Pulled Apart by Horses
James McDonald 19/04/2010
…and you find yourself sat on a pick-nick bench outside a student union in Wycombe, hugging cigarettes with three northern tykes and a fellow Dorset bumpkin.
I initially became aware of the lads around me maybe a year or two prior to tonight, this being our second shared meeting since I first heard a demo carrying the title 'High Five, Swan Dive, Nose Dive'. One thing that was evident then (still now) was that their music was big fun - it's riff worship, balls to the wall duurty rock, and unashamedly so. What more could an adolescent male want? Guitarist James Brown is an icon in the making, throwing himself around the stage with a blatant disregard to health and safety. Rebel. He uses 5 strings, once assuring me 'no one needs 2 E's'. Vocalist Tom Hudson possesses a vocal girth nothing short of brutal, regularly throwing up post set from the strain he puts on his cords. He can often be seen spitting on audiences from great heights during an exercise in what he refers to as 'target practice'. Lee Vincent is a relentless driving force behind the kit, an essential ingredient in a decent live band, beating the skins much as he would a lover. Pulled Apart By Horses also have a bass player. His name is Robert Lee, and I definitely would.
But you know all this, right? In fact, it's quite leveling to think that a band yet to release a full album have been warmed to in such a fashion, both across our isles and Europe. It becomes more absurd when you remember the band have released two sold out 7” singles, a sold out ep, have performed on sizable stages at the Reading and Leeds festivals, and have just come back from supporting Biffy Clyro across the UK and Ireland. Who do they think they are?
It's just after this stretch with Biffy, playing to thousands each night, that we find ourselves together in Wycombe…
LV: 'You're a freak if you've never had fucking nits mate, I just don't trust ya!'
TH: 'Alright… I've had chicken pox…'
LV: 'With nits in?'
JB: 'NITS IN!'
Lee and James' DJ set in London tomorrow has been canceled late in the day, so the drinking has begun early tonight…
So what do you usually drop when you DJ? Isn't it great when people take notice of your skills behind the decks just because you're in a band, you can fulfill your true calling eh?
JB: 'Exactly, it's a fucking relief!'
LV: 'We usually play Biggie Smalls. Basically it's an equal mix of New Orleans sludge-metal and Hip Hop.'
JB: '…and a bit of Gypsey Kings to round off the night…'
LV: 'Yeah, but that's only if the party is really banging.'
Do you do Bar Mitzvahs?
JB: 'When we can…'
So, Pulled Apart by Horses, last time I saw you was in a van in Steventon this summer… actually 'van' is putting it down a little bit, it was pretty spacious…
LV: 'The splitter of power.'
JB: 'I didn't think it was that plush to be honest…'
It had a table…
TH: 'It was fucking horrible by the end…'
JB: 'We'd covered it in ash and cans…'
LV: 'It became a halfway house for bands that day I think.'
JB: 'Once it started raining…'
LV: 'I think Sky Larking hauled themselves up in there with us.'
TH: 'Plus the odd Telegraph coming in…'
Do you still have plans to take over the universe? You were all pretty hell bent back then…
LV: 'Yeah, always. I think we've pretty much taken over Leeds…'
RL: 'Leeds is the mothership.'
I guess the first step would be putting out your album, any idea when that will be?
JB: 'I think the album's coming out in May now?'
LV: 'I dunno man, I don't wanna put at date on it anymore…'
JB: 'Yeah yeah…'
LV: '…it really changes all the time. Early next year'.
All unanimously: 'Yeah.'
Aye, fair enough… I went onto the live webcam [the band set up a studio web feed during the recording process] briefly, but all it was was you [at Rob] dancing around in your underwear. I'm not complaining…
RL: 'Haha, yeah, we put a post out saying 'tune in at 11 o'clock' or whatever - then we woke up at 11 and I think Dom [ex Grammatics, now tour manager] was there as well, so it was just us walking around in duvets and in our underwear, then just looking at the camera like 'ah fuck'!'
JB: 'Absolutely nothing to do with recording, that became the theme.'
LV: 'It was just cabin fever really, and we saw it as a way of elevating the boredom.'
How long were you in the studio in the end?
TH: '8 days on the trot? 7 or 8…'
RL: 'It wasn't really all that bad, but when you're living on microwave food the whole time…'
LV: 'Yeah, you basically just have a master room and then your bedroom's right next to it and the recording room's just above it all - it gets a bit weird.'
TH: 'We did have Goldeneye though…'
LV: '…and that South Park game which was shit!'
TH: 'All I could hear when I was doing my vocals was Lee in the other room going 'Die Die!''
LV '…killing Nazis…'
JB: 'Bridlington is one of the most depressing places I've been to.'
LV: 'The only good thing about Bridlington is the studio…'
RL: 'Yeah, it's the loveliest place in Bridlington.'
But you've got it done now… I guess you've heard the masters already?
LV: 'Yeah, it's kind of going backwards and forwards a little bit at the moment but we just got the final one back, we were listening to it in the car on the way over tonight…'
RL: 'But even that needs a little bit of tweaking…'
TH: 'Do you reckon?'
RL: 'Yeah, the vocals needs to go up a bit in '….Talon''
LV: 'The thing is it's been mastered already…'
JB: 'At Abbey Road…'
LV: '….but now we've had a change of heart'
JB: 'Yeah, so it was already finished but then we kind of realised… It wasn't that it was rushed…'
LV: 'The drums weren't loud enough!'
RL: 'The guy who was mixing it, he likes the band so he said anything that needed redoing he would do it…'
[To Rob] Are you happy with the bass sound? Were you after a high end bass or a nice deep tone?
LV: 'It sounds like Dubstep!'
RL: 'I recorded it with loads of high end on it because I knew it would get pulled back in the mix like, but it's fucking thunderous, I'm so happy with it!'
JB: 'On the song 'I've Got Guestlist…', when it came on in the car I could feel my feet trembling!'
RL: 'I would say 'Bring it on Lightening Bolt' but that would be ridiculous…'
JB: 'Yeah yeah, he 'would' say that'
TH: 'They were playing tonight in Leeds…'
JB: 'Yeah, we all had tickets to go there but we wanted to come to High Wycombe SO much!
TH: 'SOOOO BAD!'
So apart from one or two tweaks you're happy with how the album's sounding…
All: 'Yeah yeah'
LV: 'It's captured what we wanted to get really.'
Last time I spoke to you you said you were aiming for about a 35/40 minute duration…
LV: 'Yeah, it's pretty much exactly 35 minutes.'
That's keeping it quite brief then…
RL: 'Yeah yeah, the majority of the album is like, 2 to 3 minute songs and then the end one is about 8 minutes which is like….'
TH: 'It's like 1 and a half minute song and then the rest of it is just riff'
RL: 'Just a massive riff…'
JB: 'It's [the album as a whole] kind of like an imprint of the sets we've been doing, you know, short and sharp…'
LV: 'But we thought we ought to finish it on something special so it's just a massive kind of stoner riff at the end really….'
You see, the only criticism I hear about Pulled Apart By Horses is that you're a one trick pony [puns always intended]…
RL: 'We are a one trick pony, but it's a fucking good trick!'
Exactly. It's like, you build up a riff and then you drop it, then you build it up again and drop it twice as hard, but I guess it's easier to criticise something once it's been done…
LV: 'I think once people have actually heard the album, because live it's more of a punch in the face, not with the intricate… you can't really hear the subtleties, but once you hear the whole album…'
TH: 'I think it's fucking boppin'…'
LV: 'Even though perhaps it's well within a specific genre pretty much I still think it's quite eclectic and I'd disagree with people saying, you know, the songs sound the same…'
RL: 'That's for other people to decide.'
JB: 'I think, especially when we were writing the new songs, there was a point where we were going, hang on a minute… this doesn't really fit in [with what we've previously done]. Obviously there are songs people haven't heard from the album, like there's a track called 'Yeah Buddy'…
LV: 'It's completely different to anything we've done…'
JB: '…and '…Talons', I think we became aware. I remember you [to Lee] saying 'we're just building it up to a big riff….'
Was that realisation because you've had time now to find your feet?
LV: 'I think it's just a matter of being happy with what you're doing, and we are very happy when we write a song and it descends into a massive riff and you just chug that out and have fun with it, but I think to keep us all happy, before anyone else, is to just write stuff that keeps it interesting. We're never gonna drastically change, but y'know…'
TH: 'Like 'Ghost Train”s a lot slower and we wanted to have something we could put in the middle of the set, to stop us from dying really!'
JB: 'I think once people have heard the album there'll definitely be some tracks that people wouldn't immediately trademark as us…'
LV: 'It's just progression really…'
Having a change of pace mid set is probably a good idea; I remember Lins [Tom's bit of crumpet, aka 'Stunt Boobs'] saying at Truck that was one of the first sets where you hadn't thrown up…
LV: 'I think you're getting used to it now eh?'
TH: 'Yeah, because we've just done the Biffy tour and we were on at like, half 7 every night, so I was getting catering but after the set in a little box! Cold!'
JB: [to Tom] 'It's always the same story though, if you eat just before the set you're gonna throw up, it's just gonna happen…'
RL: 'I think, going back to what we were saying about being a one trick pony, with respect when we were first getting together we just wanted to get a set down without faffing around, not at the detriment of not actually getting anything together, and once we had those songs we were immediately out on the road and people were booking us everywhere. We've been gigging pretty much constantly since then so we've not really had much of a chance…'
TH: 'We spent about three quarters of a year playing 5 songs I think…'
JB: 'Looking back on the time we've had between gigging in the last year and a half…'
LV: 'I'm surprised we've got a fucking album together really!'
Yeah, you're a new band so it's kind of unfair to be making too many criticisms at this point.
LV: 'But people having these criticisms, it's still cool y'know? At least people are interested…'
TH: 'I was thinking, like, when I was speaking to Sam from Blakfish he was saying like, NME reviewed their album and gave them like, one or something…'
JB: 'oh yeah…'
TH: 'But I was talking to him and saying, well I wouldn't be that bothered y'know - I'd rather get the lowest mark possible than a 5 or something mediocre. If someone really hates you…'
LV: 'You're kind of doing something right in a way!'
TH: 'Yeah, at least someone's giving you some sort of emotion, something real towards your music. Unless people are bored by it then maybe you are doing something wrong. Saying that we'll probably get a 5 in NME now…'
LV: 'Comme ci comme ça!'
RL: 'Also since recording the album and touring with Biffy, that's been huge for us so we've been coming up with new ideas and writing bits since then…'
JB: 'Have we?'
RL: 'Well, I have!'
I guess once the album's out and you've done the press run and the touring for that, you'll have time to take stock and go from there. It's a classic case…
RL: 'That it, when you're touring you kind of amerce yourself in that and concentrate on that and you give those songs as much as you can.'
LV: 'I think it's cool that we haven't started playing all the songs from the album live yet, so we can still have kind of a pretty fresh set plus we'll be gradually getting other new songs together as well.'
I remember talking to Biffy just before 'Puzzle' came out, and it's interesting because they were saying pretty much what you are now; that they had to hold back some of the tracks until the album was actually released, but once it had been they could explore the album a bit more in the set and it would give it a new lease of life. You'll be fine though, you've got nothing to worry about!
LV: 'I think, as long as we're still enjoying ourselves and what we're playing then there's no real problem.'
TH: 'We got off the Biffy tour, what, two weeks ago, and we're already buzzing about having a gig tonight'.
Two weeks must seem like a lifetime after a tour like that, how many dates was it in the end?
LV: 'It's hard to work out!'
JB: 'With all the other gigs we were playing….'
LV 'Yeah, basically all the days we had 'off' from that tour, we had a separate gig of our own so…'
JB: 'I think we only had one day actually 'off' on the whole tour…'
LV: 'And that was a travel day so we were working anyway'
RL: 'We had two gigs in one day as well in Ireland.'
LV: 'But once you gear yourself up to go on tour you're kind of ready for anything really. You're in that place in your mind where you're just, you want to play every night and, it's just weird.'
RL: 'That's the thing with having an artillery of one set of songs and playing them every night and really honing down who you are as a band, you kind of write better from that, you kind of learn who you are as a band…'
TH: 'We play so many gigs we don't practice…'
I was going to ask actually, did you find at the end of the tour the songs were noticeably tighter?
TH: 'There were only few gigs where we had real stinkers…'
LV: 'There was only one really bad one really, the rest were maybe two to three people shrugging and thinking it wasn't that great, but the one bad one wasn't really down to us…'
LV: '…so there was only one that we thought was shit and that's not too bad out of a whole tour.'
JB: 'Out of like, 20 gigs… the thing is for a few of our sets there were like, circle pits and shit, so when that happens you don't really think about mistakes and that, the first thing you remember is the good stuff. '
LV: 'If people are getting that into it at half 7 in the evening you kind of go, well, fair enough, we did what we were supposed to do.'
You had Manchester Orchestra on after you, very different type of music….
RL: 'They were such cunts as well(!)'
[All laugh] JB: 'Nah, they were really nice guys…'
LV: 'I don't think the album does their live set justice if you see what I mean…'
TH: 'Yeah, like when you're on tour with a band it's like listening to their album repeatedly, but through that it really grew on me because at first when I checked them out I couldn't really get into it that much. When I listened back to the album after the tour it sounded completely different, it didn't have the weight behind it or the heaviness.'
LV: 'I guess it must have been kind of weird for them between us and Biffy because even with Biffy's more poppier moments they're still quite heavy and epic…'
RL: 'Like us…'
JB: 'It was one of the first things Andy, their singer, pointed out to me. He was like, 'Man, I can't believe they put us in between you two!'
RL: 'We'd come off stage and they'd be like, 'We fucking hate you guys!'
TH: 'I remember the first gig we did with them in Belfast, and we'd just come off stage and saw Chris, their keyboard player, just throwing the horns at us going 'Fuck yeah!'
That's cool! I guess looking back, in ten years time when you're all bloated having released you 27th studio album or whatever, you'll look back on that tour as a real turning point?
TH: 'Yeah definitely'
LV: 'It definitely felt like the next step y'know?'
But it was in a way a make or break thing - playing gigs of that status as the first band on in whichever city…
LV: 'Oh yeah definitely. I think, I don't know if it's 'coz we're stupid, but we just didn't think about it really, we just went out…'
RL: 'Do exactly what we do…'
TH: 'I think that naivety really helped!'
JB: 'I kind of saw it as a challenge, opening for a band of that size in front of loads of people who probably haven't heard of you, it was great! We just had to try and win them over somehow.'
TH: 'I think a lot of the time we just scared them into liking us!'
RL: 'Like we mentioned earlier about a few similarities between us and Biffy, I could definitely understand that with regard to their earlier career…'
LV: 'Also there were a lot of new Biffy fans there who weren't digging the screaming at all!'
In all honesty, it almost got to the point where I wouldn't wear a Biffy hoodie out anymore because you'd get 15/16 year old girls coming up to you, which some people might not see as a bad thing, and you'd say have you hear 'The Vertigo of Bliss', have you heard this song or that song and you'd just get blank looks or whatever. That said, if you like a band who gives a fuck what other people think…
JB: 'Right on!'
RL: 'I think with the similarities between us now and Biffy's earlier career, without trying to sound arrogant, but it seemed like they really picked up on that on tour and maybe it brought back a bit of nostalgia…'
LV: 'Yeah, like now they've got their feet firmly on the ground but you could tell they were like, ah, we were you once! '
Although, say what you like about Biffy but they've fucking worked to get there…
TH: 'Yeah, definitely'
RL: 'Aside from the music you can see it in them as people because there's just no ego there at all…'
LV: 'The way they've gone about everything, they're still in it for the right reasons even though they're one of the biggest bands in the UK now.'
JB: 'But yeah, to kind of sum up the tour, to play to a load of Biffy Clyro fans and to see them get into what we're doing is fucking amazing and to see a band go so far and not let it go to their heads is also fucking amazing for us.'
RL: 'From doing that tour as well you really understand how important they are as a live band - I bought 'Vertigo of Bliss' when it came out and used to listen to that album constantly, I still do, but the way it kind of started getting pumped through the media, I kind of lost interest really. It's not that I disliked them or anything, I just lost interest a bit. But then going on tour with them and seeing them live I was just completely transfixed again, it was great.'
TH: 'I watched the whole of their set for at least half the tour…'
JB: 'Yeah, it just didn't get boring.'
LV: 'Plus it was quite funny just watching the crowd at the front worshiping them!'
Ha! I've been that guy way too often!
[All laugh] RL: 'Well yeah, so were we, but also from watching and being around a band on tour you learn a lot from them about how they operate on tour. Just watching Simon sometimes, he's totally lost in what he's doing. It's like some kind of meditative state, like that's where they belong; on stage, and it's just really inspiring to see that.'
[as I embark on a story of what Biffy mean to me, the next 10 minutes are filled with the realisation that Lee grew up 5 minutes from my own home town. Cue plenty of, did you know such and such, have you played at etc etc, until we get back on course…]
So then, out of 10, the Biffy tour…
JB: 'Definite 10'
LV: 'I'd say 9 - it wasn't a perfect tour'
RL: 'Not necessarily on our playing or anything, but as an experience…'
TH: 'I'd give it a 5.'
[All laugh] LV: 'No, it was really good. I don't want to say it was the best thing that's ever happened to us but for a tour of that size, we couldn't have asked to have been treated any better really.'
TH: 'Yeah, it's just one of those ones, like you said, that we'll look back on and say it was totally rad.'
JB: 'I just think, it was a really big impact coming back off it, back to my room, was just such a huge downer.'
Did you feel more comfortable playing to like, thousands, than some of the smaller shows you've done?
JB: 'Yeah I'd say so. It's easier than playing small gigs.'
RL: 'We played at the Brudenell on Halloween and I felt more nervous doing that than at any time on the Biffy tour.'
JB: 'And that was like, 250 people…'
LV: 'I think it kind of shows playing relatively smaller shows is also good for us. Like Nottingham Rock City was probably the best show we did even though it was one of the smallest dates on the tour.'
Great venue though…
TH: 'Bloody great!'
RL: 'I think what was great about it all was it gave us a taster of what we can do if we work really hard at it…'
LV: 'Just knowing we can come across on a stage that size is good enough, do you know what I mean? Like, we could've just stacked it and failed fucking badly.'
JB: 'Like at Glasgow Barrowlands, backstage theres all kind of plaster painted stars around the roof and ceiling and you see where people have pulled them off the wall, and they're kind of like tacky 70s decorations so you've got a bit of history behind them, and Lee was..
LV: 'They wouldn't let me have one!'
RL: 'Yeah, Lee was like, 'Can I have a star?''
LV: '…and Adam [Johnston, 3rd brother and Biffy's drum technician] was like, 'No, you can only have one when you headline the Barrowlands…. don't worry, it'll happen!' and it was like, 'Awwww, thanks!''
RL: 'Ha, he came up to me afterwards and said 'not really, the cleaners just have them(!)'
2009 was a good year then, but 2010 might be the one…
TH: 'I just want to go to the US so badly, do a tour out there…'
LV: 'That'd be great. Also Europe a lot more, maybe Australia…'
JB: 'Hopefully Europe after the album tour, but then it's festival season again…'
TH: 'What happens with festivals? If you've already played do they definitely get you back for the next year or whatever?'
JB: 'I guess you can if you're higher up, like a lot higher up than we were…'
LV: 'I guess it's just down to how well the album's perceived or how well your band's doing at that time.'
I'd be pretty surprised if you weren't doing Reading and Leeds again next year…
TH: 'I'm not paying for it!'
How did you feel the set went? I was at Reading, not Leeds…
LV: 'Reading was definitely better than Leeds.'
RL: 'We played Leeds twice as well, on the Friday then on the Sunday…'
JB: 'Actually, Sunday was fucking good.'
RL: 'But we played at the same time as Kings of Leon, and Faith No More were playing at the same time, but we still had a reasonably full tent so that was cool.'
JB: 'It was a nice surprise!'
Just to close - do you have an idea of who'll you'll put the album out through? BSM?
JB: 'Noooooo, not BSM.'
TH: 'People think we're tied to them because we had the single out with them y'know?'
LV: 'Yeah, they're a really great label though, really good group of guys and they've been a huge help. I think Kev quite enjoys finding the newer, 'breaking' bands and nurturing them a bit so we're really grateful for that.'
TH: 'Yeah definitely. I think we've had a few offers but it's all with management at the moment, we don't know who just now.'
LV: 'Either way, it'll be a good label!'
I don't doubt that, you'll need decent distribution across the UK, possibly Europe?
LV: 'Yeah. We just want to find a label with the same ideals as us, looking to go in the same direction like.'
TH: 'You've got to have your wits about you. Sometimes you'll think people are real nice then you'll realise in a day or two that they're just complete fucking dicks!'
JB: 'It's just good to have a decent relationship, not just with your label, but with the management and your agent, your chauffeur and your fluffier!'
RL: 'But I think we're lucky as a band because where we've got so far has all been down to other people's enthusiasm in the band and they've all been doing it for free just because they believe in us or whatever, so we want that with the label who run the album, just that kind of honest enthusiasm really.'
By this point in the evening we've all been jibbering on for a good while now, and it's suddenly brought to everyone's attention that the band are due on stage in a matter of minutes, so we temporarily part ways and I scout out a good spot to catch the set. It's blistering, easily one of the best I've witnessed of theirs (despite Lee splitting the snare skin halfway through). The songs are pitch perfect, even at breakneck speed and after a 2 week lull. The aforementioned 8 minute closer is even snuck in toward the end, albeit condensed into a more manageable 5 minutes. However the 'stoner riff', on first impression, is something pretty special indeed. Hearing it live tonight has only whetted my appetite for the album; I'm looking forward to collapsing into a comfortable spot with a decent smoke and my headphones pressed tight against my ears, then maybe remixing it into a 25 minute saga.
In retrospect, it was exciting talking to a young band who are genuinely enjoying what they're doing, and who are experiencing things through new eyes, all the while humbly taking it on board. The way they dealt with the suggested criticism was admirable, I had the utmost respect for the way they composed themselves and the honesty of the answers they gave. As I said atop this article, the core of Pulled Apart By Horses' music is big fun, and as long as the band continue to maintain that, they can't go far wrong eh?
Pulled Apart By Horses have just released a live EP on April 17th, recorded during an intimate show at the Packhorse in Leeds on 7th March. It's available through all major outlets and a limited numer of 12" pressings are still available.
Pulled Apart By Horses have given us two free downloads from their Live EP released for Record Store day this past Saturday:
Pulled Apart by Horses- E=MC Hammer- MP3 DOWNLOAD
Pulled Apart By Horses- Crapsons- MP3 DOWNLOAD