By Evan Kramer
Impressive music is extremely difficult to find. Sometimes you need to dig really deep for it in the crevices of the underground, but many bands are standing right in your face. Stumbling upon The Last Bison will be one of greatest things you ever do. The Last Bison is a family-oriented, indie-folk band hailing from Chesapeake, Virginia. Combined, the seven band members create a captivating sound that I truly enjoy listening to. Their debut album, Inheritance, released back in March, and I would definitely recommend it to anybody searching for unique folk sound with a slight touch of mellow rock, and prominent vocals from Ben Hardesty.
I was given the great opportunity to talk Hardesty. It is effortless to recognize Hardesty’s immense knowledge of music, and that he carries an everlasting passion for it. His selflessness and humble attitude demonstrate his care for making an impression on the public. I truly enjoyed listening to him throughout our fifteen-minute conversation.
As a peaking band, I wanted to know their roots and how every got started, so I asked Hardesty how The Last Bison formed. “I got back from school in England, and told my Dad that I wanted to take music seriously, so we invited friends over to our bonfires where we would play music. It was a really organic process. We loved to play music, and we got to play for people who loved hearing it,” he tells me.
The relationships between the members of the family-oriented band are strong and create a natural comfort when producing music. Featured in the seven-member band are Hardesty’s sister, his father, his best friend, his best friend’s brother, his sister’s best friend and his sister’s boyfriend. “It’s just a big group of people who have known each other and known each other for a while”, he says, “We love each other and especially when we get to play music together. It’s pretty cool.” This unique quality expresses The Last Bison’s devotion to their music and importance in family.
The band is proud of their deep roots embedded in Virginia where fields stretch for miles. According to Hardesty, it’s the boundless country land of the state that accelerates his creative musical mind. Ben states, “As oppose to musical influences, I think I am more influenced geographically. The places I’ve been, and the things I have experienced have influenced my song writing more profound and deeply than other musicians have. Living in the country, it’s hard not to write according to what you observe.” The Last Bison’s hometown plays an important role with their direct for music, but they also keep their personalities integrated into every song.
The vintage atmosphere of Virginia is a transcendental location that closely relates to folk music’s old-fashioned vibe. Hardesty incorporates the traditional sound into music, and says to have influence from a diversity of artists, “I definitely have a deep influence from people like Alison Krauss and Union Station, classic rock, a lot of the classic bluegrass and country bands, and also a lot of alternative, as well. If you looked at my iPod, it’s like super diverse.” Geographical influences remain extremely important to Hardesty because it allows him to combine his experiences within the music, which creates an exclusive sound with The Last Bison.
Inheritance is their debut album under the Universal Republic label, which also features songs from their EP, Quill, and many other new songs. Like I said, it’s a great album, but I ask Hardesty why he thinks it stands out from the others, “I’ve always had a deep love for classical music, but I have no classical training what-so-ever, so I’m really blessed to have a great organ player, violinist, and cellist with deep classical training. We try to orchestrate a symphonic, and classical sensibility to the folk with a lot of structured strings in all of the songs, and I think that helps it stand apart.” Hardesty’s humble answer is, what I believe to be, true.
The Last Bison intends to crash in Sellersville, Pennsylvania at the Sellersville Theater on Friday, June 21st. “This spring and winter was really our big headline tour”, Hardesty says as I continued to ask him to describe the feeling, “There is something fun and addicting about the adrenaline when you’re in a new city everyday with a new crowd. The different responses you get are really complimenting.” After running around the country on tour, Hardesty says the band is going to work on new material, “Just making creative pieces with the band, and coming together is great. It’s been a while since we have had a good opportunity to do it.”
Talking with Ben Hardesty was an eye opener on an unusual music perspective that I have never witnessed before. He genuinely takes pleasure in creating music, not just for himself, but for the listeners. He shares some final words with me before we close out our conversation, “It is really important to me that people look back and say that our band has really cared about their craft. The reason that we care so much is because we strive for excellence in everything we do. We’d like to leave a legacy of a band that really cared for its listeners, and has always tried to make art that is fascinating. I’d like our fans to leave the show with a joy from our music or maybe even a deeper impression beyond the music.”