Get to Know a Band: A House For Lions
Born in Los Angeles, A House For Lions is the brainchild of lead singer Daniel Norman. Described as "a sound informed by Daniel’s roots in North Carolina and the progressive sounds of Los Angeles" A House For Lions fuses alt-rock with elements of country to form a "kind of indie folk rock that can make even the coldest heart melt." SongFreaks recently spoke with lead singer Daniel to talk about the band, his past career in acting, the trials and tribulations of life in L.A. and what you can see from A House For Lions in the future.
SongFreaks: You originally moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in acting but today you are the lead singer in a band. Could you take us through your acting endeavor and the differences between that profession and music?
Well I moved here in 2006 after college where I studied theatre. Coming to L.A. and working in T.V. and film I was surprised to find that an actor is a much smaller part of the whole filming process and I guess I was looking for something where I was in control, rather than a piece of the puzzle.
SongFreaks: Do you find that your attempt at acting has influenced a lot of your original music? Have the experiences you went through those days come back to help you in writing material?
Learning how to be an actor is how I learned to be an artist, so yes. It taught me how to approach the work. Getting into the emotional life of a character and the reality of the given circumstances is a combination of personal truth, imagination and improvisation and those are the things I focus on when I’m writing. I'm not one of those people that can pick a subject and then write a song about it. I kind of see what happens as I go along and try to keep things as intuitive as possible. Let the song tell you what it wants to be about, which may not be the best way to work but it’s how I do things. I don’t come from a music background, I taught myself to play guitar as a kid. I don’t know how music works per se; I just try to make something that sounds right to me.
SongFreaks: So you never took any formal guitar training?
No I’ve never had any lessons or formal training. My brother always wanted to play guitar and always asked for one as a kid, I never had any interest. Then one Christmas there were two guitars under the tree. I played as a hobby, I’m really not much of a guitar player although I’ve certainly gotten better since starting a band. It's only very recently that I’ve come to think of myself as a musician to be honest.
SongFreaks: What bands have influenced you? When I listen to songs like "Last Goodbye" I hear a bit of Radiohead and yet some country and folks notes, as well as alt rock.
Hahaha, I don’t know, it’s hard to say. We don’t really think about it that way. We don’t really feel beholden to any sound or style. We like to follow what’s happening in music now. We love all the really great bands from the past - The Beatles or Led Zeppelin, hahaha. We like them because they aren’t like one another; we strive to be as much like ourselves as possible.
SongFreaks: Ok, maybe the better question then would be what are you listening to right now?
Right now I’m hooked on the Quiet Storm. Quiet storm was a radio format that was popular in the late 80's through the 90's on black stations. It’s basically late night slow jams by guys like Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye. I also like Father John Misty right now, his new album Fear Fun is my favorite record of the year.
SongFreaks: So, A House For Lions was formed in around the summer of 2009 into the spring 2010. Can you tell us about how the band came together?
I started writing songs to have something to do. Acting gigs can come few and far between. So I was just looking for a creative outlet. Eventually I wrote a few songs and thought it might be fun to start a band. But I didn't really know how to do that. I’d never been in a band before, didn't have any like minded musician friends so I put an ad on craigslist which doesn’t sound very romantic but it’s what happened.
SongFreaks: Are any members of A House For Lions originally from LA? Guitarist Mike Nissen is from Massachusetts, you are from North Carolina. Where is the band's other half originally from?
Our drummer Joe is originally from outside of Palm Springs. Eric is from Kansas City. But that’s the thing about L.A.; no one is from LA. It’s just that kind of city, the entertainment industry is here so if you want to be a part of it you come here. In this city you are surrounded by people who've come to pursue a dream. I think because of that we have an image of being shallow, but I think that is a misconception. Los Angeles is a fearless city, it’s not easy to live in and it can eat you up. The fact that the weather really is beautiful all the time can trick you into complacency. It’s hard to find your way in L.A.; it’s hard to carve out a life for yourself. It’s highly competitive; the people here are extremely talented and working towards something that is extremely elusive, a dream that can only let a few people in at a time. It takes time to figure out; a lot of people don’t have a concept of an actor who isn't a movie star or a musician who isn’t a rock star. Trying to find your place in all of it, it’s a struggle.
SongFreaks: Have you found your place?
Sure, but it takes a long time. I feel good about the future, I’m excited.
SongFreaks: Your big second anniversary show is coming up this Saturday July 28. How excited are you and is it safe to say that this is your most important show yet?
I am extremely excited for the show. For me it is the most important gig yet because the night is about us and it is our time. We did one last year and hope to make it an annual thing. When playing other shows you get sidetracked in different ways. For example people tell you that you have to play a certain venue because that is where all the big bands play. Or when playing a gig with other bands we may change our style and sound a bit to adapt to the style of music for the night. But at the anniversary gig we play what we want and can be seen how we want to be truly seen. We don’t have to impress anyone and that makes it fun.
To be yourself is hard at times, especially in L.A. The music industry constantly has a finger in your ear telling you what to do. There’s a lot of noise and interference from a lot of people in L.A. who don’t even make music. But for the anniversary show we pick the bands that will be with us and we celebrate the band with each other, our family and our friends.
SongFreaks: You’ve said in a video on your site that you love being in a band because "every experience is new" does that statement still hold true two years into this endeavour?
Yeah, absolutely. I mean you get accustomed to some things after this long, but as we get bigger and better as a band we begin to play larger shows which is a new experience. We are about to make our first full length record; I know nothing about that process so that will be a learning experience. So yeah everything is always new. Even the familiar experiences continue to evolve. I am still amazed by everything that’s happening and I do not take it for granted. The second this gets boring it’s over, so you've got to revel in every aspect.
SongFreaks: What does the future hold for A House For Lions after your anniversary show?
We are finishing the planning stages for an LP. Recording will begin sometime in September. The album will probably come out in the new year and then we'll hit the road.
To learn more about A House For Lions visit their official webpage here: http://ahouseforlions.com/
As well check out their music on iTunes: http://www.itunes.com/ahouseforlions