THE HORRORS are one of those acts that come around rarely in the world of music. Possessing a constantly evolving sound since their inception in 2006, they still sound distinctly unique and true to themselves – largely due to the creative efforts of guitarist Josh Hayward (who constantly creates new equipment for the band to use) and every member of the group offering their own set of influences in each record. They’re a band you can’t label, first catching the attention of music fans with the raw, garage rock noise of Strange House in 2007, who then saw their evolution via the krautrock-reminiscent masterpiece Primary Colours (2009). Their constant musical and aesthetic progression throughout their 11-year career keeps every album and single release intriguing for any music fan, whether you love them or hate them: What will The Horrors release next? What will this sound like? What direction are they taking now?
Their evolution from the 2007 NME Awards Tour goth band that weren’t really understood by the indie scene at the time (once described as “the band Tim Burton would have created”) to critically-acclaimed Mercury Prize-nominated elder statesmen of indie has been quite the wonder to witness over the past decade. As well as being uncompromising visionaries, support acts from previous tours such as TOY and Telegram have pushed the music world to view The Horrors as scene creators, or certainly as a band that introduces the press and the music masses to upcoming sounds within their circle.
The quintet’s new album V is a clear and direct progression from the electronic, dance-like sound of Luminous (2014), and takes that to an extra dimension: sometimes pop-heavy, with tracks like second single Something To Remember Me By, sometimes raw, industrial sounds heard on tracks like Machine. Georgia Turnbull spoke with vocalist Faris Badwan and bassist Rhys Webb to discover more about V, and the creative process behind The Horrors.
So, The Horrors are a band that has constantly talked about this idea of progression musically, and the evolution between your albums is apparent, with V having a more industrial, perhaps cleaner sound. Would you say that the equipment has become more vital, or has there just been a change in what is used during recording?
Faris Badwan: I can’t say I agree that V is cleaner really – neither in terms of sound or playing style – but we did change our approach on this record. We’re always trying different equipment for the sake of fun as much as anything else, and additionally Josh [Hayward, guitarist] builds a lot of our pedals and recording gear. The biggest difference in approach was in our song writing – we tried individually writing and bringing starting points in to the group, we tried different combinations of people writing. Rhys and I did two weeks writing on acoustic guitars and recording demos on his 4-track. For all our interest in equipment and effects, we can sound like The Horrors with very little. Our sound is way more dependent on our playing style and the way we play off each other. It’s about spontaneity and rawness in approach, even when the music sounds quite slick.
Rhys Webb: Our need to evolve is necessary for the bands enthusiasm to be creative as much as anything else. We’ve always been disappointed with staying in one place for too long. With this album, we wanted a rawer live sound and to keep some of the nasty rough edges that can sometimes be smoothed over in recording. We wanted to hear more dirt, more distortion and more guitar. I guess the equipment used is important because we like to explore strange sounds… We were definitely conscious of pushing things to the extreme. Even lighter moments, like Point Of No Reply, end in a cacophony of noise.
Now, an obvious question is that, as musicians, you have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening within various music scenes. Was the band listening to anything in particular while recording, and what really influenced V?
FB: I don’t know if this is unusual or not – I don’t know how other bands work really – but once we’ve started recording we don’t really listen to other people’s music. We like exchanging records and playing each other stuff but I guess that happens more on tour. We all go off in our own directions when it comes to what we’re listening to so I can’t really list a load of influences. Recording for V was so intense with the hours in periods – we’d go in, work till the early hours of the morning – go home and sleep and then come back and do it again and I spent weeks not listening to any other music, even at home.
I see The Horrors as a very visual band, with the artwork complementing how the record sounds. Would you agree that The Horrors are a visual band? Does it affect how you create music?
We communicate ideas to each other in the studio often quite visually – Josh will say he wants a guitar part to feel like you’re falling down a hill or something, which sounds stupid but because we know each other so well we can understand what the other person is trying to get across. I studied illustration before I joined The Horrors so I guess I’ve always worked with visual art.
RW:We’ve always enjoyed the idea [of] our music having a visual connection. I think even in the early days with Strange House that was a motivation. It’s about atmosphere, creating different atmospheres and how that can make you feel. As the band has evolved this has almost become as important as the songs themselves. We want the artwork to reflect this, each album almost exists in its own world.
Do you find that touring and a change in atmosphere inspires you as a band?
FB: Touring changes the songs more than you might expect – we don’t often play the songs live for long periods before recording them so they haven’t been ‘road-tested’ or whatever. As a result, there’s still a period of transformation to come after we’ve put them on an album. We adapt the songs live – change the arrangements, parts, sounds etc. just because different stuff ends up happening at live shows – things you can’t predict, maybe mistakes or accidents that lead to something you like. Our accidents and mistakes are just as important to the way we sound as the things we intend.
RW: Everything is always more intense live. After a long time in the studio it’s always great to get back on the road, songs twist and change the more you play them on stage which is something we always enjoy. I think the atmosphere within the group at the moment is one of excitement as it’s been a long time between the last two records and we are itching to get out and play the new stuff and feel like it’s the beginning of a new chapter for us.
V is out now on Caroline International.