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Arts and Entertainment

Lord Huron's Music Evokes Wide-Eyed Western Adventures In Exotic Lands

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Lord Huron's band members are on their way west towards L.A. after a long tour across the U.S. It only seems fitting that frontman Ben Schneider is talking to LAist while he's traveling since everything about his indie-folk outfit evokes a feeling of adventure on the open road.

The wanderlust nature of Lord Huron extends way past its music, which has been compared to the likes of Fleet Foxes and My Morning Jacket. One of the most intriguing aspects of this band are the artistic, visual accompaniments with the tracks.

If you catch any of Lord Huron's music videos and artwork, you'll see 30-year-old Schneider and his band mates embody characters you'd expect out of a spaghetti Western. They'll be getting chased down in the desert, trekking though snowy, distant lands, and exploring caves set against a backdrop of stars. And yet, you'll never be able to quite pinpoint where they're at—it all feels exotic. (In the "She Lit a Fire" music video, you'd think the story echoes a Davy Crockett tale, but the opening scene is a beach lined with a building that seems straight out of Aladdin.)

"[It's about] creating a singular universe where it’s hard to put your finger on," Schneider tells LAist.

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The best part of all of this is that each of the music videos and songs are based off of Western novels (with the same titles as the tracks) penned by George Ranger Johnson. Never heard of him? That's because he doesn't exist.

Schneider, a former art director at an ad agency, is devoted to this world he's invented for Lord Huron. He's even created a website for the fictional novelist complete with images of worn-down book covers and yellowed pages out of books. He came up with the idea of Johnson because for him it helps him "flesh out an idea better, to let it exist in multiple forms," he says.

The Michigan-native moved out to L.A. years ago which he admits was first for a girl and then a career in painting before he settled into his art director role. He felt frustrated at his job and wanted to have an outlet for his creativity. Lord Huron was perfect vehicle for that.

While on a trip to Michigan for a friend's wedding in 2010, he started writing songs for what would be released as his first EP Mighty three months later in June 2010. Less than six months after that, he came out with his Into the Sun EP, and in 2012 his full album release of Lonesome Dreams. He eventually brought on childhood friends from Michigan to join his once-solo project: Mark Barry on percussion and vocals, Tom Renaud on guitar and vocals, and also Michigander Miguel Briseno on bass and percussion. Many of Schneider's first songs were written on Lake Huron, which gives influence to the band's name.

"[Lake Huron is an] important geographical location in my life," Schneider says. "I spent a lot of time of my childhood there and I had a lot of formative experiences there; all kinds of experiences, good and bad and everything in between. It was always a place I always felt really strong ties to and it’s a place that has a sort of a mystical quality."

His childhood in Michigan gave way to his creativity as an adult. His parents, both journalists, encouraged Schneider to read literature and listen to music. He also attributes his taste in tunes to his older brother, who acted as a filter for him during his brother's hip hop, metal, and hardcore punk phases.

In addition, Schneider has been largely influenced by his travels to Mexico and Asia and incorporates that into his own music. There are elements of this in his dreamy and mysterious artwork.

However, Schneider says the art accompanying the music isn't a puzzle for his listeners to solve. "They're not meant to be tricky or crafty things, but slightly obscure things that you can discover if you feel so inclined," Schneider says. "It’s a world to explore."

Lord Huron is performing at the Fonda Theatre on Feb. 28 and March 1.