattle, homeless, and sleeping in the back of a Ryder truck. A popular local music venue, the Crocodile Cafe, hired him with a sleeping bag on his back. He started as a dishwasher and saved his tips, stuffing them into a hollowed out speaker. With that seed money Bridwell started his own label, Brown Records, and released the first Carissa’s Wierd album. The band — formed by former bandmate Mat Brooke, who left Band of Horses in July — developed a huge following in Seattle. When their original drummer left to join Modest Mouse, Bridwell stepped in as timekeeper. “I didn’t know how to play drums,” he says. “That was about eight years ago.”

Tackling the singer/songwriter role has also been a new challenge for Bridwell.

“It was a little tough initially, just trying to get the confidence to sing, trying to be an emotive type of singer,” he says. “That is how the reverb thing started. I would blanket myself in reverb, even at practice, just so people couldn’t tell what the fuck I was saying. It put some distance between myself and the lyrics or at least the listener and the lyrics. If you can’t tell what the hell I’m saying you can choose your own adventure.”

The reverb-drenched, dreamy atmospherics, reminiscent of bands like Slowdive, are now signature Band of Horses. Coupled with an undeniable Southern sound, it’s music made for blaring out of car speakers while driving down a Southern dirt road.

“I wanted a lot of growing-up-in-the-South themes on this album,” says Bridwell. “Sometimes that Southern sound can be intentional, but other times it is just natural. I’ve been up here in Seattle for 10 years, so I’m anxious to get back home.”

And, aside from boiled peanuts, what is he most looking forward to about being back in the South?

Bridwell: “Sweet tea. And my family. Getting to see them, I enjoy the hell out of. And I just love all the people, and the humid weather. It is just a break from the rest of the country and I love it.”

Charleston City Paper

Founded in 1997, the locally owned and operated City Paper is Charleston's only weekly alternative newspaper and the second-largest publication in the metro Charleston area. Reaching a strong mix of active, affluent locals and tourists, the City Paper has thrived...
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