Sarah + Armand Lance
If life is about finding balance, then we might all take a note from Sarah Jane and Armand Lance. This pair has found a peaceful harmony between life on the road with heavy rock band Spirit Mother, and life on a small ranch in eastern Oregon where a common morning means chasing down cattle on a Harley Flat Tracker. In search of a place to escape for a few nights, what they found instead was a new place to call home and a way to break the tethers that can come with creative freedom. But, just because they found some quiet doesn't mean they've slowed down; headed out on tour and carrying a constant feeling of who knows what comes next, they appear to have found the perfect tightrope between two worlds.
Time and time again the word
country has come to mean being left to your own devices. It's a matter of what your two hands and brain can pull off, which at times can be a little daunting. All the work you put into the animals, the pastures, the house, mechanics, and music are exactly what you get out of it all.
Walk us through a typical day at home.
On the chance the cows get out, the day starts out chasing our humble herd either on our mustang horse or our old Harley flat tracker, whichever is in a better mood that morning. Sarah Jane (SJ) and I spend the majority of time working with the animals, the land, or the house itself. We are touring musicians in a band together, so there are days centered around music - writing it, recording it, tour plans, etc. I made my way as a mechanic before moving out here, and still spend a good amount of time resurrecting old Chevy farm trucks and building Harley choppers. I’m currently finishing up one for SJ. In short, I guess the day is what we make of it.
Let's talk about music. What are you currently creating?
Sarah Jane and I play in a heavy rock band called Spirit Mother. She plays the violin and I write the music, play bass, and sing. The music we make begins more as folk music, written first with an acoustic guitar, emphatic on the chords and lyrics before it devolves into heavy, noisy rock n roll. I’m writing this currently from the road. The band is on its first U.S. tour and I’m getting ready to head to our show in Austin, TX.
Where do you feel most inspired?
I feel most inspired at this ranch we get to call home. It’s partly the reason we moved up in the first place. We came here originally to escape the city for a few nights. In those first three nights, I was able to relieve all my songwriting blocks - it just came naturally. By the third night, we made the decision for a permanent move. We turned our upstairs into a creative space for songwriting and rehearsing, and then began recording crude demos. Within a month of living here, we had the makings of a new album. The songs developed over time; and SJ, our bandmates Sean and Landon, and I have since put our finishing touches on all the new music before we left for tour.
How do you seek adventure
Being out in the country gives it to you even when you’re not looking for it. That’s the beauty of it. Aside from the adventure that just comes with running a ranch, we like getting even further out into the country. Some days we take our motorcycle—a 1973 Harley Sprint we resurrected and threw some flat track tires on—off trail in the national forest and let our dogs run alongside us. We recently trailer-broke our mustang. He was born wild out here and it’s been an experience riding out on the ranges he grew up on.
What does country mean to you?
Time and time again the word “country” has come to mean being left to your own devices. It’s a matter of what your two hands and brain can pull off, which at times can be a little daunting. All the work you put into the animals, the pastures, the house, mechanics, and music are exactly what you get out of it all. And when things inevitably go south, sometimes you pull through and sometimes you don’t. You learn to improvise. There’s something to be said of taking things on completely alone because there is no other option.
What's a lesson you can't anticipate until you're in it?
There are lessons in everything we decide to take on, even when things go right. We’ve learned to be flexible and enjoy the ride even if it means taking a hard left and going a whole different direction with things. Most of what we take on, we couldn’t have anticipated where it would take us.
What connects you to others?
There’s a lonely hundred mile stretch of nothing in all directions surrounding our town. Music has always been a unique outlet for connection. Whether it’s our tour mates, people coming to support the band, characters we meet on the road, or just getting closer to bandmates after living out of a van together for a month stretch at a time - you get to experience a lot and make some great memories along the way.
What's your idea of good company?
Most of the day revolves around working with the animals, so they’ve become our main company. Our old Australian shepherd we call “sheriff” and a wild Catahoula pup help us run the place while keeping things equally chaotic. They love rounding up the cows and our puppy does her best to control herself around the horses. We have a Nez Perce horse, a young quarter, and a mustang that are all pretty green so that makes for a good time too.
Somehow, living out here has brought us closer to our friends and family than we thought. Leaving the city for rural living means having a lot less acquaintances, but you make up for that with close friends. We love having visitors and the pace of life out here allows for time well spent together.
Any good campfire storeis, superstitions, or rituals?
Our house has been around since 1907 and we’ve been told there are spirits in it. Whether you believe in that kinda thing or not, you can’t help but pick up on a certain energy in this house. Especially at night. Some nights we’ll have 60 mph gusts, and the house holds it together. It’s when there’s a silent, windless night that the cabinet in the kitchen will pop open and the creaking of the house gets the cats curious. The house stirs more on the silent nights. SJ and I left for the weekend to visit family and when we returned, a neighbor told us there was a woman with shoulder length blonde hair walking around our property like she knew the place. Maybe our neighbor had a dream, maybe we are just house guests.
What inspires you to keep pushing?
SJ inspires me every day. I can only hope she gets from me what I do from her.
Top three songs for the road?
Diesel Smoke, Dangerous Curves - Red Simpson
Leavin' Town - Waylon Jennings
Cold Lonesome Wind - Wayne Hancock
What's next for you?
We’re ending our tour in Southern California and then will be back in Eastern Oregon. We never really know exactly what’s next.
Give us your best advice.
There's only so much you can plan for in life. Everything I'm proud of and that I'll look back on has come by recongnizing that chance opportunity and being prepared to just go for it.
The day is what we make of it.