When word got out that Lord Huron was bringing its tour to Tulsa, it immediately created a buzz. The next question for many, however, was "But where is Unit D?" Although booking the show at the independent venue in West Tulsa is a bit surprising for a bill that some think should be playing Cain's Ballroom, if not The Vanguard at least, once you catch up with the bands and get a sense of their independent spirit, it makes perfect sense.
Lord Huron's full length debut, Lonesome Dreams, was a favorite with the critics when released last year, garnering mentions in many year-end best-of lists. There is a distinctly cinematic quality to the music, as the songs paint vivid stories and open up to reveal new details and layers with repeated listening.
Lord Huron founder and principal writer Ben Schneider said, "I'm glad to hear that, because I like to make something that's entertaining on different levels. I like projects that you can immerse yourself in. If you want to just listen to the music, you can, but there are all sorts of visual aspects to it as well."
Of course, this isn't surprising to those already familiar with Schneider's background.
"I've always had two big things going on in my life -- music and art," he said. "I was in a band from 12 years old through high school, but I went to school for art, so there's always been a musical aspect to what I do. I'm just in transition, I guess. I was on the visual arts side for a while, but I never felt quite comfortable, so I'm back to music."
The question that comes to mind for many, however, is whether Lord Huron is actually a band, or simply Schneider's solo project. When asked how he approaches it, he stated, "There are two sides to it. The songwriting aspect is very much my area, and I still consider it a very personal and solitary side of the music. The touring side, though, is very much a band thing. Most of the guys were in my first band as a kid, so we're all friends, and there are some longstanding personal relationships there.
"The live show is much more collaborative," Schneider continued. "We don't try to recreate the album, so much as make it a new experience."
With a tour schedule that has placed the band in front of vastly different audiences, playing everything from large festivals to theaters to small clubs and pairing with bands as distinctly different as Portugal. The Man, Dave Matthews Band, and Alt-J, Schneider admits this year has been an interesting ride, but said "It has all worked out really well. We've found that people who really like music are up for anything."
As such, Lord Huron is out on a run of headline dates with equally independently minded and visually oriented Escondido as the tour comes to Tulsa this Thursday night.
Consisting of Tyler James and Jessica Maros, the duo had both paid their dues in the music business separately before meeting and beginning work on what was to be Maros' solo album.
A distinct chemistry was evident, though, and as it became clear they were both on the same page, Escondido was born.
As Tyler explained it, "As with anything, it takes a lot of work -- you have to do it for a long time to find your voice and each of us had done that. At the point we came together for Escondido, we had worked for years and finally decided to throw something out on our own, and a few things happened that we had no control over, and it all started to take off.
"All you really have control over is your music and how good it is when you put it out," he continued. "After that, you just hope people hear it and tell their friends."
Once the Escondido album was out, that's exactly what happened. Of course, there were a few little things that added to the buzz, such as getting the opportunity to appear on Conan O'Brien and going out on tour with Lord Huron.
One of the biggest steps for the duo was the decision to release its album independently.
According to Maros, "When we were considering a self-release, we knew we didn't have the financial means that a big label would have, but we're really happy for the opportunity to put it out our way and the rewards that come with that. There's so much noise out there and so many records being released, it's a really good feeling when someone takes notice of ours."
"It was a conscious decision to release the record ourselves," James said. "We have so many friends that have signed with labels and then been unhappy, we just knew immediately..."
"We didn't want to chase the labels," Maros stated, completing James' sentence.
"Tyler and I have a strong vision for Escondido and where we see it going," she continued. "With the labels, it takes a long time to get their attention, and we didn't want to wait and chase them."
"Releasing this record independently gave us a platform to do what we do -- possibly way better than with a label," James said.
Maros continued the thought, stating "It's also a numbers game to the labels, whereas to me, yes, it's a business; but at the end of the day you have to give a band the time to start and grow from the ground up."
Although, the duo has released its debut independently, it hasn't ruled out working with a label in the future. As for now, however, being able to adhere to their vision and release Escondido independently has worked in their favor. The buzz on the band has grown from word of mouth recommendations, even leading to the current tour with Lord Huron.
When asked how the tour came about, Maros stated that "We had already submitted our stuff to be considered for the tour, and then the singer's girlfriend mentioned us. We were already on the short list, but that kind of sealed it, and he brought us on. It fits really well, and we've been super fortunate to be playing sold out shows with them right now."
When discussing the tour with Schneider, he shared that "This has worked out really well because Escondido is similar in sound, but still different enough that it's not the same."
And what about the freedom of being an independent band?
"To me, the best part o the level we're at is being able to play any sized room," Schneider said. "We can play a DIY venue like Unit D with capacity of 150; we can go to a big city and play to 1,200, or play a festival or get to L.A. and play the Hollywood Bowl. For me, it's been cool because every sized room is a different experience."
Lord Huron and Escondido play in Tulsa at Unit D (1238 W. 41st St.) this Thursday night, August 1. Tickets are $20 in advance and available at Cheap Thrills (3018E. 15th St.).
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