Arguably the most consistent UK guitar band of the past decade. The Horrors release their new album V this week (Friday 22nd September) and DiS managed to have a chat with frontman Faris Badwan about the record and where the band see themselves in the future.
DiS: Your album comes out this week. Is it everything you'd hoped it would be?
Faris Badwan: I'm really happy with the record.
It seems like a lifetime ago since Luminous came out. When did the writing and recording process for V start?
It doesn't feel that long. I'd say it possibly took as long to make as Luminous. We started on this record pretty much straight after we finished the last one. We spent a long time touring Luminous but we set to work on this album as soon as we could. We finished it before last Christmas then went back in the studio to work on more new stuff.
Which were the first songs to emerge from the sessions?
We started working with Paul Epworth in his studio The Church and wrote 'Weighed Down' pretty much straight away. It was one of those songs that came together almost fully formed. There's always a song on each record that does that. Turns up out of nowhere. We had that on Skying with 'Still Life'. The melody and lyrics were written in a day and on Luminous a similar thing happened with 'I See You' which also came along like that.
Both of those songs featured in the band's live sets a while before their respective albums came out whereas none of the ones on V have until recently. Was it a conscious decision to not play them live that early this time round?
We haven't really had that many opportunities to play the new songs live before the record comes out. We've probably played more songs off this one before people have heard the album than we did with any of the others. I think we've included four songs off V in the set so far. We've always tried to play new songs before a record's been released but never before it's actually been finished.
V is a very diverse collection of songs both sonically and lyrically. Was it the band's intention for the album to sound like that or did it just happen organically?
It happened organically. That's always been the way we've worked, to be honest. We've never really been able to sit down and decide how a record's going to sound before we work on it. We're not really capable of that as a band. It's just not the way we work. We recognized quite early on what was good about the band was when we did things spontaneously. I think we've remembered that more with this record than we have in recent years. We forgot that a little in the way we were working. The biggest change with this record... The thing that informed the change the most was making sure the songs were spontaneous and had a bit of danger. Even in the more euphoric moments, I think there's still a level of intensity and danger that's really important to the band.
'Something To Remember Me By' closes the album and is also in many ways the euphoric centre point of V in the same way 'Sea Within A Sea' was to Primary Colours and 'Moving Further Away' to Skying. Was that song written early on?
It was the last song we recorded. We'd actually forgotten about it! It was originally a techno demo Tom (Furse) and Rhys (Webb) worked on. They sent it to me and I put a vocal down on it at home. It came together quite quickly but then we didn't really work on it as a band for a long time. We kind of put aside and forgot about it. Right at the end of the recording process, I was talking to Paul and we thought the record needed one more song. I was going through all our old demos and I just played that, not really thinking about it and Paul said this has to be on the record. Then it became a single yet we hadn't really thought about it like that before. It was lucky because it could easily have not been on the album.
Were there any more songs left over which didn't make the album?
There were tonnes. We easily had two records worth.
Will any of them be revisited in the future?
Yeah. There's one song called 'Fire Escape' that will come out somewhere, maybe as an extra track or something. We have a few songs I hope we can finish because I really love some of the ones that didn't make it onto this record.
'Machine' was perhaps a less obvious choice of single. What made you put that out first?
We didn't consciously make the record go in any particular direction. We wanted the first thing people heard off the new record to be dramatic from what they'd heard before. I think we'd reached the natural end of a period in time making songs with a certain sound so we just wanted to step away from that.
Will all of the songs off V eventually appear in the live set?
Yeah, I would think most of them will. Playing 'Something To Remember Me By' live was really strange. Even before we released it as a single it was quite apparent how strongly that song connected with people. We played it in Paris at this festival called FNAC and people who'd never heard the song before reacted to it. People were dancing to it in a way you'd expect them to from a song they knew already yet they'd never heard it before which was cool.
Will the live set change dramatically to incorporate the new songs?
I don't know. We always change our set every time we play. Sometimes we don't decide what to play until the day of the show. We change things around all the time. I don't really like discussing the live set too much or how we're going to present it. What's more important is the energy of the crowd at each show. Every one is different and I think that's what I most enjoy about performing live. The unexpected. Never really knowing what's going to happen from show to show. I think all the best bands can sound completely terrible or really brilliant on any particular day and that kind of danger is so important for the band. We've been on tour bands who use a backing track and every song sounds the same. For me, that's not what playing music is about.
Are there any songs off your previous records that might not feature as much for the foreseeable future?
I think we'll always play songs from all of our records. We haven't played anything off our first record for a while but I think some of those will reappear at some point. When we play live we try to put together a set that shows the whole world of the band. It's not just about focusing on one record in particular. It's about making a set that builds in the right way.
The visual element from the sleeve artwork to the promotional videos and live performances has always been an integral part of The Horrors make-up. Is it something you consider to be as important as the music?
It's something we've always thought about. Music is so visual. Even when we're in a studio and communicating ideas to each other it's a lot more visual then just technical theory. We always talk about things in terms of how it makes a person feel or connects with them on a certain level. The artwork is so central to how we give the record to people. It's an object. It's like an artifact. It's something you want to hold in your hands. That's the whole reason we got into collecting records in the first place. It's about having this particular object.
You've always championed new bands. Are you still as excited by new music as you were when the band first started?
There was a period for about four years where there weren't as many new bands happening that I felt excited about. Then when I started my label - I have a small label that I do for fun and release records every now and then when I feel like it - I went and saw a lot more new bands than I had done before. It felt like a lot more was happening around that time. Even more so right now. It's always been an important thing to the band. Sharing music is the reason we all met and became friends. We've always wanted to share the records we discover with people who follow us.
Are there any new bands you'd recommend Drowned In Sound and its readers should check out?
I produced a single for a band called HMLTD which came out at the end of last year. I think they're really brilliant. There's this other band I'm working with called Let's Eat Grandma who are two teenage girls from Norwich. They're really talented and I really like them.
What advice would you give to new bands who are just starting out?
You shouldn't be taking advice when you start. It's not a job even though I guess it can be. In some ways, people think about things too much. You should just be having fun and not thinking about it when you first start making music. That's the whole reason you start it and it's really easy to lose sight of that. I think it's so important for bands to just make music for the sake of making it rather than thinking about what's the right thing to do career-wise. You should just be having fun.
It's ten years since your debut Strange House came out and we're sat here discussing your fifth album V. Do you see yourselves still being around ten years from now?
I'll always make music. I think individually we'll always make music. I think it's so central to who we are as people and I can't ever see that changing. I feel the whole band has been re-energized by this record. It feels like the beginning of a new chapter.
V is out on Friday 22 September. For more information on The Horrors, please visit their official website.