The Horrors: Moving further ahead

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).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN0jkdTvl9s[/youtube]

 

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.”

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlFZYk0xgn8[/youtube]

 

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.

By Maria Clare Khoo

Indie label Hostess Entertainment launches in Singapore

Japanese independent label Hostess Entertainment Unlimited announced today its launch in Singapore in a move that marks the inception of a progressive partnership with Sony Music in Singapore and Malaysia.

Formed in 2000 in Tokyo, the label has quietly grown over the years to become the largest western music label beneath the majors, and since 2011 has gradually expanded its operations over the Asian continent.

Headed up by label manager Nikki Mahmood-Chee, the company will now up its game in Southeast Asia, focussing its operations in the region from Singapore.

Managing Director of Sony Music Entertainment Singapore & Malaysia Julius Ng says, “We’ve waited some time to try to work with Hostess so we’re delighted it’s finally happening and we can start to help deliver the broad and diverse artists and music to the fans in Singapore and Malaysia.

“With a huge depth of artist roster and catalogue, Hostess really does represent the very best in indie music and it’s surprising just how many of your favourite artists and albums have actually released through Hostess in recent years. We can’t wait to enjoy the success of this music reaching the fans here.”

Representing some of the biggest alternative labels in Japan including XL4ADDominoJagjaguwar/Secretly CanadianRough Trade and Matador, Hostess is also notable for fostering relationships that have seen the likes of Radiohead, Beck, Sonic Youth, Four Tet and Bloc Party release their material with the label region-wide.

And in a time where companies are shifting their focus towards the East, Singaporean and Malaysian music fans have a lot to look forward to, including releases from The National, Vampire Weekend, Savages, Kurt Vile, Sigur Ros, The xx, and Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds becoming more readily available and serviced in the region.

The Hostess Club Weekender is also set to land in Singapore in the coming year, a hugely popular fixture in the Japanese live music calendar that has presented — once again — an impressive crop of artists live including Vampire Weekend, Bloc Party, Hot Chip, Spiritualized and Dinosaur Jr, and introduced a number of artists to Asian fans for the first time.

Hostess’ new operation has kicked off with the recent release of the Travis album Where You Stand, and has been promptly followed by releases from Four Tet and DARKSIDE, two highly-anticipated releases of late.

By Katherine Pollock

My dear, I suspect you will favour the Gangly Youth

We have finally unveiled the mystery of the ‘Straits Settlements Tour 2012’ that brings self-proclaimed punk band Gangly Youth (Kentucky, US) all the way to this side of the world on a seven-date Malaysian/Singapore tour with The Maharajah Commission (MY), where the bands will meet for the first time. We chat with Gangly Youth guitarist Dan Davis before he and the rest of his band mates make their way over here to play us some of their “fuzzy stripped down pop songs”… and to finally try some laksa!

Tell us how Gangly Youth was formed. Is it true that the band hardly knew how to play their instruments when you first got together?
It is true! I still don’t know what I’m doing. I know that when I do certain things, my guitar (that only has three strings) makes noise and, honestly, that’s good enough for me. We are all kinda in that boat. Daniel knows how to play the most, I would say.

“For some reason, not knowing how to play wasn’t really an issue to me. Most things are about just actually doing it. To me, it’s just about making sounds, hitting record, and moving forward.”

I was the singer for a band called Kodan Armada that disbanded in 2003. I really wanted to play in a band again and I wanted to do something different and play guitar. So after a long break from playing music, Gangly Youth started in 2009.  It was me, Brent (bass) and our first drummer Hillary playing tom & snare. I wanted to do a stripped down punk band, having been influenced by bands like Beat Happening, Gang of Four, The Minutemen and Jay Reatard, as well as labels like Goner and K Records.

For some reason, not knowing how to play wasn’t really an issue to me. Most things are about just actually doing it. To me, it’s just about making sounds, hitting record, and moving forward. So we wrote some songs, recorded them and put out a 7″, never once playing a show with that line up.

Later on, Hillary decided not to do the band anymore and Ashley took her place. Then, I decided if we had more members it would help round out some of the ideas I had for the band. Daniel (guitar) and a drummer playing full kit decided to join us. That’s basically where we are now.

Where does the name ‘Gangly Youth’ come from?
It came from Disney’s Robin Hood, the one where Robin Hood is a fox. It’s amazing. There is a part in the movie where Maid Marion is asked if she favours the ‘gangly youth’. I always loved that. I was often referred to as ‘gangly’ as a kid, since I was tall and lanky, so it seemed like a good fit.

We’ve been listening to IS FOR TIGERS and we particularly like ‘Foggy Night’. Tell us about writing and recording it?
‘Foggy’ was a fun and fast song to write. I’m pretty sure it happened by accident. Brent was playing a guitar that we had in our practice space through his bass amp and the sound was super blown out, which I really liked.

“I personally love a good lo-fi record. I love the warmth and the rough edges.”

I started playing the little high guitar part, Daniel was able to write his part really fast, and that was it. I think it took us about 30 minutes. The drum beat was actually inspired by a Jay-Z song. I was listening to a few rap records and I was thinking about how much I love the beats in those songs. I was also thinking about how — with rap music — nobody really cares that it’s repetitive, and I love repetitive music. So, we decided to do this drum beat over and over, and make it real big with the two drummers.

The ‘lo-fi’-ness of everything goes back to just doing it. We recorded everything with two mics in our practice space. We wanted to have the songs documented, so we weren’t a complete mystery to everyone.  I personally love a good lo-fi record. I love the warmth and the rough edges, and it feels more intimate, exposed and raw. A lo-fi sound was my original idea for the band, but with everyone else’s input I think we are trying to find some middle ground.

How did the collaboration with The Maharajah Commission come about?
We were actually put in contact with them through our friend, Arwith, who runs Utarid Booking. We have known Arwith for a few years. Brent (who is from Australia) put out a record for his band many years ago, which I did the art for. We found out that Arwith was dabbling in booking for European and American bands and we thought, ‘We gotta have him book us!’.

We were looking for a band that would be a good fit and Arwith suggested The Maharajah Commission We are so excited to be going on tour with them. We have never met, but (from) all the preparations for the tour, we already feel a connection. We think that it’s a good fit music-wise too. We are different, but I feel like we’re influenced by a lot of the same stuff. I can’t wait to hang with them!

Have any of you been to Asia before?
I have not. Brent & Ashley have been to China, but that’s it. I really have no idea what to expect, other than amazing food, which I will say we are all looking forward to. Specifically for me: Laksa!

What has the band been listening to recently?
We are all over the place in terms of what we listen to. I think we’ve all pretty much been enjoying everything out on Woodsist Records right now. I’ve also really been loving the new Ty Segall record. Other bands that always make the rotation for us are Silver Jews, Eddy Current Suppression Ring, Television, Dinosaur Jr., Swans/Angels of Light, Nick Cave/Grinderman, Nirvana and Kanye West.

Then there are some really amazing bands from the area here that have been blowing us away at how good they are: Tropical Trash, Cross, State Champion, Tender Mercy. Really awesome stuff. We are lucky to have good bands here in town.

“We are influenced by so many things, but at the core of it, we consider ourselves to be a punk band.”

And for all our readers who’ve never heard Gangly Youth before—how would you describe your sound?
Saving the hard question for last!

I’m not sure, I never know what to say. I always say, ‘fuzzy stripped down pop songs’. You have a good chance of liking it if you enjoy the sound of bands like The Pixies, Pavement, Woods, Sonic Youth, Kurt Vile, the Flaming Lips — things of that nature.

We are influenced by so many things, but at the core of it, we consider ourselves to be a punk band. The same way that Sonic Youth considers themselves a punk band, or how K Records considers themselves a punk label. We don’t mean it in the Sex Pistols kind of way, it’s more just in the feeling. The songs are dissonant and melodic at the same time. They aren’t polished, but they aren’t just noise either. We don’t know exactly how to play our instruments, but it’s not stopping us. We have a strong DIY ethic. We do pretty much everything ourselves: release our own records, do our own art, and make our own merch. We all come from that kind of background and it really shapes the band.

We hope people come out to the shows and see and hear us for themselves!

By Melissa Yong

[vimeo width=”457″ height=”343″]http://vimeo.com/51174842[/vimeo]
Congress of Weird Fools Part III
with Gangly Youth and The Maharajah Commission

11 Nov 2012
5pm -9pm
L Cube Studios (145 Jalan Besar, top of Hindoo Road)
$10 at the door