“No revelations in the water, no tears into the booze.”
That line haunts closer “Window Blues,” from Band of Horses' sophomore Sub Pop album, Cease to Begin. It's lead vocalist/guitarist Ben Bridwell's long fought realization, rising clean from sodden, broken ghosts. All ghosts are daunting, facing what has been left behind and what lies beyond, especially when the shadows haunting the hallways are your own. Perched between the promise of a world to come and the letting go of a world past lies the beauty of Cease to Begin’s paradox.
“Window Blues” is a devastating song, brutal in its hopefulness. It’s a requiem for mistakes, recognition of the small, crucial details overlooked and taken for granted as on debut Everything All the Time. But it’s in the embracing of the ghosts that Bridwell seems to find confidence in the relief of letting go.
By the recording of Cease to Begin, Bridwell had moved the band from Seattle back east to South Carolina where he grew up. Though the majority of the songs had been written before the move, the album is steeped in the nostalgia and disconnect of returning to roots.
It’s oddly fitting that Bridwell decided to record at Echo Mountain Studio in Asheville, North Carolina, the beautiful Blue Ridge-backed hometown that Thomas Wolfe famously eulogized in You Cant Go Home Again. Yet unlike Wolfe, whose sprawling autobiographical novels were never able to unseat the ghosts that held sway over his life, Bridwell doesn’t fight the homecoming.
“The lifestyle that we lead now is a lot different than what we were doing,” says Bridwell from his home in South Carolina, where he and his girlfriend split time between her place in Minnesota. “Seattle was a lot of the party culture. We were at the bars a lot, and there was a lot of drama and things like that. But down here it’s very laid back and we’re kind of old, we’re kind of settling into our middle age, I guess. Now the things that matter to us are being around family, being responsible adults, and just trying to further the craft. I’m taking guitar lessons for the first time, just trying to be more responsible about our jobs.
“If anything, the influence on what we’re doing now is that we’re a little bit more clearheaded about our goals, and really excited to be in the band, not just living the life of being a band, being out at bars and partying. We spend more time actually honing the craft rather than busying ourselves with other things.”
That focus is encouraging for the sold out crowd that will greet Band of Horses this Sunday at La Zona Rosa. The packed houses that marked the group’s tour behind their debut found Bridwell often apologetic. He seemed rattled in the spotlight, wincing at mistakes that the audience would never have noticed.
“I still don’t really feel that comfortable in the position, still don’t feel I really belong in that position, but that’s the situation, so I’ve got to deal with it,” he says. “But I learn more all the time, and you also can’t look a gift horse in the mouth or whatever.
“No pun intended there,” he laughs.
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