Band Of Horses singer/guitarist Ben Bridwell can promise a couple of things to people who come to see the group in concert Aug. 22 in Bend.
First off, expect the unexpected. "One thing that I do like about this band is, I don't know that we've ever played the same set list twice," Bridwell said in an early August phone interview. "Every day brings a new opportunity or a new vibe of whatever town you're in or whatever the venue is. I feel like we try to pay really close attention to that. Even I'll research set lists from previous visits to make sure it's not like (an earlier show) and we don't open up with the same song as last time."
The other thing Bridwell can say with certainty is that Band Of Horses is the best it's ever been as a live band.
"I feel like we've only gotten stronger, as a live band especially," he said. "We can be powerful and aggressive, and we've all grown with each other like that. But we can also be nuanced and a bit sweet. So I feel like we're at peak form."
The newly released "Why Are You OK," is the third album from the current lineup. Over the course of making the first two Band Of Horses albums—"2006's "Everything All the Time" and 2007's "Cease to Begin"—Bridwell cycled through a half dozen musicians—creating the impression that Band Of Horses might essentially be a solo project operating under a band name, even though other band members shared writing credits on some songs.
Then the next two albums—2010's "Infinite Arms" and 2013's "Mirage Rock"—poked plenty of holes in that notion. On "Infinite Arms," keyboardist Ryan Monroe and guitarist Tyler Ramsey each brought in a song, while Bridwell and Ramsey co-wrote the tune, "Older." And the song "Blue Beard" was credited to all five band members (including drummer Creighton Barrett). Bassist Bill Reynolds, meanwhile, stepped up on "Mirage Rock," earning co-writing credits on five songs, while Ramsey pitched in on a pair of tunes.
This was exactly what Bridwell had wanted to see happen when he formed Band Of Horses in 2004, shortly after the demise of his previous group, Clarissa's Weird.
"I know my limits, and I don't seem to get much better with my playing abilities," he said. "I mean, I can write songs, but my playing ability has never really matured. I've always known that I need a lot of help. (Finding) that great help with talent and attitude, ambition without cockiness, finding that right balance, it just took awhile. But I certainly found those fellows."
For "Why Are You OK," though, Bridwell was ready to change up the creative approach, and he took more control over the songwriting process.
"I wanted to return a bit to home base. So I did spend more time going inward and not sharing as much as I possibly did the previous years," Bridwell said. "I talked about it with the guys and they were with me every step of the way. But I'd say they kind of got that, too. They were like, 'Oh, let him scratch his back a little, scratch his itch, and then we can kind of fill in where we're needed.'" And the beauty of this band is no one has a defined role. Anybody can step up or sit back depending on what the song calls for."
Bridwell also went into the new album with a decidedly different idea for how he wanted "Why Are You OK" to sound. "Mirage Rock" was recorded mostly live in the studio and had a fairly lean sound. Bridwell didn't want to go down that path this time. "'Mirage Rock' was like, OK, just play them live, sing them live and be done. I wanted to overthink this one," he said. "I wanted a denser sound. I wanted it to be more lush. I wanted it to be pored over."
Band Of Horses
Monday, Aug. 22, 6:45pm
70 SW Century Dr., Bend