There are three main reasons why men move to San Diego. San Diego-Bound Man is either chasing a job, a woman or the weather. Of the three, the weather is pretty much the only one that won't fuck him in the end (well, technically, the woman won't, either). Of course, if this man is a musician, like Band of Horses' Ben Bridwell, he'll spend way too much time cultivating his image as a pasty hermit to really enjoy the weather.
'I lived in San Diego for about five months and worked at Off the Record,' says the singer-guitarist with an energetic friendliness that's distinctly Southern. 'I lived near the park in-oh, I can't remember what the name of the part of town was. Maybe Hillcrest.
'Those were pretty dark times, to be honest. It was a female, and I ended up moving down there with her. I had this little utility room that I set up a workshop in, and that's the time I started picking up guitars. I'd spend all day inside listening to my favorite albums and playing along. It was a pretty lonely time.'
After he and San Diego-Luring Female Woman split, Bridwell decided to rejoin his avant-folk band, Carissa's Weird, and move back to Seattle. From what I hear, there are three main reasons a man moves to Seattle. Seattle-Bound Man is either looking to resuscitate the grunge scene, find out why coffee costs so damn much or simply likes being miserable. No one, save for hairy entrepreneurs who need ample moisture to make their products grow, moves to Seattle for the weather.
That's why being homeless there isn't very sexy.
'It was not a pleasurable experience,' Bridwell says of the month he spent sleeping outside a Masonic temple. 'Just having nothing to do all day, we'd walk forever. Just walking and walking in shoes with holes in 'em in wet-ass Seattle. And not showering for days-I smelled real bad. I had food stamps, and at the time you could actually get change from food stamps. So I'd go buy a pack of gum so that I could get enough change for tobacco.'
He'd also then have 35 cents for his one phone call. It seems that nothing-besides being a minority wearing a T-shirt that says, 'I've Got a Massive Glock' (with arrow pointing to waistband)-says 'Hey, officer, over here' quite like looking as if you just frisked a dumpster for some KFC.
'I was shoplifting a lot. I was thrown in jail for three days because I was caught lifting a fucking kazoo and a harmonica,' Bridwell recalls. 'This guy had bought a guitar off [Band of Horses guitarist Mat Brooke, who was also living on the streets with Bridwell at the time]. We spent the money on another guitar we'd seen in a shop window that we really liked. We were homeless and poor and didn't look so good, so the shop owner treated us like absolute garbage. We had spent 400 bucks in his store, so just as a little ‘fuck you,' I stole a kazoo, jaw harp and a harmonica.'
That was Easter weekend. Because most Americans take time off to celebrate the rising of the Christian messiah by pretending a giant bunny has crapped numerous gifts on their lawn, he had to stay in the pokey all weekend.
'When they released me and gave me back all of my belongings, the jaw harp was still in there,' Bridwell says, somewhat proud. 'But that was just part of the story. Just before that incident, I had been thrown in jail for some other reason, my house had burned down and I got hit by a car while I was on my bike. When I got hit, I still had the burns. My hands were swollen with nasty fire juice-so much that, even if I spread 'em apart as much as I could, they still touched.'
Things have since gotten much better for Bridwell. After Carissa's Weird broke up, he and Brooke formed Band of Horses. Before they even had a finished album, their friend Samuel Beam (aka Iron & Wine) invited them on tour. They then signed to Sub Pop, and their 2006 debut, Everything All the Time, with its huge, dreamy harmony-pop, sold nearly 80,000 copies. It sounded like The Shins with multiple James Mercers singing in unison and the guitars beefed up in a sort of Northwestern Brawny Man™ style.
Since, they've played on the big late-night talking-head shows. Their music has been used on TV shows like The O.C., One Tree Hill, Standoff and Criminal Minds and on the Xbox video game NHL 2K7. In short, people dig 'em.
Before recording their second album, the band moved back to their native South Carolina. There are only three reasons men move to South Carolina. South Carolina-Bound Man is either a big fan of college football (go Bulldogs!), a big fan of the sorority girls who attend college football games (go Bulldogs!) or chasing producer Phil Elk, who happens to be at a studio up the road in Asheville, N.C.
'We finished it this week,' Bridwell says of their second album. 'Phil has said that if the first one was a Northwestern record, this one is definitely a Southern record. It's not like we're the fucking Oak Ridge Boys or something, but there's definitely more country-er leanings.
'The heart and soul of it is Asheville, North Carolina. That city just left a little bit of its heart on the record.'
Bridwell sounds excited to have completed the contract with Sub Pop. Now that he's not contractually obligated to make albums, he talks of doing 'something weird,' like recording some of his bedroom creations that don't really fit Band of Horses. But he's not stupid-Band of Horses is the main gig.
With a debut that sold 80,000 copies and a summer tour with Modest Mouse, it's not hard to see where Band of Horses is moving. Definitely upward-unless this album somehow just, well, sucks-and possibly to a major label. There are three reasons bands move to a major, even in this age of those labels' demise. Major Label-Bound Band is either tired of being piss broke, looking for a little scratch or doesn't want to sleep outside a Masonic temple ever, ever again.
As Birdwell says, 'I will consider anything.'
Band of Horses plays with A Decent Animal and Stardeath & The White Dwarfs at 'Canes on Friday, July 6. Doors open at 9 p.m. $15. 858-488-1780.