Just under a year ago the sonic powerhouse of Travis Hild (Heavy Foot) and Nick Long (Lonely Horse) seemed poised to blow up – before they spontaneously combusted, that is. The shamanistic, dynamic duo, after shopping their demo around to the few but mighty major record labels still alive, seemed destined to open up tours with Jack White, score coveted slots at ACL and visit the set of Ellen to showcase their riveting live performance – something they are actually in the process of working on.
Enter good friends with bad intentions, or bad friends with good intentions. Either way, the duo ended up stuck in a contract with Santiago Ortega and his Nouveau Riche label, fighting for control over their music and what they want to do with it.
Now, the dust seems to have settled and the duo will be fulfilling their legal obligations with Nouveau Riche by releasing one final EP on the label. And, according to Long, it’s going to be a doozy – “heavy as fuck,” to use the singer and guitarist’s own phrase. Not that Hild and Long have been sitting on their hands. Long has been busy around town working under the moniker Nothing Chief, his sentimental side project, and Hild is one-half of the percussion powerhouse in his and Long’s varsity rock band, The Red Legs, which consists of several other SA rock ‘n’ roll savants. These outlets, coupled with the light at the end of the contractual tunnel, have reinvigorated the band, even if the journey was less than ideal.
In all fairness, the relationship with Ortega, who reached out to the band to try to remedy the rift, did result in some pretty heady trips out west. The duo recalled sitting in the office of Jake Ottman, Vice President of artist and repertoire at Warner/Chappell, their single “…and the Number 3” playing through the office speakers. They remember getting word from a few offices down that Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach was digging what he was hearing.
After their success at the Afropunk music festival in Brooklyn in 2014, at which the duo won the battle of the bands, representatives with ties to Dolly Parton and the Jonas Brothers reached out to the pair, looking to manage their rapidly escalating careers. In what is one of the more enviable stories of their encounters with the hillbilly chanteuse, Long recalled speaking with Parton and being moved by her sincerity and strong desire to have the band handled by her management company.
These are all pretty awe-inspiring experiences. However, they are no different than the close-but-no-cigar encounters of thousands of bands across the United States. Lonely Horse’s brush with fame illustrates perfectly how rare it really is when someone “makes it,” as well as how fickle show business can be, even when the talent, image and content are there. But, the duo aren’t losing any sleep over what might have been. Instead, they feel liberated, ready to get back into what Lonely Horse likes to do best: kick out the jams.
As for those that may think the band is trying to capitalize on the popularity they sparked post-hiatus, Long maintains that they never officially threw in the towel. “We never said we were broken up,” he declared. “We always said it was our last show for awhile … And then, I don’t know … Can’t say one thing without it meaning another thing.” However, for those familiar with the nearly religious experience of Lonely Horse’s live shows – something more akin to an animistic pagan ritual via blues-based stomp rock than your typical three-chords-for-thirty-minutes snooze-palooza – it should come as no surprise when the duo is back drawing 300 rabid followers to each show – what feels more like a tribal nation than something as clinical as a “fanbase.”
As for the future, when asked about what the duo have in store, they can’t help but laugh. “Get off this label. Just blow our load all over the place,” replied Hild, jokingly. Currently, that means the United States and Japan. The band is in the process of setting up their U.S. tour, slated for the fall, and will also head out to the land of the rising sun for two weeks. As for the EP, look for it to be released September 23.
Despite the false start, it seems that Lonely Horse is finally out of the gate. Freshly shoed, back in racing form and chomping at the bit. Now we’ll see what this pony can really do.