INTERVIEW: The Horrors | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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“I’ve been up since seven…I took the dog around the park in my pyjamas,” says Joshua Hayward, guitarist for The Horrors, when I ask if he’s just woken up – he sounds a little croaky. “Oh sorry,  I can’t get phone reception in my house. I actually had to go out and buy an old home phone and use that instead. It’s awful!” It’s a little hard to believe that this is the same Joshua Hayward that has summoned the unearthly riffs that form the basis of The Horrors’ psychedelic goth-gaze for over a decade now. He’s almost, well…a little too normal.

When the band first barged onto the scene back in 2005, they were anything but, dressed like camp corpses and armed with confrontational garage rock thrashers like Jack The Ripper and Sheena Is A Parasite. Debut LP Strange House received a mixed response, with many dismissing the band as a novelty act. But 2010 follow-up Primary Colours was their true introduction to the world, transforming the Southend quintet from stick-legged, theatrical garage ghouls to stick-legged experimental, art punks miles ahead of their landfill-bound peers. Haywards’ aggressive haze of guitar feedback (created using homemade effects pedals) gave the album its shoegazing feel without robbing it of its urgent, post punk fervour. “It [Primary Colours] was such a great surprise for everyone!” Hayward enthuses. “At that time, a lot of the bands I knew didn’t do things like that and we were doing it and it felt amazing. We’d done Strange House, really enjoyed doing all the shows and being stupidly loud and quick and then we discovered we could do other things. It was this great moment of discovery for ourselves really.”

That discovery was the ability of each of the bands’ five members to conjure something of true artistic worth, rather than the gimmickry of which they’d been initially accused. It was the bleeping waves of intricate electronica and epic krautrock rhythms of Sea Within A Sea married with the distorted, death-pop anti love-song of Who Can Say (pinning down Faris Badwan’s deadpan baritone) that showed a band with bigger intentions. Next album Skying and its colossal standout hit Still Life found the band flirting with commercial success, before last effort Luminous only went and bagged the band a Top Ten album. For their fifth and latest instalment, V, the band ditched the familiarity of their own studio (their previous two records were self-produced) and decided to hire the eclectic hands of Paul Epworth, producer for Adele and Bloc Party amongst others. “We’d got to the point where we would just over-think things, so we thought we’d change the method up and it would give different results,” Hayward explains. “instead of going with a producer who would just sit in the back and be like ‘yeah that’s great man, yeah that tambourine…’, we thought we’d go with someone who’s really headstrong and wants to get involved and would shout at us if he doesn’t agree.”

Everything felt more raw and that’s what we wanted.

Epworth is now more well-known for his big popstar collaborations than his early indie ones and seems like an interesting choice for such a headstrong band. Hayward originally had similar thoughts: “I imagined at one point that it’d be us sitting around a piano and was quite terrified about that! [laughs] But no, sessions with Paul are actually very chaotic, incredibly loud and you never really stop. Everything felt more raw and that’s what we wanted. We’d always work on Hologram on Friday night till early Saturday morning. We left it for one week and it was over 20 minutes long, and we cut it down to 6. We’ve got that take somewhere, I’ll have to pull it out for Christmas or something.”

Aside from expanding their love for everlasting codas and euphoric choruses, the band have tested out different methods of songwriting this time around and attempted to be a lot less precious when approaching the individual elements of each track. “Reece and Faris went away and started writing songs on acoustic guitars, that’s how tracks like Gathering started,” Hayward tells me. “Reece played it on this terrible guitar that sounded awful. It was completely rusted through and would leave brown marks on your fingers, but it actually had a bit of vibe to it. I played lots of weird slide on it and played with a comb which was quite fun. I’ve really been getting into programming and making big delays and effects”.

The combination of Epworth’s intense production techniques and the band’s more relaxed approach may well have paid off, as V sounds like their most ambitious project yet. From Machine’s cog-like Tubeway Army-isms to the infinite synth pop melodies of Something To Remember Me By, the album shows few signs of a band becoming comfortable – rather actively seeking out the unknown more than ever. “We’ve always wanted to experiment, it’s what we get excited by and I think that comes through on each record” says Hayward. “It’s what we’re best at really, constantly changing…yeah, it’s career suicide [laughs]. But I definitely think it’s our most diverse record. I just think it’s great that we’ve still got this much common ground like ten years in and still have this many ideas rolling around…we haven’t just made a ‘church organ’ record or something. I think that records are like a snapshot of where you are at the time. But then you release them and they change into something else and you play live, and they change again and again.” Let’s hope there are many more incarnations of The Horrors still to come.

V is out now on Caroline International. The Horrors play Newcastle University on Friday 20th October.

 

 

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