We caught up with guitarist Tyler Ramsey, to discuss his the band’s latest release Mirage Rock, produced Glyn Johns, who has a long resume that includes work with the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin.
You have a new album out, Mirage Rock. What was the songwriting process like this time around?
Everybody worked on it at home to make sure we had enough material. I have one song that ended up on the record, but I definitely vetted my share of ideas, and everybody did that.
By the time we got to the studio with Glyn Johns, we pretty much just listened to what he had to say—that’s what you do when you work with somebody like that. We pushed a couple songs through that he might not have picked out of the list of songs, but mostly we really just wanted to have that opportunity and experience to be in the studio with him to see what kind of record we could make with him behind the wheel.
How did that change the dynamic? He’s worked on some big albums—guitar parts for Keith Richards. Did that influence your approach?
One thing I did while demoing and rehearsing was strip down what I was working on to the bare bones and not use as many effects. I wanted to make sure the part could stand up on its own without using a lot of toys. I think he appreciated that once we got in the studio because he has his own tricks that he likes to use.
It was interesting to hear the outcome of the songs from what he was hearing in the control rather than what I was trying to push through the microphone. He had some better tools in the control than some of the pedals that I might use.
“Electric Music” has some hints of the Stones.
Oh yeah, I think so. Part of the idea was to get in there early on and make sure Glyn was happy and get to know him. We wanted to make a more basic kind of rock ’n’ roll record and we had the guy who knows how to do that. I think some of the songs had him in mind, in a way. That might be one of them. That song is a blast to play live. It makes the show a lot more exciting for us and hopefully for the audience, too.
Was it easier working with Glyn than self-producing the last album, Infinite Arms?
I think it was. With Infinite Arms, we started out with Phil Ek and then finished the majority of it ourselves. We were in a different situation where we weren’t limiting ourselves and we had the potential to keep going and adding ides. That process went on for awhile and that record took a lot longer than everyone thought it was going to take.
With this situation, Glyn singed on and there were no computer screens or Pro Tools involved; it was just him and the boards and whatever else. It was more limited, and limitations put on a little bit more pressure, but it seems like we got a lot of stuff down in a really short amount of time. We basically had the record done in five weeks.
What’s your process for writing before the studio? I read that Ben went out to Tennessee and hid in a wood shed. Do you take the same approach?
Yeah, that really works best for me. I have places that I go in North Carolina, not far from home. It really does bring out something different when there are no distractions and you know that no one is listening to what you are working on. I’ll go for a couple of days, stock up on groceries and be in that place just to write.
There are different places that I go back to, one is more remote and the other has a few cabins around. I haven’t tried carrying a backpack and a guitar out into the middle of the woods yet, but that’s crossed my mind. Going somewhere where you are not going to see anybody would be pretty interesting.
The visuals associated with the band—album covers and sometimes projections when you perform—are all of the natural environment. Does that transfer over to your personal life or the band’s philosophy?
For me, I totally relate to that. Sometime I enjoy almost more than anything is getting out away from cities. I like to go camping or hiking at home. If I’m at home, almost every day I get out of town to swim in a river or hike and bike. That’s something that I crave. Most of our time on tour, we’ll wake up in the middle of a city somewhere. For me, that’s not the ideal place to spend some time.
Band of Horses performs at Fox Theater on October 28. Tickets are $30 and the show starts at 7:30pm.