Is Band of Horses singer a sellout or a smart businessman?
“The world is such a wonderful place,” Ben Bridwell sings on “Ode to LRC.”
The song on Band of Horses’ new album, “Cease to Begin,” which comes out Tuesday (Oct. 9), is a rhapsodic sonnet about journals Bridwell read in a caboose camouflaged by forest on the Oregon coast.
Band of Horses’ popularity has allowed Bridwell, a Columbia native, to see the world. But he wouldn’t want to live anywhere other than Mount Pleasant. (Too bad his touring schedule has kept him away from here since he moved back to South Carolina from Seattle in 2006.)
Bridwell and his dad, David, drink canned beers, talking like old buddies on his father’s back porch.
They shuffle through University of Georgia football, birds swooping to scoop fish from the lake, Mount Pleasant tourists, writing songs and touring.
Specifically, Band of Horses’ “marketing relationship” with Wal-Mart.
Or, as indie purists construe it, Band of Horses’ “selling out” to Wal-Mart.
If Bridwell is concerned about whether his indie cred will suffer, he hasn’t stopped fielding licensing queries: “One Tree Hill,” the Southern teen soap, wants to use a BoH song, his manager texts him.
The Bridwells, who didn’t see eye to eye much when Ben was homeless in Seattle and sleeping in the back of rental trucks, share a similar position now.
They’d rather talk about the harmonious elegance of “Marry Song” or the painful nature of “Window Blues,” which is comforted by a banjo and Ryan Monroe’s shivering keyboard.
“I told Ben he would pay for this exposure,” his dad said, “but there is no way you don’t do that.
“As a father, I don’t like someone critiquing my child, especially when it’s not warranted.”
Band of Horses allowed Wal-Mart to use “The Funeral,” a song off last year’s debut, “Everything All the Time,” in a Web advertisement. If he had turned down Wal-Mart’s offer, Bridwell said: “What are you left with? People will forget you were high and mighty.”
The licensing of “Is There a Ghost” to a Ford TV commercial also drew sellout calls. Independent of the deal, both Bridwells drive Ford trucks. Ben’s is a rusty, battered F-150 with a broken window motor that makes parking under trees when rain threatens a good idea.
Bridwell released a statement through Sub Pop, the band’s label, explaining his position. He feels he shouldn’t have been asked to do that.
“Every commercial has music,” David Bridwell said.
“Any (person) with a computer can write a blog,” Ben Bridwell said. “What do you do for a living? Do you not work?
“Do you not get paid by someone?”
Here’s an idea many critics failed to present when sounding off: Bands no longer make enough money from album sales and touring, so licensing is essential to sustaining a career.
And — surprise! — it’s hardly a new trend.
Wilco’s music is being used in Volkswagen commercials. Sonic Youth will release a tribute compilation, “Hits Are for Squares,” through Starbucks. And who hasn’t hummed to Outback Steakhouse’s reworking of “Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games” by Of Montreal?
Selling a song to a retailer — like Peter Bjorn and John, who sold their song “Young Folks” to Target — doesn’t mean the song isn’t catchy, glamorous and, ultimately, good. So should “The Funeral” be buried?
“I’ve caught enough flak from purists,” Bridwell said. “So should I go all out?” (“The Funeral” also might appear in a Wal-Mart TV ad, he said.)
Some say the issue solely is with Wal-Mart. But Wal-Mart’s advertising team apparently wants good music to articulate its definition of a quick-stop destination for bread, tires, toothpaste, T-shirts and electronics.
Wal-Mart also sells Kleenex for those crying foul. Would those same people turn down, say, $100,000, for the use of one of their songs?
Good music always will be good music. Selling out in the digital age, though, is for promoters, ushers and box-office attendants to worry about.
Add T-Mobile, which will provide a fall tour bus to BoH, and the TV show “Criminal Minds,” which used Band of Horses’ “Monsters” and “The Funeral.”
“We saw the episode when we were in the studio,” Bridwell said. “It’s weird to hear your voice over a CBS TV show.”
David Bridwell, a cigar smoldering in his mouth, says it was strange seeing Band of Horses open for Iron & Wine at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta in 2005.
“That was bizarre,” he said, his eyes gleaming to punctuate a giggle. “That was the first I had really heard (Ben) sing.”
One can hear Bridwell sing in a variety of mediums: on the “Late Show with David Letterman” Oct. 18, YouTube, TV shows, the film “Penelope,” concerts and now a Wal-Mart ad.
His voice is a hollowed hitch that lifts and pulls at emotion in the most beautiful of ways. His voice — and the band’s music — should be heard by as many people as possible.
When Bridwell sings, “The world is such a wonderful place,” you believe him. Sitting on David Bridwell’s porch in Mount Pleasant, just talking seems like the most wonderful thing in the world.
(Via- The State)