INTERVIEW: Behold A Pale Horse | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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For the last few years, Behold A Pale Horse have been regularly blowing away crowds across the region and beyond with their potent mixture of psychedelia, garage rock and rave dynamics, playing with bands like Snapped Ankles and headlining festivals like Northern Electric Festival. But beyond their first EP, released back in 2016, their studio output has been notably limited.

Far from being idle though, the band have slowly been piecing together what has become their debut full-length, Today’s News…Stay Happy. A strong, vibrant collection that blends forceful renditions of live favourites with some surprising new curveballs, the band – John Nellist, Kev Douglas, Ed Blazey, Rob Blazey and Matty Stoker – agreed to shed some light on the record’s lengthy gestation.

Rather than hitting the studio with the intention of producing an album, the band had started out compiling tracks for a couple of smaller releases. “We started recording [the album] as a second EP,” Rob Blazey states, with John Nellist also noting “we were going to do a split 12” with Parastatic, who we are friends with and we love their music. The time just wasn’t right. We all had a lot of stuff going on out of the band and it became something that was going to be rushed so we decided to take a little time out and concentrate on this release.” At a certain point, as Ed Blazey puts it, “we realised the tunes all worked together as an album so we went for it. It came together pretty slowly over various recording sessions, starting with songs we’d written and had begun to play live and ending with songs that were crafted in the process.”

One track that came together early in the process was live favourite Soma, which Ed Blazey makes clear became a priority for the band. “This was one of the first songs we recorded – there was a bit of pressure to get it finished when because Tom Robinson wanted to play it on his programme featuring North East music on BBC Radio 6Music. We’d developed it by trying it live, then tried some extra stuff while we were recording. Playing it live now can vary too, we don’t necessarily stick too strictly to the versions we’ve recorded.”

Another important foundation for the album became the input of Rob Blazey on synths and samples, who had been a new recruit to the band at the time of their EP. “The material on the first EP was pretty well established before I joined, whereas I’d been more involved in this material from the start. We were all collectively interested in diversifying the sound of the band as well, so a lot of the electronic textures you hear are from the original ideas that Kev brought to the band, e.g. Soma and Fuxit.”

We are there to service the songs not our egos. If one of us has to play spoons and put down our instrument, then we are in the cutlery drawer

While a lot of the material on Today’s News…Stay Happy will be familiar to current fans of the band, the string-soaked pastoral ballad Into The Orchard is bound to be a surprise to any listener familiar with the more visceral touch they typically employ. “Into The Orchard is very different to the songs we do live,” John Nellist observes. “We have spoken about doing a live version of it one day though. The song itself is one of the oldest songs we have. Kev and I had written the foundations of it years ago, but we always said we wanted strings on it. Kev just got on the case and did it using a fiddle player, cello player, double bass with a bow, and recorded multiple takes. What he did with it is amazing and it’s one of the songs I’m most proud of because of the work he’s done. One thing about this band is that we don’t have any restrictions on styles of music.”

Expanding on Nellist’s point, Matty Stoker points out: “We see the studio as an extension of the band. There are things that work live that don’t transition to a recording, and vice versa. We are lucky to have musicians who can hear exactly what they want from a song. We are also lucky to be friends with other talented musicians, so a quick call can add a texture and a new voice to our sound. We are there to service the songs not our egos. If one of us has to play spoons and put down our instrument, then we are in the cutlery drawer quick snap. Our influences as individuals do overlap but when one of us has an idea unfamiliar to the rest of us, we ride it and see what comes out, it’s all part of the journey.”

To mark the album’s launch, Behold A Pale Horse are taking to The Star & Shadow Cinema on Friday 6th March to send it out to the world in style. It’s a well-earned celebration, especially since the band have gone down the expensive, time-consuming process of overseeing the release and vinyl pressing of the album themselves. Asked about this, Stoker tells me, “we have all been in other bands and experienced what the music business has to offer both good and bad. We like having control of our own material to release it in a way we see fit.” For Rob Blazey however, that’s just what being in Behold A Pale Horse entails. “We’ve just done it all ourselves, the way we wanted to within what we could manage and afford. Our dream has always been to make albums and get them onto vinyl, so we’ve made sure we’ve done it exactly how we wanted.”

Today’s News…Stay Happy is released on 29th February on Wor Records. Behold A Pale Horse play The Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle on Friday 6th March.

 

 

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