Who is Light Horse Harry?
Light Horse Harry is a four piece band that blends country, rock, and pop into a unique take on American roots music. Their self-titled debut album dropped in summer of 2012 while three of the current members (Zach Youpa, Drew Scherger, and Gus Miller) were attending high school in Dallas. In 2013, they made the move down I-35 to Austin where they met drummer Shane Gordon and fiddle player Kathryn Drake (“Kitty D”) while attending the University of Texas.
In the summer of 2014, the band releases a four-song EP titled “Busted In Brownsville.” Light Horse Harry has held multiple residencies on Austin’s historic 6th street since 2014, including their weekly bill at B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub. They’ve also played venue throughout Texas as well, including festivals such as SXSW, Burnet Bluebonnet Festival, and Dallas Music Festival. In the Spring of 2017, as all the band members were nearing graduation, they were chosen as a winner of Kerrville Folk Festival’s university songwriting competition with Gus Miller’s original song “Shaky Hands and Bloodshot Eyes.”
December 2017 was a busy month for the band and saw the release of their newest record, “San Pedro” which features the songs “Sunny Side Up” and “Lemonade” as singles from the album. “Lemonade” was selected as KUTX 98.9’s Song of the Day and were featured on local podcast How Did I Get Here? with Johnny Goudie in December as well.
AMF EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW
WITH LIGHT HORSE HARRY
Light Horse Harry is typically a reference for Major-General Henry Lee III, who is a bit of a controversial historical figure. Did he inspire the band name, or was it something entirely different?
Gus Miller: Light Horse Harry is a classic example of the tragic hero and something about that appealed to us. He was a cavalry commander in the Revolutionary War and rose through the ranks to become Washington’s right-hand man and later the Governor of Virginia. After all of those achievements, however, he had an unbelievable 20-year streak of bad luck where he lost all of his money in a national financial crisis, went to prison, lost most of his family, was attacked by an angry mob, and died broke in 1818. We felt like he was a really colorful, bigger-than-life character and, on top of that, the name sounded cool too!
You just released your new record “San Pedro” last month! What inspired the record? How does this album differ from the work you’ve put out in the past?
GM: In making this record, we really wanted it to represent our live performance. In our past records, which we’d record and mix out of my bedroom, we’d have to layer each instrument into a song one at a time. In doing that, we kinda lost some of the mojo. For this album, we worked in a legitimate studio operated by Cactus Cafe audio engineer Jeff Hoskins and were able to record most of the instrumentation as live takes with the whole band tracking together. There’s also a huge improvement in sound quality between this and our past work. I didn’t really have to worry about mixing & mastering as much this time around either since we were working with Jeff. This was a huge relief to me. On our first record, which we made while in high school, I basically had no idea what I was doing with the recording/mixing and relied on “how-to” YouTube videos for the whole process. I was learning with each song which resulted in the sound quality being inconsistent throughout.
Drew Scherger: Since it took us several years to put this album together, San Pedro is more a reflection of how much we’ve changed in our musical tastes and approach to our live shows since moving to Austin. We’ve been jamming on a lot of old-school country, rhythm & blues, and rockabilly music at home and we’ve reworked a lot of songs by folks like Buddy Holly, Leadbelly, and Hank Williams into our live shows. So much great American music was born in Texas and the South – rock and roll, country, jazz, blues… we’re not trying to replicate that sound so much as learning from those great records and paying respect to them through our own music. We still like to experiment with our arrangements and add psychedelic elements to our music, but we’re trying to avoid a reliance on synthesizers and effects pedals that can bog you down.
I know it’s like being asked what kid is your favorite, but what are your favorite songs off the album?
Zach Youpa: My favorite part about this collection of songs is how musically and lyrically distinct they are from each other. Musically speaking, I think “Sunny Side Up” has the most interesting arrangement. The song feels loose and clocks in at almost 7 minutes long and features absurd, catchy lyrics and a psychedelic jam in the middle. Literally speaking, I believe the last song on the album, “Shaky Hands and Bloodshot Eyes” is the most profound statement on the album. The music is delicate and allows the reflective lyrics to take the listener to another mental space.
GM: I really like “Lemonade” with its tongue in cheek lyrics. It’s always fun playing that one live and seeing folks in the audience crack a lil’ smile. Also, I thought “Sunny Side Up” came together really well, even though it’s kind of an unconventional song. There’s no chorus, the verses aren’t even, and there’s a big spacey instrumental bridge that splits the song in two. This is the only song where we did lots of post-production, and you can definitely hear that in the bridge.
You all are constantly playing around town. What are your favorite venues to perform at?
GM: We’ve played quite a few venues in town, but nothing beats performing at a student co-op party. Our craziest shows have been at places like 21st Street Co-op, New Guild, and in the basement of Taos co-op. And for all y’all that don’t know what a student co-op is, they’re basically like halfway houses full of hippies who find time to go to school between putting down the bong and picking up an N64 controller. I lived in one for awhile. Another great venue we love to perform at is BD Riley’s Irish Pub in downtown. They took us on as a house act nearly 4 years ago when most of us were sophomores at UT, and we’ve held that same bi-weekly residency since. I’ve never had a pint of Guinness until we started gigging there. After drinking Guinness elsewhere, I’m convinced BD Riley’s serves the best pint in town. Come on by and see us perform. We’re there every other Tuesday night from 7 – 10 pm.
Any favorite spots around town to hang out and unwind at when ya’ll have downtime?
GM: Drew and I recently moved into the Bouldin Creek neighborhood. We spend a little too much time eating bbq and shootin’ dice with Scott Fisher at our neighborhood bar, the Corner Bar! We’re also close by C-Boy’s and The Continental Club, so we’ve been catching some great shows there. My favorite venue to see live music is definitely Skylark Lounge. Go there on Sunday to see Soul Man Sam perform. You won’t regret it. If we’re downtown and not playing a gig, then there’s a 99% chance we’re on the dancefloor at Barbs. We also like to do our emailing and band work stuff at Once Over Coffee – they have a dope patio.
I know most of you all graduated from UT this past year. What was it like being full-time students while still pursuing your music careers?
GM: We played around 200 shows while we were UT students. A good number of those were 4-hour long bar gigs on 6th Street. While those shows really helped get our chops solid, they didn’t help my GPA. I did get out of a lot of group project meetings because the band had a gig or something. That was great. I’m sure I spent more time performing and practicing than I did studying. A professor once told me I had the absolute worst grade of the 350+ students in her class…. but now I can confidently say that D’s really do get degrees.
How did you get involved with AMF?
GM: About a year ago, some of the guys and I started going to AMF panels and showcases that they were involved with. Through doing that, we started meeting more folks and got a better feel for the music scene in ATX. Also, in my last semester at UT, I had the opportunity to do a little part-time intern work for AMF, which was a great experience.
What does it mean to be named Artist of the Month?
GM: AMF puts in a lot of work for the Austin Music Community, so it means a lot to us and we’re honored to be given this distinguishment. It also means that we’re doing something right and that we need to keep on working harder!
What’s next for the band? What does 2018 hold for you guys?
GM: Continuing to hone our craft, improving our live performance, collaborating with other musicians, eating more bbq, staying busy, and branching out to other towns!