Emerging from the Southend scene in early 2007 with their critically acclaimed debut album Strange House, The Horrors have since relocated to London and, in recent years, settled into their own studio, recording their last two albums independently. Two days shy of their first performance at Austin Psych Fest, I spoke with the brooding frontman, Faris Badwan, digging deep into the creative process of their latest release (which took a full fifteen months to make).
Luminous, the band’s fourth full-length album, is a collection of glittery synth motifs along with elevated upbeat tempos. It is in stark contrast to the gothic, organ heavy, shouty tunes coupled with those aggressive stage antics the band was notorious for at the beginning. They’ve definitely matured drastically.
The band recently performed their first single ‘I See You’ at The Fly Awards in February with Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore. Of the collaboration, Badwan says, “instantly, his guitar-playing style… fit in with us and it was cool how quickly he adapted to playing.”
Having wowed critics and music lovers with their Krautrock-inspired improvisations and unique sounds, The Horrors are known for being extremely experimental. With the infinite number possibilities using electronics in this age, it left me wondering; What was the Genesis of this record? “Now we’ve done four albums, you start to realise the patterns that you have to go through, and you know the difficult things you have to go through in the beginning and it kind of always falls in the same way. It takes you a while of constant recording to figure what the album will sound like,” Badwan explains.
“When you’re making anything, whether its art or music or writing, whatever, the hardest thing is knowing when to stop.”
With five multi-talented individuals writing alongside one another, there’s always a high tendency that it would be hard to come together and agree on everything. However in the case for The Horrors, “its more the songs, that kind of decide”, and “not letting ourselves repeat things too much”. Besides allowing the music to fuel the direction, Badwan also notes “I think it is a case about having to trust each others’ taste and sort of let it be a democratic thing. I think between us we can figure it out.” Also “depending on the song, different ones of us take more control.”
Their forward thinking methods have established The Horrors as completely one-of-a-kind. One could easily get blissfully lost in their explorative process of creating new music. When prompted about the band’s aim to create original material for the album, Badwan explained; “Well, I think we do want to create things that are original for us; we want to create things that we feel that we haven’t touched on. It doesn’t mean sort of completely changing genre every record, it just means more about pushing ourselves each time.”
“You want the songs to be the best, it’s not letting ourselves repeat things too much, I figure you have to keep moving forward.”
Having their own studio proved to be greatly beneficial to the process, as they had fewer restraints. “[We were] able to stay however many hours, to be able to make music at all times,” says Badwan. “Its not that we’re deliberately trying to shut the outside world out, the world that we are creating is kind of more exciting for us, and I think that we find it a lot easier to escape in our world than we do in the other one. I think its just more rewarding to be in there.”
Since the beginning, guitarist Joshua Hayward’s physics background has sparked an interest in taking apart guitar pedals, making different modifications to create specific sonic concoctions that has helped push the boundaries of their sound. “He’s always building stuff,” remarks Badwan, “The main thing I think was we had used some (Josh’s probably) pedals, to change the way the sounds fades away and I think its pretty unique for the guitar sounds.”
Another interesting addition to their plethora of devices used to make Luminous were the Pyramid synths from the ‘Changing The Rain’ music video that their label had made for them. “I suppose that was the most unusual instrument that we had… but it wasn’t the thing that we used the most because it broke really quickly; now its in the workshop,” Badwan explains.
In terms of the future, Badwan has one thing on his mind; “I think the main thing is we really wanna build this band; I don’t know what the band will be doing in 2 years. We’re very bad with conscious planning…” he says. “I guess that’s exciting for us because, especially when we demo songs, we don’t really know how they’re gonna end up turning out. I think that’s one of those things about being in a band.”
Luminous is out on 5 May.