Lord Huron Wants You To Dance At The Apocalypse The band's new album, Strange Trails, spins around a strong visual theme, with an imagined cast of characters that "collide sometimes" in Ben Schneider's world.
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Lord Huron Wants You To Dance At The Apocalypse

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Lord Huron Wants You To Dance At The Apocalypse

Lord Huron Wants You To Dance At The Apocalypse

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Look at the cover of the new album from the band Lord Huron. It looks like pulp fiction, with a creepy, jagged font, trees dripping Spanish moss. It's called "Strange Trails," all the songs and the artwork by Lord Huron's front man, Ben Schneider.

BEN SCHNEIDER: The way I kind of envisioned it was there are all these separate tales from this world, but they overlap, and they tangle, and they collide sometimes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LORD HURON SONG, "THE WORLD ENDER")

BLOCK: Ben Schneider's songs spin from a world that he's envisioned and populated with a cast of imaginary characters. For his last album, titled "Lonesome Dreams," Schneider invented a renegade Western adventurer. For this new one, "Strange Trails," he creates a dark, apocalyptic world filled with people rising from the dead and howling through the dark.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WORLD ENDER")

LORD HURON: (Singing) I had a name, but they took it from me. I was the man that I wanted to be. I had place where I lay my head, but they burnt it to the ground, and the sky turned red.

BLOCK: Ben, tell me a bit about this song and how this one came about.

SCHNEIDER: So it's kind of just the tale of this working-class guy whose life kind of gets pulled out from under him, but he comes back to seek revenge this greaser gang called The World Enders. And they're just kind of your traditional leather-jacket-wearing, slicked-back-hair, punk kids who kind of run around in these desert towns and cause trouble. And the idea behind this song was to kind of tell the origins of that gang. And I was kind of reading a lot of weird fiction and comic books at the time, and I wanted this to feel sort of like, you know, an origin story from a comic book.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE WORLD ENDER")

LORD HURON: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

BLOCK: They're all - all the songs are first-person, right? There's a narrator. Do you think it's the same guy narrating all of these?

SCHNEIDER: A few of them are from the perspective of the same person, but no. There's some where I'm inhabiting a female character, a child, or some other male characters.

BLOCK: Who is the character narrating the song "Fool For Love?"

SCHNEIDER: He's a guy called Buck Vernon. He is kind of a washed up rockabilly-country singer from I'd say the late '50s, early '60s kind of era. His big struggle is that he suffers from these really intense hallucinations.

BLOCK: Buck Vernon?

SCHNEIDER: Buck Vernon.

BLOCK: Great name.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOOL FOR LOVE")

LORD HURON: (Singing) Before I commence my ride, I'm asking Lily to be my bride. I know there's another man, but he ain't going to delay my plan. I know she's going to be me wife, going to fall in love. I'm going to live my life with her.

BLOCK: You're weaving in the Bo Diddley beat throughout this song, right?

SCHNEIDER: Yep, absolutely. We just wanted to kind of recall some of those images and feelings that people get when they hear that beat.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FOOL FOR LOVE")

LORD HURON: (Singing) Just wait until I catch my breath. I'm going to send you on to an early death.

BLOCK: So that's Buck Vernon. What about the narrator on the song "Until The Night Turns," which, again, is really dark, all about the end of days, but it's got this perky, up-tempo beat going?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTIL THE NIGHT TURNS")

LORD HURON: (Singing) I had vision tonight that world was ending. Yeah, the sky was falling and time was bending.

SCHNEIDER: That song's just kind of about - if the end of the world's coming, we're going to party before it happens.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "UNTIL THE NIGHT TURNS")

LORD HURON: (Singing) What if the world dies with the sunrise? Baby, it's all right. We'll up be all night. What if we're unmade when the stars fade? Keep me going until the night turns into the day. I had a visitor come from the great beyond.

SCHNEIDER: That's from the perspective of a young member of that gang, The World Enders, I mentioned earlier a kid named Johnny. His whole thing is kind of living right on the edge, kissing the line of death, whether it's racing or getting into fights or whatever.

BLOCK: I love that you have all these characters, you know, named (laughter). You have them in your head. It must be a busy place in there.

SCHNEIDER: Well, there's just a lot (laughter). There's just a lot.

BLOCK: You mentioned a female narrator. Where does she pop up?

SCHNEIDER: So her name is Francine Lou, but her stage name is Frankie Lou. She's kind of a lounge singer who performs at this club called George's Place, which is kind of the hub of the album. She's got a sort of a dark and mysterious past, but she's got a beautiful voice, and she sings these really haunting songs, including the first track, which is called "Love Like Ghosts."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LIKE GHOSTS")

LORD HURON: (Singing) Yes, I know that love is like ghosts. Oh, few have seen it, but everybody talks.

BLOCK: So, Ben, you're channeling her here, Frankie Lou?

SCHNEIDER: Frankie Lou, yeah.

BLOCK: How do you picture her?

SCHNEIDER: She's a beautiful woman, but she's kind of getting a little older. She's got a real sadness in her eyes and the sense that something - a lot of things have happened to her, but nobody's quite sure what exactly. Yeah, she's been through it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOVE LIKE GHOSTS")

LORD HURON: (Singing) Oh, I sing all day, and I love you through the night.

BLOCK: Did you mention there was also a kid - a child narrator here?

SCHNEIDER: Yeah. There's a young girl named Danielle who is narrating the song "Frozen Pines."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FROZEN PINES")

LORD HURON: (Singing) Deep into the night, with the moonlight as my guide, I go wander through the pines and make my way to nature's shrine. And I look up to the sky...

BLOCK: When you're singing these songs, Ben, and you're thinking about these different characters - narrators, do you find yourself singing them differently? I mean, when you're imagining Danielle in this song, a kid, a young girl, do you change your voice?

SCHNEIDER: It's funny that you say that because I was just listening to that and hearing, like, it's one of the lowest-registered songs on the record.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: So I guess not so much changing my voice as much as changing sort of my frame of mind. But, yeah, I definitely try to just sort of, I guess, express the emotion that this character would be feeling.

BLOCK: You know, I know from talking with authors sometimes that they can have a really hard time letting characters go once they're done writing. Is that true with you, too, when you're done writing these songs and these characters who've been inhabiting your mind for a long time? Is it hard to let them go?

SCHNEIDER: You know, I guess I haven't had to yet, so I'm not sure, at least with "Strange Trails." On "Lonesome Dreams" there was kind of a central character named George Ranger Johnson, who is this really underappreciated, prolific author.

BLOCK: Who you invented, yeah.

SCHNEIDER: Who I invented, yes. But he - yeah, I do kind of miss George. You know, he might pop back up again some time.

BLOCK: You haven't seen the last of him yet?

SCHNEIDER: Haven't seen the last of George Ranger Johnson, no.

BLOCK: Well, Ben Schneider, thanks so much. It's been really fun talking to you.

SCHNEIDER: It's a pleasure to be here. Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE YAWNING GRAVE")

LORD HURON: (Singing) I write the names of the rocks and the trees.

BLOCK: Ben Schneider of the band Lord Huron. Their new album is titled "Strange Trails."

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