After the release of Lord Huron’s acclaimed third album Vide Noir, the Los Angeles-based indie rock band took a few steps back during a session at Spotify Studios to cover a formative influence: Neil Young. For singer Ben Schneider, Young was a “perennial presence” growing up since his parents were fans. But when “Harvest Moon” came out in 1992 followed by the unplugged version in 1993, those records had a formative influence on Schneider. He was only nine year sold, but old enough to appreciate the Godfather of Grunge in his own way.
“We would take these long trips up to northern Michigan and [the album] was just on repeat – that’s when I fell in love with ‘Harvest Moon,'” Schneider said. “In the video theres a guy just playing a broom to get that swish sound … It’s got this beautiful swing and lilt to it. You can really picture the silhouettes dancing against the moonlight … And Neil sings it with such incredible heart.”
At first pass, Lord Huron’s cover feels extremely faithful to the original because Schneider’s voice naturally sounds like Young’s, even though he said he was self-conscious to even make the attempt. “Trying to sing this was definitely challenging and kind of scary, because you know you can’t live up to what Neil did so you have to do something else,” he said. The band’s delicate instrumentation takes some inventive leaps without losing the sensibility of the original, by incorporating harp, saxophone (layered heavily with guitar pedals) and cosmic-sounding synths. Schneider noted they swapped Young’s harmonica solo with a “space odyssey wedged in the middle.”
The addition of the harp made sense musically, but more importantly, it fulfilled a romantic component to the song. Schneider’s wife is a harpist. “It already has this celestial quality to it,” he said. “And it the most pleasant instrument to have played in the house.”