Since the release of second album Primary Colours in 2009, The Horrors have established themselves as one of the UK's most adventurous bands. Third record Skying, released two years later, represented another giant leap forwards while their live performances have also become highly revered by both punters and contemporaries alike. So much in fact that they've now graduated to being a bonafide headline act at various UK festivals.
With a highly anticipated and as-yet untitled fourth album due in the early part of 2014, next year promises to be their most successful to date. Currently in the picturesque surroundings of Brecon Beacons, The Horrors will take to the Mountain Stage at Green Man festival shortly. Beforehand, DiS holds court with guitarist Josh Hayward where discussions turn to the band's past, present and future, comparisons with Kevin Shields and My Bloody Valentine along with their pivotal role in the growing UK psych scene.
DiS: I saw you guys play at Y Not Festival 2 weeks ago. It must have been quite surreal with the site being evacuated beforehand?
Josh Hayward: It was one of these weird sheds wasn't it? Like a shipping container or something and we were in one of them. Someone came up to us and said, "Don't leave, because the floor's metal and you might get struck by lightning!" So I just darted for the bar because it was made of wood. I just bunkered down in there thinking are we actually going to end up playing? I was just really happy the crowd managed to stick around when we did finally play. It worked alright in the end.
DiS: You've reached the level now where you are headlining festivals. Was that something you thought would happen five years ago before Primary Colours came out?
Josh Hayward: I literally don't think that far ahead in the future. We obviously wanted to play as many festivals as we could, but never really thought about where we'd end up on the bill. It's not something we've ever been geared towards as a band. I imagine some people do that. Writing songs specifically for festivals. That's not the way we've done it, ever.
DiS: It feels like an organic progression all the way through from Strange House onto Primary Colours then Skying and your as-yet untitled fourth record. It was due to come out later this year but has now been put back to the early part of 2014. Are all the songs ready for the new record?
Josh Hayward: We had the album ready pretty much but didn't finish mixing it, and if you miss a day it gets put back six months. Partly because we're doing lots of festivals, and partly because when they're out of the way it's nearly Christmas and then the music industry has the whole of January off for some reason. If I had my way I'd ship everyone in the UK off to Australia for Christmas and New Year. Somewhere hot. We'd be a lot happier then. Unfortunately this doesn't happen. But yeah, now we've got some more time. So given more time, and our itchy fingerness, we'll probably carry on writing more songs for it. We had quite a long time away from it so there's no harm in going back in and looking over the album again to see if there's anything we could do differently. The album was always very us at that moment. Now it's been put back there's a good chance we will end up wanting to change it because we're constantly having new ideas and trying different things.
DiS: Had you agreed on the final tracklisting?
Josh Hayward: We'd agreed on the final tracklisting if the album was going to be released in September. Now it's not everything's up in the air again. It's all quite exciting really.
DiS: Most bands would just stick with what they already have and not think about writing more songs.
Josh Hayward: Go on holiday for six months. We can't go on tour because we haven't got a new record to promote so we're in the studio because we have our own studio anyway. We go there every day and while we're there, we will end up writing songs because it just happens that way.
DiS: Have you got any ideas for the album's title yet?
Josh Hayward: No, we always do that right at the end. We do that to avoid making a concept record.
DiS: And a new projected release date?
Josh Hayward: I reckon it should be out around February or March next year. We're talking about that now, which is something else we'll all have to agree on.
DiS: Is every decision a five-way democracy within the band?
Josh Hayward: We're more like the United Nations! Instead of having a voting system everyone's got a veto, so it does take a while for us to get moving on stuff. It does mean by the time it gets there everyone agrees on it wholeheartedly as opposed to three members of the band thinking it's alright and two thinking it isn't. It's a quite mad process and a really weird way of working. No other bands do that as far as I'm aware. Most have a real leader or spokesperson. But for us working this way makes it a lot more interesting. It's better for quality control.
DiS: How would you describe the sound of the record? Or even some of the newer songs you've been working on?
Josh Hayward: It's got bigger arms.
DiS: Is 'Elixir Spring' a fair representation of what the new record might sound like?
Josh Hayward: Yes and no really. It's very tricky. We've never really written a one-faced record. They always have themes running through them but at the same time they're very spread out. It's not just full of ten-minute songs if that's what you're thinking? It's quite compulsive that track...
DiS: If I go back to the first songs I heard off your last two records before the albums came out, 'Sea Within A Sea' and 'Endless Blue'. Neither were really representative of Primary Colours or Skying as a whole.
Josh Hayward: Absolutely. I wouldn't say the rest of Skying sounds anything like 'Endless Blue'. There's stuff in that song that's in all of the record but at the same time it kind of stands alone as well.
DiS: Will there be a single in between now and the album's release?
Josh Hayward: We'll definitely put a single out, although whether that's before or around the same time as the album is yet to be decided. It's hard nowadays because everything gets leaked, and that's why I'm not really too interested in playing much of the new record live at present. I don't want it to be on the internet and people to think they've already got the record when it's actually a recording on someone's camera. If we wanted the record to sound like that we would have recorded it on a camera phone and just put it out like that. That's not how we want our music to be presented. I've heard of bands refusing to play any new songs at all until the record's out. They'll just fill their set playing covers if they have to. I can see their point. It loses the magic. Maybe we should put them both out at the same time? The album and a collection of camera phone recordings off You Tube. I'm kind of more up for that idea!
DiS: The UK's psych rock scene has grown over the past few years, arguably in the wake of Primary Colours. Would you agree that The Horrors have played quite an influential role in that scene's overall development? Even to the point of some artists potentially crossing over to the mainstream.
Josh Hayward: But will it though? Become mainstream. If you look at what mainstream music is now it just has to be so safe. Compare what's considered mainstream now to even the late 1990s and it's so predictable. It would be great if there was some kind of sea change where everyone's listening tastes shifted to something more leftfield. But it's probably more likely we'll end up with an influx of even more Eurodance instead! But going back to the original question, I'm not big-headed enough to think it was us that influenced those scenes in that way.
DiS: There must have been a lot of people making music around the time Primary Colours came out that stopped what they were doing and changed their approach to songwriting and recording? I know of bands that formed because of that record.
Josh Hayward: I don't want to dwell on it too much but if we've managed to show people there's a different way of doing things I'm very happy we've managed to do that. I don't know... I guess we just don't want to talk about ourselves in that way. I'm not one for blowing my own trumpet. I just want to be happy with the records we make.
DiS: Do you read much into what the press are saying about your band? It's gone from being indifferent in the early days to almost universal acclaim now for instance.
Josh Hayward: I've never really been all that bothered. I remember when we put Strange House out and the press all jumped on it. But then when we put Primary Colours out they said everyone hated the first one because they wanted something to talk about. I remember them calling us nothing more than a buzz band on the first one so I don't really read much into it. I basically just tend to ignore it. It doesn't really seem to make sense. Either that or we rewrite history a lot! Which would be quite bizarre.
DiS: You don't play any songs from Strange House any more and haven't done for quite some time. Would it be fair to say you've disowned that record now?
Josh Hayward: Not really. It's just our heads are no longer in that space so we don't play any songs off it. We're not going out to play greatest hits sets. It's about where we are as a band now not where we were back then. I think we will revisit some of those songs one day. But at the same time, if you're not feeling anything for certain songs it will affect that particular performance. They're kind of opposed to what we're about now really.
DiS: The last time I saw you play any of those songs would be on the Primary Colours tour in Nottingham the night before My Bloody Valentine's ATP weekend four years ago. You came back out for an encore and played three songs off Strange House along with a Suicide cover. Was that your way of drawing a line - albeit temporarily - under that era?
Josh Hayward: Not really. It probably wasn't meant to happen in the first place. I think we just went off after the main set and decided to go back on and do those four songs. We're not into this idea of shedding your past. It's more a constant evolution with us, which is probably the most overused phrase bandied around within the record industry. I need to think of a better one that's not "development!" There are some songs that we always seem to play and have just stayed there since Primary Colours and beyond. I don't know, we'll find out what stays and what goes when the new record comes out because I think the set will consist mainly of that. I'm incredibly happy with the new record as it stands already. I think it will be everyone's favourite one. I don't think there'll be any debate over it. I'm confident about that.
DiS: In terms of producing the new record, I've read that you're pretty much doing everything yourselves?
Josh Hayward: We've got Craig Silvey on board again who worked with us on the last two records. He's mixing it for us. Geoff (Barrow) brought him in on Primary Colours. Honestly, he's a dude. He knows what you're trying to do and how to get there. Otherwise, we've been doing everything else ourselves. Which is basically write the songs in the studio then go and record them, argue about how they should sound. This record - more than the last one - we've started playing live a lot more, so we pretty much knew from the first demo how we wanted it to sound. We just have to work towards fulfilling that.
DiS: Going back to what you said about playing mainly the new record when it comes out, does that mean quite a lot of the Primary Colours and Skying may also end up being discarded? If so, which songs in particular would you not miss having to play live?
Josh Hayward: A few of them. I don't really want to give too much away. OK, a lot of them actually! It depends. If a song works with the rest of the set and makes sense to us then we'll play it. What would we never play again? I don't know at the moment. We've never thought about writing songs to replace old ones. It's not as if we go, "Oh, we're not really into this song any more so we need to write a new one that does the same job," if you know what I mean? We're not that workmanlike about it.
DiS: You could say that 'Moving Further Away' was a natural successor to 'Sea Within A Sea' in terms of closing your live set.
Josh Hayward: It wasn't planned that way. 'Moving Further Away' just seems like a natural closer in the live set we're doing now. It was never intended as a replacement for 'Sea Within A Sea' and it will be the same with the new record. It would be quite foolish to play for forty minutes and only do three songs, although I am quite up for the idea! Actually, we could probably do it on the next tour.
DiS: You've also been compared to a lot of shoegaze bands since Primary Colours. People like My Bloody Valentine for instance. What do you make of those kind of comparisons?
Josh Hayward: I don't really like shoegaze that much. I'm a massive My Bloody Valentine fan. I think they're amazing, but I never really got into Ride or bands like that. A lot of those effects pedal bands just sound the same. I don't know what it is about them but I never really got into it properly. I respect people like the Cocteau Twins and caned their records for about two months but never really got into them even though the production is incredible. So in a way, I don't think we are like a new shoegaze band. In fact, who are the new shoegaze bands? Who would you put in that category?
DiS: A Place To Bury Strangers, The Lost Rivers, Ringo Deathstarr...
Josh Hayward: I'd say A Place To Bury Strangers are more of a punk band. I don't think they're very shoegazey at all. To me they have more in common with Big Black or Shellac. Whenever I've seen them live it's felt like being smashed round the face repeatedly! It's a more visceral take on punk rather than shoegaze. Let's time I saw them it pushed me over. I was literally watching them and just fell over. It was amazing! That's why My Bloody Valentine are so good. When you listen to Loveless there's a force that is unparalleled. I've not actually seen a live band produce such a powerful thing.
DiS: People have compared you to Kevin Shields. How do you feel about that?
Josh Hayward: I stole one of his tricks. But yeah, I think that's valid. It's not like we're Ringo Deathstarr who actually are just My Bloody Valentine. They're recreating a moment which is perfectly valid and nice to listen to, but that's not what we're about. I don't know how rewarding that is because you can get to the point where you've just recreated something and then... I dunno, it's difficult really. Would you accuse ELO of just trying to recreate The Beatles for example? No one would yet that overture song apart, it's obviously quite similar. It will be interesting to see where Ringo Deathstarr go next. Once you've done something and gone, "Fuck! That's amazing!" you quickly get bored of that and want to try something different.
DiS: For me, two real innovators from the whole shoegaze phenomenon are Sigur Ros and Mogwai, simply because they did put their own stamp on it and took it in a completely different direction.
Josh Hayward: Definitely, and Godspeed! You Black Emperor as well. Explosions In The Sky too. To me they all have more in common with My Bloody Valentine than Ride or Slowdive. For me certain types of dance music have more in common with My Bloody Valentine than any of those bands as well. It's far more affecting.
DiS: Have you listened to mbv? If so, what are your thoughts on the record?
Josh Hayward: I got it on the day it came out. Unfortunately it was my girlfriend's birthday. We went out, and I got everyone to come back and listen to it twice in a row really loud. It's incredible. I don't understand people that ask whether it was worth waiting twenty years for. Of course it fucking is! I would have waited my whole life to listen to Loveless it's that good. The new record isn't going to sound like the first time you heard Loveless. No record does. I guess that's something I'll chase in the future. Having something sound like the first time you heard a really great record. That's quite an unparalleled feeling. Your eyes being opened to a whole new world. Like the first time I heard a Sonic Youth record. It totally blew my mind. I'd never heard guitars like that before.
DiS: It's quite possible there's a younger generation now that feels the same way about the first time they heard Primary Colours or Skying.
Josh Hayward: If there is then that's a truly tremendous thing.
DiS: Will you be sticking around for the weekend? Are there any other bands you want to see?
Josh Hayward: I'd really liked to have seen Low but we arrived onsite just after they'd finished playing. I think Tom (Cowan) is sticking around but the rest of us are going back home tonight. We just arrived straight from a show in Portugal and then we're playing a show in Switzerland next week so it will be good to go home for a couple of days. Plus, I'm also building a couple of new toys at the minute. I've created something so amazing that I really want to go back to it.
DiS: A new studio?
Josh Hayward: Similar, but this thing is actually tourable. I've managed to compact it. It sounds fucking crazy! I'm always searching for something which sounds like blurred vision. That is my ultimate goal. It has to completely confuse you. I played it to my friend the other day and he said he had no idea what was going on. But not like it was just noise, more in the way his brain couldn't work out what was happening. So I was like, "Yes!"
DiS: Is this something you're planning to use yourself or will it be part of The Horrors sound going forwards?
Josh Hayward: I'll use it for The Horrors.
DiS: Have the other four band members heard it? What do they think?
Josh Hayward: When it finally works they'll be very impressed. Sonic terrorism. That actually is what A Place To Bury Strangers are come to think of it.
DiS: Do you still see yourselves as part of the London scene or do you consider what you're doing to be quite separate from all that?
Josh Hayward: Anyone within a scene wants to see themselves as being completely separate from it. A lot of the London scene are just our mates and that's pretty much where it ends. There aren't many real similarities. Are Factory Floor part of that scene? They're our mates and we've been on tour with them. We all have records in common that we like but none of us are just trying to recreate something. No one in our group of friends is. That's just boring.
For more information on The Horrors visit their official website.