The last time Band of Horses guitarist Tyler Ramsey saw a harvest moon, he got in his car and drove out into the country near his Asheville, NC home to get a good view. This time, he was on-stage in Portland’s Pioneer Square as the headline act closing out five days of music at MusicFestNW. While Band of Horses had arrived that morning and would take the stage in just a few hours, Tyler took some time to talk about his solo record, the Kings of Leon tour cancellation, the Northwest and a new Band of Horses record.
Apes on Tape: First off, is this your first time to Musicfest NW and its shenanigans? Have you been to Portland before?
Tyler Ramsey: Yeah this is my first time here. We got here this afternoon. Then we leave tonight after we’re done playing. We’ve got a day off tomorrow in Seattle. I wish we had more time here. I love Portland, I never get to come here enough. It’s a really cool city.
I know other guys have pretty deep PNW roots, but have you spent much time up here aside from touring?
No not really, just touring and hanging out with them. I’ve been up here a couple times on my own. But not enough. I’m from the East Coast, from Ashville, NC. But never lived over here. A few years back I was thinking about moving and this was really the only place I could think of to try. But I like being close from my family, they’re all gathered in that area.
The most recent Band of Horses tour had a pretty interesting background, with the Kings of Leon cancellation . How many shows had you guys played before the tour was cancelled because of Caleb’s “exhaustion”?
[Laughs] “Exhaustion”, yeah. I think it was the third show into what was supposed to be a seven week show. But it just turned out, it was a blessing in disguise. We got to do so many things and play so many shows that we’re thrown together at the last minute. We wanted to make it to the shows that we were going to play in anyways.
And at that point, did you think the whole tour was going to be scrapped or were you pretty ardent on salvaging something?
It was really, really frustrating and quite maddening. We were in Tampa, Florida and we just sat there for three days wondering what was going to happen. Every thirty minutes there would be some weird update about booking shows here or there. And we had no idea what was going on. We ended up getting it together. And even had the time to go, when there were a few weeks off in the middle of the tour and we ended up going to El Paso and recording, doing some demo stuff in a studio there. And I got to do this awesome solo road trip. I rented a car in El Paso and drove all over Arizona, Utah…
A little Southwest tour?
Yeah, just by myself going to place I’d never seen and hanging out. I ended up meeting everybody else in Denver for the next show.u
Now, are you a big Kings of Leon fan? The tour seemed like an interesting pairing, how did that come about?
I hadn’t really listened to them very much. They’d been asking us to do it and I think it just worked out that we had the time to do it.
In earlier BoH tours, you were pullin’ the double slammer opening as a solo act and then playing with the band after. How did that situation compare with your current tour role?
Yeah, I do that every once in a while. I did it right at the beginning of this tour, in Denver and Boulder. Just whenever that works out as a possibility.
And would you prefer to do that if it is a possibility?
I always love it, because when we’re travelling around it’s the reason we’re doing all of this—to be on stage and playing music for people. It’s a blessing to be able to get up there, play my songs and play for that many people and spend a little bit more time doing what we’re here to do anyways. Instead of like pacing around or just waiting to get on stage.
(Laughs) Yeah. Our own band just finished up a tour and there was just way more waiting than I ever expected. It was half the battle.
Oh, man yeah (laughs). It really is. That’s when you can get into trouble…. That’s what will wreck you on tour, I think. All that free time…. It’s not really even free time necessarily . You’re always just waiting for a sound check or be somewhere at a certain time. A lot of down time.
Speaking of solo material, you have the new album Valley Wind coming out in a few weeks.
Yep, coming out in a few weeks on the 27 of Septmeber. I’m really excited about it. It’s coming out on Fat Possum.
Yeah, Fat Possum! I was going to say, they’ve been on fire for the past few years.
Yeah, I mean they kind of always have been. They just have really good tastes, not me or whatever, but the stuff that’s been on that label. It’s been incredible. They’re really cool people and I’m excited to be doing it.
I was listening to Valley Wind earlier, and it’s very apparent that you and BOH are a natural match. But do you approach writing your own material differently than Band of Horses material?
I’ve tried things that I think were a little different than I’d normally do for the band. But I think what really works best is to do what I know how to do and just write what I write. If songs happen to make a connection with the guys in the band, then trying to develop it into something else is a way to make it into a Band of Horses song. Taking everybody’s input and trying to turn it into something that we would do as a band. I think that’s the direction I’m moving in as far as co-writing and writing with those guys.
Regarding that, I read in a recent interview how stoked Ben was to share songwriting roles on Infinite Arms. Was that a pretty enjoyable, collaborative effort? Do you feel the same way?
Yeah, it’s been really really fun to just discover how that works with all of us. He was doing all the work before. Now it’s gotten more collaborative and some really cool things have come out of that. Different ideas than what was going on before when people bring their influence into it. But still trying to stay true to the band, to what he really wants to do with the band. I think everybody has a pretty good grasp on what that is.
And after the tour are you trying to finish those demos or record again?
When this tour ends, I’ve got a solo tour the first week of October. And it goes all throughout October. Then we meet up at the end of October for a show in New Orleans. And then we’re supposed to go to Australia.
(Laughs) Yeah. But then we’re definitely going to get back into the studio.
Are you shooting for an EP or full-on?
It’s full on for the next record. We’re really trying to get it solidified and get it done.
Looking back, when you met Ben and the gang, is it a little weird to see how that whole progression has worked? Where the Band of Horses train has gone…
It’s pretty wild to think about, how quickly that all happened and the development over the past four years. Just to see how far we’ve progressed as a band. All the incredible things that have happened to us, just consistently there’s something new that will pop-up that’s just mind-blowing, these opportunities that we get.
To finish up, let’s shed a little light on Valley Wind coming out here on the 27th. For readers, what would you say the difference is between your Band of Horses work and your solo stuff?
If people were only familiar with band of horses and they have [Infinite Arms] that song “Evening Kitchen” that’s on that record is one that I wrote. That’s more my style, a little more laid back, a lot of finger-style guitar. I don’t really know how to describe this record necessarily. We tried to do it really quickly, because that seemed like a fun way to do it. We got the bulk of it done in six days. Just three of us me and Bill and a guy named Seth Coplan, from Floating Action. Bill’s the bass player, he’ a fantastic producer and engineer. It as cool because the approach I was going to take anyways was to go for more of a feel than a polished thing. If things were a little off, I love records like that. Those are my favorite.
Music made by humans…
Yeah! It’s not all just smashed down into this perfect thing. It’s got a human quality. I think we did a pretty good job capturing that.
The Valley Wind by Tyler Ramsey