Alternative indie rock outfit Band of Horses has been blending sounds and musical influences since the mid-2000s.
There's a country tinge born of the quintet's Carolina roots, the indie stylings from lead singer Ben Bridwell's stint in Seattle (an aural landscape also home to similar-sounding Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins), and the rock and punk grease from drummer Creighton Barrett's previous bands.
On their latest album, Band of Horses members show yet another side to their sound. "Acoustic at the Ryman," a 10-track compilation of songs recorded at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville last spring, is a gentler, stripped-down version of the band's electric favorites.
Band of Horses will trot to Savannah for a March 3 show at Trustees Theater on a special 13-date acoustic tour -- their final stop before ending at the Ryman itself.
"It was kind of an accident," said keyboardist Ryan Monroe about the Nashville recordings. "The two nights at the Ryman, we opened for ourselves doing an acoustic set before our electric set. We listened back to it and we were like, 'Man, it had some magic that we were looking for.' So we decided to release it as a record. It seemed like a logical thing to do. We've been touring so much, we weren't ready to go back in the studio for a fifth record, but we wanted to put something out in the meantime."
"Acoustic at the Ryman" follows the band's fourth album, "Mirage Rock," which made Rolling Stones' Top 50 albums of 2012 list.
"Ryman" veers from the band's usual moody musings, as the acoustic renditions give everything a honeyed, tender sound.
"It was super minimal. We did consciously decide to subtract certain things and focus on the vocals more to bring the actual song to the forefront," Monroe said. "There aren't a lot of bells and whistles on the record."
The quieter setting suits Bridwell's voice, which is eerie and beautiful at the same time.
The result is subdued but powerful, like a whisper that entire audiences will lean in to hear more closely. It also gives old favorites a new spin. "Detlef Schrempf" is backed by a soft piano melody instead of a guitar. "Neighbor" has no electric extras, allowing the harmonies of other band members to ring clear. And "Wicked Gil," which Bridwell introduces on the album only as "an old song," sounds completely different.
"It's a heavy song on the first record, but on the acoustic it's really mellow and creepy," Monroe said, adding that most of the decisions for the Ryman performance were made impulsively during soundcheck before the show.
"Then we went up there and just kind of did it and trusted each other to make tasteful decisions," he said. "We were jamming like we were in someone's living room. For the tour, we're adding little things here and there."
After the acoustic tour, the band will go back into the studio and work on an fifth full album, Monroe said. In March, Bridwell will be headlining the St. Pat's in Five Points show in Columbia. Monroe said he will be there and might jump up onstage for a few songs. Monroe, Bridwell and Barrett all grew up in the Columbia area. Barrett and Bridwell now live in Charleston, and Monroe is in Boston, but is considering moving back down South after his fiance graduates from Massachusetts College of Arts and Design.
Those Southern roots inevitably made their way into Band of Horses' sound, Monroe said.
"(Bridwell) and I both grew up listening to music like Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Allman Brothers, stuff you would hear at restaurants in Columbia and Irmo."
In the late '90s, Bridwell moved to Seattle and cut his teeth on the indie rock of the Northwest. Monroe stayed in town and joined a Southern rock band called Captain Easy.
Meanwhile, Barrett was in a heavy punk band in Charleston.
"Then we came together and I added a little bit of that (Southern rock) influence back in," he said.
For the band's third album, "Infinite Arms," Bridwell recruited guitarist Tyler Ramsey and bassist Bill Reynolds, who are both from Asheville, N.C.
"So they bring that Appalachian influence," Monroe said. "The way Tyler picks the guitar is like nothing else. It's very bluegrass-y."
The culmination is a sound that is distinctly Band of Horses, but the individual influences can be sussed out with careful listening, Monroe said.
"If you really pay attention to our records, you'll hear it. It's all mixed in."
Follow Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.
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