Band of Horses and My Morning Jacket have been two of the past decade’s most influential rock bands. With innovative sonic approaches, deft songwriting, and gentle sprinklings of folk and country, the groups also served as somewhat kindred spirits, both sharing occasional stages and a bevy of like-minded fans.
It was along this route of symmetry that Tyler Ramsey, former guitarist for Band of Horses, and Carl Broemel, My Morning Jacket’s lead guitarist, came together in musical lockstep. Ramsey stepped away from his day job in 2017 and moved to the North Carolina mountains to devote himself to a solo career. So far, it’s proved to be a successful move, as his recent album For The Morning has earned rave reviews and provided him the opportunity to tour worldwide. And though My Morning Jacket hasn’t gone anywhere, the group’s reduced touring schedule has afforded its various members the chance to focus on individual projects.
In the last three years alone, Broemel has released two full-length albums, an eclectic EP of covers, and has been folk-rocker Ray LaMontagne’s lead guitarist. For the remainder of the summer, though, the pair have committed to an extended slew of North American tour dates under the working moniker of West Coast Duo Quest, a name derived for introduction on their initial touring run earlier this year.
“I owed Tyler a ton of money, so I had to work it off by touring and driving him around so he could play shows,” jokes Broemel while recalling the pair's initial meeting. “No, in all seriousness, we met when (our bands) toured together. We have some mutual friends, and I knew and loved Tyler’s solo records so it was always in the back of my mind that I would play with him someday.”
During another chance encounter in 2018 when Broemel’s band played a show near Ramsey’s home, collaborative plans became more solidified.
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“We were both pleasantly surprised at how easily things came together and clicked,” Ramsey says. “We started playing some shows and received a lot of positive feedback from people, which was awesome.” As both gentlemen spoke with the Observer from their respective homes, it became easy to see how Ramsey and Broemel decided to collaborate. In addition to finishing each other’s sentences, gently ribbing the other (“Carl won’t come to my house despite my repeated invitations,” Ramsey chided at one point), and their shared appreciation of musical genres, the two continue to learn from and motivate each other.
“I’ve played guitar for a long time and I still don’t know how Tyler does so much of what he does,” Broemel offers forth with admiration. Ramsey is quick to throw praise back: “I think so much of what Carl does is mesmerizing and I’m constantly trying to learn new tricks from him.”
Their kinship and musical prowess are certainly not downplayed in their live performances. Though it’s just the two of them onstage, those attending are treated to a bevy of soundscapes with various pedal boards, pedal steel, keyboards and even a Wurlitzer accompanying the soaring harmonies and guitar interactions. The shared experiences of touring heavily in big rock outfits have also afforded both artists the leisure to slow down and appreciate the quieter moments. They both reference the flexibility in being able to choose where their dining options, hotel locations and roadside pit stops as luxuries typically not available to their other musical endeavors.
“I love rocking out so much, and our shows do get loud, but when you’re playing smaller clubs sometimes the songs get lost if there’s a huge band onstage chugging away,” Broemel says. “So it’s been great to be quiet, talk about and play songs, and not have a huge snare drum blaring away.”
Fewer people onstage, however, means fewer traveling companions. Instead of a luxury bus, Ramsey and Broemel are driving around in a van without a large swath of others to chat up. This also hasn’t seemed to dampen either of the two’s spirits.
“I’m kind of an introvert in that I can be around one or two people consistently and be great with things,” Broemel says. Ramsey agrees: “We’re both pretty introverted people. We decided that we could come up with a podcast for this tour where we drive around in our van, play each other music and just appreciate the silence.”
Should they actually go through with their podcasting idea, though, there are lots of deeper issues both Ramsey and Broemel would be able discuss at length. In addition to their shared profession, they are both fathers who constantly adapt to the rigors of recording and touring and the gaps that their jobs can cause in shared family time.
“When you’re home, you’re 100 percent home,” Ramsey says candidly. “I just got to go see my daughter in a dance show today and we may go camping in the yard later, so it balances out in a cool way where maybe you’re gone for two weeks, but afterwards you’re there and can make up for lost time.”
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“The good news is that when I am home, I don’t have a 9 to 5 job so I can be 100 percent involved in what my son’s doing,” adds Broemel. “In the future who knows if I’ll have to get a job outside music, but for now things can be balanced.”
For the near future, this tour serves as the duo’s main focus. However, you can’t keep busy folks down. Ramsey has some solo opening dates lined up and will take his band overseas later this year for a string of European dates. Broemel will reconvene with My Morning Jacket for a pair of August shows at Red Rocks Amphitheater before again linking up with LaMontagne for a string of fall U.S. tour dates. Then, of course, there’s the possibility of a recorded album sprouting from the tour.
“Hopefully I can talk Carl into making a record at some point. I think we should,” Ramsey declares. “If we can come away from this tour still as friends, then we can jump on things.”
Tyler Ramsey and Carl Broemel will play at 8 p.m. Monday, July 22 at The Kessler Theater and at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 24 at Andy’s in Denton.