Interview Race Horses: ‘Our Fanbase Is Mainly Young Girls And Old Men’

Carolina Faruolo sits down with Meilyr to discuss the new release.

‘Progressive/New/Physical/Ensemble/Music’. That’s how Meilyr Jones, lead singer of the Welsh band Race Horses, describes the sound they were going for with their brand-new album ‘Furniture’ due for release on 10th September. This record will be the follow to the group’s promising pop-rock 2010 debut ‘Goodbye Falkenburg’ which saw play extensively during the last few years, going from support slots with British Sea Power and Fanfarlo, to festivals like Camden Crawl, Hop Farm, Tramlines, Latitude, SXSW to numerous appearances at buzz-band-machine White Heat nights at Madame Jojo’s. Carolina Faruolo sits down with Meilyr to discuss the new release, recording sessions, concept albums, buzz bands and past and future gigs.

Which are the main differences between the new record and ‘Goodbye Falkenburg’?
‘Goodybye Falkenburg’ was a collage, a mish mash. This is direct, words and music, no vagueness, as real as it was possible for us to make it. it was recorded quickly to get an instant energy.

Did the new formation change the way you compose songs?
No, but it will, I think. We composed it all in our heads really, very little was done on instruments until the last moments, and then we did it live, with drums and timpani, xylophone and piano and voice.

Where was the album recorded? We heard that you used some unusual techniques, tell me a bit about the process.
It was recorded at ‘The Pool’ in Bermondsey, South London. We recorded the most part of it there in seven days, using close quiet mic-ing and distant mic-ing for very loud things. Two pianos played live at the same time, also there was some prepared piano (String piano) and we recorded some vocals with my crap mobile phone. Keeping it energetic and not layering was important, to not to get a thick texture, unless it was for a purpose.

I’ve read about the concept behind ‘Furniture’, in your case unfulfilling relationships gave you more inspiration than happy ones?
Not necessarily my relationships. I think the tragedy of domestic life, how it traps and stifles. I empathise with that. Music to transcend boredom, optimism out of pain.

In fact all of your releases have been based on a clear concept, how did you develop the different ideas to make them cohesive?
Concept sounds too self-conscious and thought out. It was all instinctive. This collection of songs worked together. They came from me and the band, musically, and grew organically and incredibly between us. The words come from me and put more of a tangible meaning on it. It felt a little like a protest record for me. But not preachy. You only realise what the words are about when you listen back. It certainly took me a lot of time to listen to the words with distance and see, ‘shit, this music is full of frustration and sadness here, these words might be about this thing that happened.’ Or, ‘I must have been feeling this, despite being in denial about it’, etc… Words are always a combination of things, not just one easy thing. But for sure the word ‘Furniture’ and what that represented to me was so important. The word is empowering, and turned into a symbol for everything we wanted to share, explain and try to make sense of.

I glimpsed some shades of The Cure on one of the new tracks ‘Mates’, and like them you managed to develop pure pop but without the naivety. What type of crowd would you say would be attracted to this formula?
I’m glad you said ‘pure pop without naivety’. Sometimes when there’s enthusiasm or brightness in music, people think it’s naivety. I like The Cure. All kinds of people can love anything that pulls on them I would hope. Our fanbase is mainly young girls and old men. i’m sure it will get broader but we have met some great people who come to our gigs, and we’re glad to play to them all.

Wanting to stand out because of well crafted sound and not just because self proclaimed coolness is not something we see too often in your genre, would you say you blame (and also thank) your upbringing for that?
I think sound is so political. We wanted to have a no-style sound on this record, just let the music be as plain as direct as possible. People are used to hearing stuff in a certain way. I know I certainly hate the narrow palette in terms of sound, fashion and words that bands offer up to people as popular music. I think this is largely bands giving people what they expect. There are very little real, interesting, brave people making music. i suppose rock ‘n roll in pop culture is something old, and by now has become hijacked and standardised and has lost most of its meaning in terms of being a radical expressive thing. I do think it is easier to be independent if you do not feel the pressure of doing things a certain way. Growing up in rural Wales, we were a million miles away from these expectations. The only expectation was to be good at guitar, like Hendrix, nothing to do with looking cool really.

When and where was your first London gig? Which was the worst gig you ever played?
We did a night at the Social quite early on, for Huw Stephens, and also for Tapestry festival, that was great in St. Pancras. I love Central London gigs, usually. We played a horrible gig in Carmarthen, we all had a massive argument. It would be funny hearing that argument back, i’m sure, it was so pointless. I threw a guitar, and broke my only electric guitar I think. I’m sure it cleared the air.

Do you have plans to move to London?
I love London. I think I’d like to live in London, but I can’t afford it. I’d have to work all day every day to afford it, and then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy London. I’m really enjoying living in Aberystwyth at the moment.

Where do you buy records from, what was the last thing you bought?
I mostly buy records from HMV in a mad panic, before a long journey from Bangor to London, or wherever to wherever, whatever shop I can find really. I usually buy another copy of ‘Raw Power’ or something by Strauss because I love listening to music on a train. Spillers, in Cardiff is great, there is also a great record shop called Hot WAX in Cardiff (it’s no frills, loads of records in boxes and on the floor), Me and Dan (from the band) always pop in there. I think I recently bought them out of all their T.REX records.

Any new bands that you’re fans of at the moment? What was the last band that impressed you live?
Bo Ningen are incredible live, it really wakes you up seeing them. They’re the second best live band I’ve seen, second only to Iggy.

And finally are you guys preparing a headline tour following the album release?
Yes, later this year. We want to play as much as we can.

Race Horses release ‘Furniture’ on 10 September 2012 via Stolen Recordings / [PIAS] Recordings.

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