Although we at PHILTHY MAG aren’t necessarily interested in mainstream tastes or predicting trends in the listening habits of college students, it is nice to see friends do well for themselves… and our friends in The Last Bison, whom we first met in 2012, have come quite a long way in the past two years or so and done quite well for themselves… At the time, the Virginia band, comprised of Ben Hardesty, father Dan, sister Annah, and four additional close friends of the Hardesty clan, had just released their debut EP, “Inheritance,” and were on tour, preparing to play upstairs at World Café Live. Since then, the Americana outfit have played WCL live several additional times (both upstairs and downstairs), released their debut LP (VA, which dropped last year), and a follow-up EP (Dorado, which came out earlier this month). Their latest release sees them embracing more of their rock influences, in addition to the rootsy stuff they’re best known for (The last time we talked they did admit that numerous band members were avid U2 fanatics.) The Last Bison recently kicked out a number of SXSW performances and are slowly playing their way back east and on April 9th they will headline downstairs at World Café Live. A few weeks back, en route to SXSW, Ben Hardesty took some time to catch us up with what The Last Bison has been up to since we first met.
Izzy Cihak: The last time we spoke was in December of 2012, well before the release of your full-length, as you were preparing to play upstairs at World Café Live. What have been the highlights of The Last Bison since then?
Ben Hardesty: We have since then independently released another full-length and an EP. Those are definitely highlights for me! We moved everything back home and recorded in an a-frame cabin in the woods near our home. Being home gave a sense of comfort, that I think spurred creativity. Creating and writing in our home state of Virginia is always a highlight. As far as tour, since 2012 we have played World Cafe several times again and they have all been a blast! We sold it out last time which was very exciting, and because of that we are moving downstairs for this coming show!
Izzy: And what do you consider to be the most significant differences in The Last Bison of 2012 and The Last Bison as it currently exists?
Ben: Definitely the dynamic of our music and our aesthetic. With the addition of the Nord organ sounds, the electric bass, and a full drum kit, the music has become bigger and more energetic. It translates in the recording, but really comes to life at the live show. I think we always had a little rock and roll spirit in us; we’ve just let that show more in the past year. [Laughs] Also in 2012 I had hair all the way down to my waist. I’ve since then cut off two feet of hair! I feel so light, and showering is so much easier!
Izzy: You just released your Dorado EP. Have you had any favorite reactions to your newest sounds?
Ben: We definitely have. So far it has been hugely positive. I don’t think I’ve read anything negative about the EP yet, which is encouraging. I’m always anxious and careful when I read reviews, as it’s hard to hear negative criticism. However, that is the nature of putting your product out there for everyone to critique. Fortunately, as far as Dorado goes, I haven’t heard any negative feedback yet! It was good to get a call from my friend and head of A&R at Republic saying that “This Changes Everything” is a great song. We are no longer with Republic, but we still maintain those friendships.
Izzy: Do you have a particular favorite track from the EP, whether one you’re most proud or, one that’s most fun to play live, or one that you think signifies where your future sounds might be headed? I really love “You Are The Only One,” which just seems like such a great track in terms of bridging folk songwriting with Rock & Roll balladry.
Ben: Funny that you should mention that song, as it is also my favorite song on the EP. “You Are The Only One” took a long time to finish. I worked on it over the course of three years, and it went through so many different forms, melodies, and lyrical changes. It was never ready to be released ‘til now. I’m just glad it found a place to rest. When we finally stripped it down into what it is now I instantly knew it was ready. I’ve never spent that long trying to complete a song, I almost gave up on it, but it finally took form and culminated on Dorado.
Izzy: So you and I “follow” each other on Twitter (Thank you for that.) and I noticed that you also “follow” Hank & Cupcakes, who are good friends of mine and whom I love, but who are totally doing a different thing from yourselves, so I have to ask: How did that come about? What are your thoughts on Ariel and Sagit and the kinds of noise that they make?
Ben: Ariel and Sagit are some of the sweetest, most out on the table, down to Earth people we have met on the road. We had the privilege of sharing a host home with them in Baton Rouge. We actually only got to hang out for a few hours, but knew they were special people within that short amount of time. Some of us got to see one of their SXSW showcases a week after meeting them, and it was electrifying! I love their aesthetic, their music, their soundscape, and their love for what they do and for each other. I haven’t seen them since then, but haven’t and won’t stop following and listening to their music.
Izzy: You’re going to be playing once again downstairs at World Café Live early in April. What can be expected of the live experience this time around? I’ve never seen you in such a large setting.
Ben: We try and bring the same experience to a small room that we do to a big room. By that I mean filling whatever space we are in with as much energy, passion, and joy as possible. Honestly, that’s all we have to offer. We aren’t traveling with a production team, or lights, or a set. We are, however, traveling with our instruments, and a love for what we do, and that’s what we will bring! We like to get a room clapping, stomping, shouting, and dancing! And if Philly shows up like they did at our show last fall, I know it’s going to be a party!
Izzy: And what are your most significant hopes and goals for 2015, after this run of US dates wraps?
Ben: I would love to get back in the studio and keep creating songs and music for all the people who listen to us. With that, I hope to gain more traction and followers. I love what I do, and to continue and grow as artists is always a goal. As far as some less ambiguous goals, I would love to get our music behind film or TV. I love writing music that I believe would work well behind film. If we could do that this year I would be a happy camper!