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Arts & Culture

In Studio: Lonely Horse's Fury, Nick Long's Lament

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Nathan Cone
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Travis Hill, left, and Nick Long, right. Lonely Horse in studio at TPR.

Lonely Horse is a special breed in San Antonio. The self-described “desert rock” duo has a unique way of approaching music that turns singer/songwriter and guitarist Nicholas Long and drummer Travis Hild into a wild, dynamic soundscape. Although it’s just the two of them, they’re able to create the experience of hearing a full band. 
 
Lonely Horse wasn’t always a two piece. Hild says the band originally had five or six members before he moved to San Antonio and joined the group. People kept dropping out, and as Long reached out to more musicians, he finally got in contact with Hild. “We jammed once,” says Hild, “and then we just kept on jamming, so it was good from the start.” It took a while for them to get to the sound you hear today. Long explains, “I think I just started using pedals maybe a year or two now. I'm still learning, but [the effects] helped me to get the kind of bassy sounds that I like.”

 

Of his combination rhythm-lead guitar, Long says, “I think watching a lot of old blues players kind of helped me… it used to be just one guy and he would stop to play a lead then he'd go back to playing the blues rhythm. I kind of wanted to mesh both of those together.”
 
After winning last year's Brooklyn Afropunk Battle of the Bands, Lonely Horse blew up. This fall, they’ll play the CMJ Music Marathon in New York and Red Bull Sound Select showcase. Their first EP, "My Desert Son," was released in 2013, and their debut LP, "Desert Sons," is finally available after a long gestation. After signing to Nouveau Riche records, Long and Hild learned a lot about the industry. They’ve seen other musicians fall through the cracks and understand the drama of the business.  “To me [the problem with a lot of record labels is] a very annoying sort of ignorance [and] blatant disrespect for musicians,” says Long. “We dealt a lot with major labels and we got to see first hand how those industry folks work, and it’s mainly just [about] money, it's not really about the music. That really disenchants what we do as artists.”

 

“It's so sad, the lack of faith that artists have in themselves or in their own music because of the mouths of the industry or the people that are working above them or controlling or manipulating their music,” Long continues. “You really have to have faith in what you do and the music that you write.” They credit this faith to their win at last years Afropunk Battle of the Bands. In order to play for the competition in Brooklyn, New York, the band had to get enough votes from San Antonio. Long felt that if they could just play at the show, they’d be able to win. “We made a connection through the music and that was more real than anything.” He says, “We went from not having anybody to having the whole house packed for [our] band. That's where my faith lies, always in the music.”
 
*****

 

Beyond the high energy of Lonely Horse, Nick Long also performs solo under the name We're Brothers We're Brothers. On his three-dollar twelve-string guitar, Long sang his heart out in the TPR studio [video below]. As an Air Force kid who moved around for much of his younger years, Long grew up listening to Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, and watching black and white movies with his grandparents. He pulled many of his guitar licks and note bending tricks from these subconscious influences. 
 
As We're Brothers We're Brothers in the studio, Long sings a kind of whispery lamentation about his late father, loss of identity and his Native American roots. His lyrics are soft but solid, and demand to be heard. We’re Brothers, We’re Brothers’ first EP (drowningburningsleepinglearning) is primarily a solo album. Long has already implemented plans to expand the project and include more musicians. Originally, We’re Brothers, We’re Brothers was a dumping ground for songs that didn’t make the cut for Lonely Horse. “The first album ... was like the B-side (for the Lonely Horse EP, "My Desert Son"). [They were] the songs I couldn't put on the record, more personal songs that I wasn't comfortable releasing through that route. No one really knew who it was and it was easier. I guess it's more folky and traditional and different.” Long says he thinks the main difference between these projects is that “Lonely Horse is more [actively] emotional. They're both emotional but one is more high driven and We're Brothers is more melancholy.”

 
Long's introspective lyrics are deeply personal. One song, "The Ballad of Curtis Long," is a eulogy to his late philosopher father. “Knowing your culture-- as you know, African Americans don't really have much of a strong culture here, as to where they came from... I think that weighed heavy on my dad and he always wanted me to have some sort of identity, and so my family really clung to their Native American roots.” Nick wrote the song in one sitting when he came home from his father’s funeral. He says, “that's pretty much how I write a lot of the stuff, I'll just try to one-take it and [write] whatever comes out at that moment.”
 
Learn more about We’re Brothers, We’re Brothers, and Lonely Horse online. 

 
Lonely Horse will play the Areneson River Theater on Tuesday, August 18 at 7pm, and the Something Good Fest at Tacoland on September 19, 2015.