IT'S NOT MUSIC you'd expect to hear coming from Northern Michigan, so near the Canadian border: a lilting, glowing, near-tropical sound in which the percussion lightly traipses and the notes twinkle like tiki torches, the chords gently rolling up like soft surf. But the sound of Lord Huron—named for the vast Great Lake that separates the eastern peninsula of Michigan from the Canadian north—seems to hold the entire globe in its gorgeous intonations. The thickly woven tapestries of sound are created by one Ben Schneider, who recorded much of the two Lord Huron EPs in the area where he spent summers as a child.
"What I love about Lake Huron, particularly where I visit up in Presque Isle County, is how much it changes," Schneider says. "In the winter it's cold and icy and dark. In the summer it's warm and sandy and bright. I find those extremes equally appealing."
Schneider lives in Los Angeles now, but has already cultivated some unintentional mystique around Lord Huron. It began when he passed out CD-Rs of his first EP, Into the Sun, at the Woodsist Festival in Big Sur last summer. "I put a few songs out into the world not knowing what to expect," he says. "I hadn't been a part of the music scene so people didn't know who I was or anything about me. But I don't want who I am to be an issue. Hopefully the focus stays on the material."
The second Lord Huron EP, Mighty, is even more striking than the first, highlighted by the Trinidadian cal-ypso rhythm of the title track, the aching longing in the descending hammered dulcimer line of the powerful "The Stranger," and the clouds of deep echo that cover the entire record. It's a mix of live and sampled instruments, although Schneider wants to keep future recordings as live as possible. At this early stage, Lord Huron's music has largely been discussed in terms of other bands—the narcotic gauze of Panda Bear or the high harmonies of Fleet Foxes, for instance. But Schneider's music is capable of shrugging off easy comparisons. "I admire many of the artists Lord Huron has been compared to," he says, "but to be honest, I don't think that much about other music when I'm making music. If I am, it's something random like an old cowboy song or some mariachi lick I heard at a taco joint."
Schneider's home recordings are reinterpreted in the live setting with the addition of four musicians: Mark Barry on percussion, Brett Farkas and Peter Mowry on guitars, and Miguel Briseno on bass and electronics. They're all originally from Michigan; Schneider and Barry formed their first band at age 12. "We may be limited by our numbers in terms of recreating the songs note for note," says Schneider, "but we try to take advantage of the live medium as much as possible. No click or backing tracks."
In the meantime, Schneider has continued to write and record new material, but a full-length Lord Huron record has yet to be announced. He's not sure what form the band will take in the future. "I've continued writing and recording on my own, but Mark has gotten more involved and hopefully the others will as well. I like the idea of all of us working together. I mean, these are some world-class musicians. But the project is very personal to me, so it might take some time to sort out."