Our music feature spotlight this month lands on The Horrors, those goth / garage rockers who, if nothing else, have great song titles and great hair. This also marks our second feature from the swell guys at Good Blades - check em out and say 'hi!', people!
by Jack Parsons / Good Blades
Monochrome and Monotone
The whole experience of seeing the Horrors was like being part of a piece of early cinema; it was all in black and white. The band were clad in darkness, except for subtle touches such as their pale faces, bright white cigarettes, one of them in cream shoes and the occasional bleached streak of blonde in their dark hair.
Later on at the gig, I was further lost in a sea of monochrome, the audience were made up of stripy emo jumpers, mascara-wearing punks and indie kids who had ‘gothed up’ and wore sombre tones for the evening. Judging from the way lead singer, Faris Rotter, convulsed on stage, hung from the rafters and permanently held out at gnarled claw as he sang, the movie could have been Nosferatu or Frankenstein. This black and white also captures how absolutely polarised music lovers are about The Horrors.
Critics have called them everything from the saviours of modern music to an abomination of rock history. At shows, members of the audience not feeling The Horrors vibe have been known to go so far as to lunge at band members, resulting in rioting as die-hard fans have jumped into protect their heroes. Fellow musicians have also voiced their opinions about the band, Jarvis Cocker, The View and fellow dark indie act Blood Red Shoes have all come out in support of The Horrors (though Steven from BRS once told me he wasn’t “sure how much good it will do the band getting the amount of hype they do”). However, The Automatic have stated The Horrors “just have big hair” and bad blood was reported between The Horrors and The Fratellis last year on the NME Rock’n’roll Tour. This in mind, I was disappointed by how ordinary they were.
In fairness, in true rock’n’roll style, the five-piece arrived late at the Cardiff Barfly where they were supposed to meet me and they would also be playing that night. However, when they finally arrived their reaction to the complimentary buffet had been to excitedly declare “ooo crisps!” and (as far as I saw) completely ignore the free beer – not so rock’n’roll. They all then quietly dispersed, a few settling down to watch Family Guy, which was being projected onto the slanted ceiling by the PA system.
“Excuse me, do you have a WiFi connection?” organist and part-time DJ Spider Webb asked me, mistaking me for a sound engineer. The real engineer told him they did and, with a swoosh of his black cape, retired to the Horrors dressing room where he tapped away at his bone-white Apple laptop. He was soon joined by Coffin Joe, the drummer, who broke out his own laptop. Eventually, even the lead singer slumped away to a corner and logged onto his laptop – also Apple – presumably they were all given them as gifts for appearing in the iTunes advert that can be viewed on their MySpace.
I was left with guitarist Joshua Von Grimm and bassist Tomethy Furse ( from here on in, known as Josh and Tom). I began by asking them about the alleged feuds with the Automatic and The Fratellis.
Tom: “I think [The Automatic] just said some things they ended up regretting. They told us they regretted it […] That’s something you learn actually, not to mouth off to the press because it always comes back at you.”
“Never ever spoken to anyone from The Fratellis, I may have said hi to the drummer.”
Josh: “The only one we had problems with was with their tour manager. We just didn’t like him –”
Me: “- Just gets blown out of proportion.”
Tom: “Yeah, it was nothing particularly interesting.”
Josh: “You see it in magazines, they will compare two bands and say one band is better than the other, next week they will say the other band is a little bit better, and hope the have a row. Its ridiculous and so easy to see-through.”
Tom: “It’s a waste of time to just be slagging off people; we’ve actually got too much to do. If you are in a band you should have something more to say than just slag a band off.”
On the subject of rioting, the boys were quite humble and didn’t consider it related to themselves personally,
Tom: “It is usually quite chaotic, were not just talking about violent things, everyone always seems pretty happy, but it is the nature of the music. It goes hand in hand with it really.”
Josh: “We seem to enrage certain members of the audience.”
Me: “I was going to say, is it a bit more the audience or you guys?”
Josh: “It follows us. We’ve never started anything like that. Ever.”
However, they revealed that in their home, Southend-on-Sea, they were spat at on the street, but that was “pretty much the same reaction the Southend will give to anyone who looks different to them,” explained Josh. The guitarist believed that a lot of this aggression stemmed from the fact “there is nothing actually to do in the South End”. Personally, I think it was The Horrors wealthy origins – both Tom and Faris attended the expensive public school Rugby – and their middle class accents that caused aggression from Southend locals, “people with nothing to do with their lives” as Tom put it. I imagine this may be why The Horrors withdrew into the isolated worlds of their laptops, and more importantly, music.
The Horrors have a wide knowledge of a range of music from different genres, Tom citing the soundtrack to a Sixties porno as the first album he ever bought, “well, a series of Sixties educational porn films…” he explained, “soft porn… for educational purposes”. Josh also builds his own pedals and, at the start of the interview, gave me detailed instructions on how I could convert my Dictaphone into a tiny amp. Also, when Tom flippantly described The Horrors music style as drill’n’bass, Josh cut in explaining drill’n’bass was, in fact, a real (albeit, obscure) genre and gave a long, detailed description of the genre’s history, sound and bands that played it. This would have been particularly impressive if throughout he hadn’t struggled to work a lighter and after his monologue had it lit for him, with great ease, by somebody else.
The Horrors cited their favourite bands all as varied, “There are lots of bands from every genre. I don’t really have a favourite; I listen to lots of things and genres,” said Tom. He added he discovered many more at the SXSW festival in Austen, Texas, where they played recently. They played on the emo stage, along with Christian metalcore band, The Devil Wears Prada, “a really bad band”. This promoted the question,
Me: “So would you call yourselves emo then?”
Tom: “Absolutely not!”
Tom: “I think emo is a fucking disgrace! Its thirty-year-old men winging about horrible, 16-year-old girls’ problems! It’s a phase… yeah, it’s horrible!”
In fact, before I asked the question, it was becoming increasingly obvious to me, as I analysed and decoded Josh and Tom’s clothes that The Horrors were a bricolage of musical taste, drawing from punk, goth, metal and indie to name but at few.
Just as my opinion of The Horrors was on the up turn, the interview was over and I left The Horrors alone to prepare for their gig. The show itself began at 7.30PM, open to everyone over 16, with a support band that looked like Horror-clones (as did the audience). The Horrors themselves did not perform until nine o’clock. They played in near darkness with frantically flashing lights, which reflected the fast pace and fury of their music. Lead singer, Faris, jumped into the fanatical audience and crowd-surfed through many songs and many people grabbed his thick, black mane, which didn’t seem to bother him. The legendary rioting of Horror gigs didn’t break out; perhaps because it didn’t have time too, the set was over in around 30 minutes. I walked over to the sound engineer I’d been mistaken for earlier, “is that it?” I asked.
“Yep, that was it,” he replied.
The whole experience of seeing the Horrors was like being part of a piece of early cinema; the footage was very short and participants were prone to overacting. The Horrors weren’t as impressive when viewed with the naked eye; the media over hyped them, positively and negatively, portraying them as immortal rock demons. The reality was less so.