On the 6th of February Hold Your Horse Is played a show at the Old Blue Last in Shoreditch to mark the re-release of their debut album on cassette. We sat down with the band for a chat.
Chris Rouse: Hi I’m Chris, I play drums.
Robin Pearson: Yeah, I’m Robin. I play the guitar and sing.
James Penny: I play bass.
[laughs] You don’t have a name?
JP: I’m James.
The album re-release is tonight and you’re releasing it through Feliciano. How did that come about?
CR: We’ve known Sam Smith (Feliciano) for a long time and he’d just started a semi-record label/tape club. He asked us and a load of other bands if we wanted to put something out on tape and we were totally into that.
RP: He used to promote gigs which is how I know him. He used to put us on in Kingston. He used to work in Greggs and he would show up with everything you could want from Greggs [laughs]
JP: I forgot about that!
RP: Bags and bags and bags of pastries and cakes and sandwiches. We were like “this guy’s cool!” and now he has the Feliciano record label.
I had seen the name about but I didn’t make the connection. I was just like “the guy is named after a pub; cool!”
RP: Good pub.
JP: New to me.
You need to go. There’s one in Holborn.
RP: Yeah there’s loads about. There will be one right near your workplace, I guarantee it.
JP: I thought it was pronounced “Feliciano” [laughs]
I want to talk about cassettes and how they’ve become popular in the last few years. Loads of bands are putting out music on cassette. Is it romantic to put out music on a dead format?
CR: Yeah totally.
JP: Tapes are a really shit format [laughs]
RP: It’s a shit format but it’s one we grew up with. I’ve got a tape tattoo on my back. I think that shit is dope.
CR: I used to spend loads of time recording stuff off the radio; sitting around listening to the radio for 4 hours just to hear a repeat of a song so I could record it.
Did you to try and cut it so you didn’t get the DJs speaking on it?
CR: Yeah exactly!
RP: I think it’s the same for a lot of bands. The first band I was ever in with my mates from school, our first recording we ever did was on a tape recorded on a shitty little Panasonic tape deck thing. We recorded a song and I remember we had this long running joke through school because on that recording that we gave to someone who was in charge of doing the carnival in our town [laughs] We gave him this tape and I don’t think we even listed to it. When he listened to it you couldn’t hear anything else when our drummer started playing the ride [laughs] and he was like “that bloody ride cymbal!” So its pretty cool we’ve got the album on tape. We haven’t heard it yet.
CR: I used to have an 8 track recorder on my desk.
RP: I had a Tascam 4 track recorder.
CR: That’s what I had! The same thing!
JP: What’s really interesting about this tape release is that its been recorded so that some tracks sound like you’re listening to them on the radio. We’ve actually simulated us pressing the record button. Some of the tracks are just recorded at gigs with a dictaphone. It’s kinda like a mish-mash of those.
I’m looking forward to the live quality of it!
RP: I like the misleading aspect of this interview [laughs]
You seem to play Old Blue Last for a lot of your release shows. Is there something about this place you like to come back to?
CR: It’s just coincidence
RP: There’s been one or two times when I’ve said to our mate, “we need to do some sort of release show, can we do it here?” That’s happened once or twice, but the other times it’s just been a coincidence.
CR: As far as small venues go it’s one of our favourite ones in London. We always get a good crowd here and it’s always a good vibe
RP: People always come to gigs here. People just come to free gigs; it’s Shoreditch, it’s trendy. They see something is on and go “yeah I’m up for that”. It’s funny how there’s so many little websites and magazines that you wouldn’t expect to rate this place really highly that do. I guess a lot of people read about it and go, “fuck it, we’re going to that”.
Favourite show you’ve played?
CR: With this band? [laughs]
RP: We’ve played hundreds of gigs.
CR: The last Westy (Aldershot) one we did on our last tour was really good. So was the London show here actually, that was really good. One of favourite gigs will be a lot later in the year but we’re not allowed to talk about it [laughs]
RP: I remember when we played the Brudenell (Leeds) with Mojo Fury being really good because the venue is awesome.
CR: Oh yeah, that was awesome! The photo from that show is on our ‘Like, Live and Stuff’ EP.
RP: That was a cool gig. Actually, while it’s not the best gig we’ve played, one of the coolest venues we’ve played is the Empire in Middlesbrough. It’s an old theatre and it’s massive. We played a club night and nobody gave it a shit, but we were like “fuck, it’s so massive!” The stage was huge and it had a varnished wooden floor.
CR: Nobody came.
Funniest show you’ve played?
RP: Oh God, you’re going talk about my birthday, aren’t you?
CR: Yeah, I am [laughs] We played on Robin’s birthday two years ago and we all had to dress as ducks.
RP: I don’t know why.
CR: It doesn’t matter why, we were all dressed as ducks.
RP: It was because I was 22 and it’s like in bingo where it’s “two ducks, twenty-two” so it was a duck party.
CR: And you got absolutely battered! He was wearing flippers and trying to change his pedals. Me and Penny weren’t drunk because we were driving and Robin was off his face. He started playing the first song at half the speed thinking, “that’s the right speed” and we got through about 4 songs before he fell over my drum-kit. I stormed off in a big huff because it was a complete waste of time and as I was walking off some guy just full-on cupped my nuts and diffused the whole situation [laughs] So that was horrible but also really funny.
RP: People wouldn’t shut up about that for a while [laughs] I was like “alright, alright”.
Where did the idea for bringing the drums into the crowd come from?
CR: Nigel Powell from Dive, Dive. He did it at one of our first gigs and they used to do it quite a lot back in the day. I thought that was fucking brilliant except when he did it he pulled all the leads out of the drum mics and got told off and had to pay a lot of money.
RP: He basically smashed up all these really nice mics and the sound guy got pissed off.
CR: So I’m like, “that’s a good idea, I’ll steal that”. I did that a few times but I don’t do it all the time, just when I get carried away.
I suppose it works better in the smaller venues.
CR: I actually did it in that massive Middlesbrough venue and everyone just kinda went, “what’s he doing?” [laughs]
RP: Oh yeah! I actually joined you on the floor and there was circle pit around me and Rouse on the floor.
That turned out alright then!
RP: But I was on the floor and some dude was on top of me while I’m trying to play guitar. It was pretty fun [laughs] Can I mention another gig that I think was cool? It was on the Mojo Fury tour as well and we were playing at The Swan in Ipswich. We could talk about that venue for hours because it’s mad. We’ve played there a few times. The stage is just a corner of the room, but the front door to the venue is right next to where you play. This whole thing was when we were exploring the whole ‘moving into the crowd’ thing and I ended up going outside the venue while still playing my guitar, but people were still hearing it in the venue. I was literally on the street.
The album is now sold out on CD; what’s the reaction been like and are you happy how things have been since the release?
RP: People seem to dig it. I think the majority of people that appreciated it are people we know from bands that we’ve played with. There’s also been a lot of people that have just bought it because they’ve seen us in the past or listened to it on Spotify and then bought it. We didn’t really have a lot of money to put into it. We literally only had enough to record it and we didn’t have a label behind us to support it, so we released it in the only way we knew how to do. We don’t know how many people bought it, liked it or whatever, but we really appreciate the one’s that did. It might have been different if someone offered to put it out for us and put some money behind it. There might have been more people into it, but that’s how it goes.
Is being signed a goal for the future?
CR: It was but there’s no money in it any more.
RP: You could try. You could spend all your fucking time trying to get everyone in the world to hear your band, but in the end what is it that you actually want to do it for? If that’s what you want then sick, go for it. We don’t want to spend all our time doing that, we just want to write music that we want to play and if people like it then that’s great.
CR: I think at one point we did want that, but I think we burnt ourselves out in real life.
RP: Yeah, but really we just want a massive sound and to play songs that we think are sick and hope people dig it. We don’t have any dreams to take over the world.
JP: We just want to destroy popular music. “What’s your goal in life?” To destroy popular music [laughs]
You guys have had the same line-up for your entire career thus far and it seems like that’s a rarity in modern rock.
RP: Yeah we’ve been together 5 years this May.
CR: We need a birthday!
JP: That’s half a decade.
RP: That’s fucked. It doesn’t feel that long.
Is that important to maintain because it’s a part of your image?
CR: I don’t think it’s important.
RP: I don’t think it’s an image thing, it’s more that we just work well together.
CR: This sounds really gushy, but when you find someone you work well with you want to keep that going. I’ve played with loads of other bands and not necessarily clicked with anyone in it, but I think us three have a good “chemistry” which sounds so lame.
RP: I’ll tell you what it is; we’re efficient. We’re really efficient. We used to turn up to practice and for a long time we used to practice in Chris’ parents’ old house. We had a 2 hour slot which we were allowed to practice in because of the neighbours and we’d show up, set up, play the set that we were going to play for the next gig, then work on something new, have a break, play the set again and then pack up and go home every week without fail. That’s just how we’ve always done it. We’ve always been quite efficient even at gigs. We’ve always loaded in and sound checked which takes like 10 minutes. Some bands fuck around for hours and we’re like, “no, just no.”
CR: Now we have to pay to practice because my parents don’t live at that house any more. We’ll get to the practice room and they’re like, “right, you’ve got 3 hours” and we still only take 2 hours and that’s it [laughs] Then we go home and everyone at the practice room is like, “where you going?” and we’re like, “we’re done!” [laughs]
RP: I’ve played in other bands where we practice all day and it drives me mad. I’m like, “urgh! Get on with it!” [laughs]
You guys have quite a lot of music videos considering you’re only touring your first album. Who’s the brain-child behind the videos?
RP: Chris Rouse comes up with a lot of ideas. For every video we’ve done he has like 10 other ideas. Chris Rouse comes up with ideas for other bands and they’ve nicked them and made videos that are his ideas.
CR: I stick to the idea that if you’re going to make a video then I don’t want to see a performance video. The music video is another extension of what you’re doing as a band. Nobody wants to watch a performance video because people with camera phones can do that. It’s artwork; you’re adding another element to the music and a video has to work with that. But generally I sit there in bed at night and go, “haha! That would be a good idea!” and then I’ll make a note of it and text Robin in the morning [laughs] This whole band is based on knowing friends with skills that we can borrow. My friend John shot a few of our videos, we shot a couple, Gordon helps up record; they’re just mates who are happy to help us out. The idea was we’d eventually repay them but unfortunately we don’t make any money [laughs]
RP: Videos are so fun. Music videos are what you’ll look back on in a few years think, “fuck yeah, that was sick”. It’s like photos, they’re so good to have to look back on after a tour. Oh, one other thing; Penny doesn’t like acting. He won’t act. Every time we’ve had an idea for a video we’re like, “right, so there’s going to be a very simple story throughout the video” and Penny’s like, “nah. I’m not doing it.”
CR: But, we made him act in the video to Title Track.
RP: Oh yeah, Title Track we made him run along.
JP: It’s easy to act when you’re wearing a massive Lego head [laughs] no facial expressions.
Big thanks to Hold Your Horse Is for taking the time to talk to us.