It's been three years since the blissed-out Fort Lauderdale-based shoegazers Sweet Bronco, headed by Chris Horgan, played a proper set for an audience. Sweet Bronco was a trio then, and its melancholy melodies and minor-key pop, combined conversely with spirit-stirring crescendos and slashed strings, made the band a fast local favorite.
The group has since shifted its lineup. Now part of a quintet -- at least for Vagabond's fifth-anniversary party this weekend -- Horgan will be joined on stage Friday by notable South Florida musicians such as the Postmarks' Tim Yehezkely and Blackfinger's Jesse Dalton.
Still, no matter how many members fall in or out of Sweet Bronco's orbit, the band has always been (and always will be) a vehicle for Horgan's inward-looking poetics. Whether a full rock-band setup like the one performing at Vagabond or Horgan playing solo with an acoustic guitar and harmonica, Sweet Bronco's sound is defined by his vision, which bridges cozy optimism, soul-baring angst, and a sort of shabby indie pop.
And after such a drought, fans are surely thrilled about his return.
New Times caught up with Horgan before tomorrow's show, the lineup for which will also include Band in Heaven, Ex Norwegian, Suede Dudes, New Coke, Bonnie Riot, Lil Daggers, MillionYoung, Deaf Poets, Wake Up, and Hunters of the Alps.
New Times: Sweet Bronco is coming out with an album! When can we expect it, and what can we expect from it? Lots of tunes we've heard over the years or is there new material too?
Horgan: Most of the songs on Morning Night should be familiar to anyone who has followed Sweet Bronco or my solo shows over the past few years. The idea for the album came when I wrote the song "North Star," in which masses of people unite in a triumphant march to their supposed doom. They march into the sunset, knowing it will be the last on Earth. The rest of the album follows the journey of a small group that sneaks away from the herd and seeks to make a new beginning in a new world of eternal night. And with that world in mind, I just kept writing and recording songs until I had a combination of tracks that satisfied my vision for the album.
I expect the Morning Night vinyl to be available sometime in November. The mp3 versions will likely be made public sometime before then.
Is Sweet Bronco, in its current incarnation or not, still a band, or will this be your one and only record? Will there be a tour?
This will be the first Sweet Bronco record. The second record is pretty far along. After that, I don't have any plans of stopping. A lot of the newer songs have been getting poached by other projects, but there's plenty to go around. I feel like I'll be writing songs for Sweet Bronco for a long time.
We just started rehearsing with a completely new lineup, which includes familiar faces from other well-known local bands, for some upcoming local shows, including Vagabond's Fifth Anniversary Show, Plan-B Festival in Tampa, and Moonfest in October. There will definitely be a tour. But not everyone in the current lineup can make that kind of commitment right now. So it's a little hard to say what shape the tour will take at this point. We have some positions to fill.
We're doing the groundwork to put a full-band version of Sweet Bronco on a national tour as soon as possible. But if it ends up being just me driving around the country in a Pinto, then so be it. There will be a tour.
Who are some of the new faces we can expect to see at Vagabond, and how long has it been since your last Sweet Bronco show?
The Sweet Bronco lineup for the upcoming shows will feature Jesse Dalton of Blackfinger on drums, Adam Rosenberg of Whirlaway and Tim & Adam on guitar, Tim Yehezkely of the Postmarks and Tim & Adam on keys and vocal harmonies, and Brady Newbill of North Atlantic Space Company and Dooms de Pop on bass.
The last time Sweet Bronco appeared as a band was a little less than a year ago at Poorhouse. But that didn't really count because our time slot got cut short and we ended up playing just three songs -- and we played them really, really fast. So the last time Sweet Bronco actually played a real set was just over three years ago at Dada. So it's been quite a while.
For fans of Sweet Bronco, can we expect something similar in future projects, or are you going in a new direction musically? And are there any other projects you're currently working on?
Both. I think there's a core to my songwriting that will never go away. But I also like to try new things and move in new directions. At this point, I have a few different projects which help me organize some of the stylistic outliers into specific groups. I have a band called North Atlantic Space Company, which is definitely more for the snappy pop songs. I recorded an album with John Ralston in a band called Lightnings, which is more for what I like to think of as secular gospel songs with a somewhat psychedelic classic-rock feel. Then there are the solo Chris Horgan songs, which are maybe a little too intimate to find a home in any of those other projects.
You've been helping other local musicians record quite a bit. Do you see yourself in the role of producer? Like Fort Lauderdale's Steve Albini?
Most of the time, I think of recording as a necessary means to an end. I'd much rather be playing out than in the studio. It can be great if it happens really fast and in a matter of hours you have a brand new track that you're really pleased with. But when it doesn't happen fast, it can be exhausting. So I don't think I'd like to do it professionally. Sometimes friends need songs recorded, and I try to help them out. But I wouldn't say I take much of a "producer" role other than making a few suggestions here and there.
Where can fans buy Morning Night?
The vinyl will be available at our live shows and at participating record stores sometime in November. The mp3s will probably become available a bit sooner on our website and bandcamp, iTunes, etc.
Sweet Bronco with Band in Heaven, Ex Norwegian, Suede Dudes, New Coke, Bonnie Riot, Lil Daggers, MillionYoung, Deaf Poets, Wake Up, and Hunters of the Alps. Their set starts at 9 p.m. on the dot, Friday, September 20, Vagabond, 30 NE 14th St., Miami. Open bar 10 to midnight. Visit thevagabondmiami.com.