OEB’s 5 SXSW Q’s - The Last Bison
Hometown: Chesapeake, VA
OEB 2013 SXSW Review
The story of orchestral folk band The Last Bison throughout the last year has been one of those situations where everything is falling in place at exactly the right time, or as frontman Ben Hardesty notes: “It’s been supremely providential.” While reading through our interview with Hardesty, it’s uplifting to see such spirit coming from this inventive group of musicians. Hardesty hit on a wide range of topics in our conversation, including the privilege of being able to “create” for audiences, building an orchestra of sound out of minimal, folk tracks and The Last Bison’s excitement for walking into the unknown at SXSW.
Ben, there’s so much emotion that pull through your vocals both on record and live. Where does that come from — is there a certain zone you have to get into to deliver such a performance?
Ha ha, there’s no zone or anything like that, unless life in its fullness is “the zone.” I love life. I love its richness, the adventures it has and the places it takes you. Life is inspiring and not something to take for granted but to cherish and hold dear and love. Ultimately I would have to say that, as a man of deep faith, my passion, joy, and zeal for people and life comes from the fact that I believe I was created to create. The fact that I am privileged to do that is a huge blessing to me. What can I do but be joyous and passionate about life, and share that joy and passion every chance I get.
Your orchestral elements are tellingly complex. Is everything charted out as you are writing or is it more of a collaborative effort with the band?
When I write a song and bring it to the band I usually present it in a truly raw form. I will have written the song and its backbone, with some of its dynamics in place. When I bring a song to the group I often have certain parts or hooks that I want people to play, however the brunt of the work happens through countless hours of practice. With each individual song, it’s about discovering if the notes each person plays are accenting the other instruments. There are a lot of things going on so it’s important to pay attention to each individual note and phrase. The orchestral elements truly form in the practice space, where we are trying multiple things over and over experimenting with what tones and sounds and instruments work best with each other and the song at hand. It’s a long and sometimes stressful process, but it’s truly enjoyable more than anything.
With an EP just released and a full-length on the way, this must be an exciting year for The Last Bison. How is 2013 shaping up? How are you hoping your music gets out to more ears?
All that has happened, and is yet to happen, brings us, as a band, extreme amounts of joy. Everything has happened at the right time. It’s been supremely providential. We met each individual on our team right when we needed to and we couldn’t be more content with the people we get to work with. This year that team gets to push us and our music to larger audiences and to more places we couldn’t have reached alone. People often say our music brings them joy, if this is the case, I don’t care how it gets to people’s ears as long as it gets there. Be it word of mouth, the push of a big label, smart partnerships, carrier pigeons, beacons of fire, ha ha, whatever really!
Do you have any sets lined up for SXSW yet? How is the band viewing this trip to Austin versus, say, a regular run of shows through Texas?
I don’t think that any of us really know what to expect in Austin. We hadn’t even heard of SXSW when we started playing as The Last Bison, so I think we are likely a little naive. We will show up, break out our instruments and pour ourselves into our music and show just like we do when we are playing anywhere else. Whether it’s for ten people gathered at a house show, 1,500 in our hometown venue or some talent buyers at a showcase, we are going to play with passion and give our best. As for sets, we are working that out over the next few weeks, but will certainly be playing “Switzerland” and other key songs from Inheritance.
Have you had a chance to check out the SXSW roster? Any artists you are hoping to catch yourself while in town?
I haven’t really taken the time to look through the gazillion bands that are playing, but know that Deep Sea Diver is going to be there. We played with them at a festival in Washington State and would love to catch one of their shows.