The Horrors: Sky High

Text Min Chen
Interview courtesy of
Laneway Festival

Black not just in leather and scowls, The Horrors’ sound is also a train straight out of the heart of darkness. Where it used to run in the screaming vein of garage-punk (as on debut Strange House), it’s lately taken a turn for the sublime, with the band’s gothic hues running parallel with shoegaze and motorik textures. Obviously, these be rather arty and ambitious fellas, and on Skying, their newest and self-produced album, the London five-piece clear the post-punk expanse for more brilliantly atmospheric workouts that simply go to show The Horrors’ black leather hides aren’t just skin deep. Before they arrive at our backyard for Laneway Festival, we got on a phone with guitarist (and birthday boy!) Joshua Hayward, who illuminates the band’s skyscraping agenda.

Happy birthday, Josh! Are celebrations in order?
Yes, I’m going to after doing this interview. We’re one show away to the end of the tour.

How has it been taking Skying on the road?
It’s been really great! We’ve had positive response throughout the tour and I’ve actually enjoyed playing it more than the other records. We keep learning new things about the songs and playing them in new and exciting ways.

And what was the band’s mindset going into making the record?
One of crazed lunacy! It’s weird when you make records ‘cos we don’t talk about it. All we decided to do was to build a studio and record ourselves and make things slower… and that was it. So we just played together. The minute you say you need something to happen, it doesn’t happen. I don’t know why. You just have to play it for it to happen. It’s a strange thing.

So there’s no road map?
No, no, we basically just jam together with a kind of an idea and try not to be too self-indulgent about it.

And how was it like producing your own record?
It’s really stressful but freeing and fun. I think it’s something we would definitely do again. When we did the second record, we didn’t know we knew enough to do it, but our producer Geoff Barrow told us we could. And he understands and gets it, and he gave us the confidence to do it. Writing the songs and getting the ideas out between us has been great without too many outside influences.

Has it been easier or more difficult getting those ideas out after three albums?
We communicate easier and have bigger ideas, but it’s still challenging. Then again, we always want to push ourselves more.

You yourself have pretty interesting ideas on guitar effects and pedals.
I just hate the way guitars sound – they sound awful! I hate electronic guitars but acoustic ones are beautiful. Electric guitars are a horrible weak instrument, I think Björk once said. So I’m just doing everything to make synths sound to like guitars instead of guitars to sound like guitars!

Cool. So how have you been taking to the critical and chart success of Skying?
It’s been all right. Its critical success has been nice but its chart success has been a surprise for us.

It’s obviously only been a few years that the band has been together, but you’ve gone miles with your sound…
Well, some things stay the same but we just express it differently.

But how do you feel looking back on your debut?
With pride, definitely. We were kids who wanted to make something fast and abrasive and we went out and did it. I always thought it’s nice that we did that.

And what is it that has kept The Horrors together?
Our love of music… and the fact that no one would put up with us except each other. I guess that means we’re in it forever!

The Horrors make up the line-up of Laneway Festival 2012, which is happening on 12 February at Fort Canning Park. Tickets cost $135 (excluding booking fee) and are available at all SISTIC authorised agents.