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Pulled Apart By Horses interview: "The end is definitely not in sight"
Ahead of their album release and raucous UK tour, including an appearance at Liverpool's all dayer FestEvol , Tom Connick caught up with guitarist James Brown of Pulled Apart By Horses to chat about life on the road.
Last updated: 15th Mar 2017. Originally published: 13th Mar 2017
Leeds bruisers Pulled Apart By Horses are no strangers to the road. Since their formation in early 2008, they’ve racked up more miles on the tarmac than most, taking their frantic blend of rock’n’riffs to all corners of the globe.
With an uncharacteristic break under their belts, fourth album The Haze fast approaching, and a new sticksman behind the drum kit, they’re raring to get back at it. We caught up with guitarist James Brown (no, not that one), pint in hand at the end of a long day, to chat all things tour life and more ahead of a UK tour through March, April, festival season and beyond.
You’ve got another record ready to go – are you ready to hit the ground running?
Yeah, a hundred percent! It’s that weird sort of in-between period where you’ve recorded and written the record, it’s done and it’s about to be released, and you haven’t played a gig! The first show playing the new album, it’s that weird bit where you’re like, ‘Right, we need this!’ [laughs] We really wanna go and play a gig – we’re ready to break out at a very fast pace.
You took a bit of time away from everything for this record – that’s a bit out of character for you lot!
Yeah, with the last record Blood, the campaign lasted quite a while actually. We ended up doing a year of that, and then the summer after it was released we got offered more gigs and more festivals, and you’re not gonna turn ‘em down, are ya? We went out and slogged it out at all those as well. So the last record went on for quite a while.
If you’re constantly working, playing gigs and stuff, you can’t really find the time to write properly. You could, but I think you need a good gap to start thinking about things. We weren’t gonna rush it and be like, "Oh, fuck it, we’ve got ten songs" – we had to be kinda diplomatic about it, and be like, "Let’s start writing the record now", as opposed to rush it. I’d never put a record out unless it felt right, and it was what we wanted to do. If it doesn’t feel right, we don’t tend to like it or want anyone else to hear it.
If everything was so long and so busy with Blood, how did it feel to take a step back?
I think the difficult part, especially for a live band, is just not playing live. It’s not so much about not being in the limelight, or anything like that, but if it’s what you do and it’s your art form - playing on a stage and performing live. That’s the one thing that is hard to not be doing on a weekly or monthly basis.
You do get withdrawal – everyone calls it ‘tour blues’. You end up touring constantly and being on the road, seeing different cities and countries and having fun, getting drunk, stuff like that. And then it suddenly stops. Like, "Oh. Oh shit. Real life!" [laughs] That’s always the hardest part – just stopping touring.
But it’s something you look forward to when it does come back around – like right now! We’re all just talking about the same thing, which is that we all just want to be touring the new record. We’re super excited to see if people like it or not.
And now you’ve got all these new songs to play. When you’re writing, do you have the live show in mind?
It doesn’t really work like that – I think that’s what adds to the sort of fear factor! There is a tinge of anxiety and fear, at the same time as this excitement. We’re just writing the songs because we love the style of music and it's what we’re into. We let the live situation dictate which is the best one to play – that’s why it’s exciting to know that we’re gonna be going back out on tour and playing a new record.
We’re gonna play the new songs and see how people react, and you kinda let the audience pick which are the ones that we should be playing live. If they’re reacting loads to ‘Flash Lads’, that’s the one we’ll keep on playing live. It’s exciting but nerve-wracking at the same time. We’ll be playing these songs, and then we’ll know what’s cool and what isn’t!
If you’re touring these songs for the first time, that’s a lot of pressure!
Yeah – people would never assume this, but it’s literally like pulling your heart out on stage! [laughs] You basically hold it out in front of you, like, "Right, scream at it – tell it to fuck off or enjoy it and applaud it". People might not be into one song live, but we’ve spent a year and a half writing these songs. We’re really excited – we just wanna see if people fuckin’ like it or not! [laughs]
Have you got any tracks in particular that you think are gonna go off live?
There’s one that we keep talking about at the minute, which is definitely gonna be the next single. It’s called ‘Flash Lads’, and we were playing that when we did some shows with The Cribs at the end of last year. That one went down really well, and we obviously recorded it and we’re vibing about it now at the minute. That’s one that we’re all really looking forward to. That’s one that’ll ‘go off’ if that’s how you wanna put it! [laughs] It’s really fast and intense, and kind of anthemic.
You’ve got Tommy now behind the drums, has that given things a new slant?
That’s one of the main things that’s actually shaped the character of this record. Tommy’s been a friend of all of ours for years and years and years – he did actually drum for us once when our old drummer couldn't, when we were supporting Foals in 200-fuckin’-9 or something! It’s injected that fresh, exciting feeling again, one that we had around the first record.
We’re excited about things again, and it’s a new lease of life. It totally changed things, which is amazing. We’ve basically got one of our best friends in the band, and it’s made things exciting again – that totally bled through into the writing process. When we did the first record we just wrote whatever we wanted to write, because we like playing music, and we’ve done that again with this one.
Is Tommy a bit bedded into the group now then?
Yeah – when we ended up doing more festivals, the year after it was released, Tommy joined the band before that last summer of festivals. We went out straight into all these live shows with him!
You threw him in the deep end, then!
Yeah, massively! [laughs] It’s perfect really because what that did is gave us the ability to cement the band as a live band before writing a new record. We could find our feet once again, and do all these festivals with Tommy, and then when that ended, it was like, "Right, we feel like a band." It sounds lovey-dovey and poetic, but we’ve weirdly fallen into the perfect situation for a band.
Yeah, unfortunately our drummer decided he had to go, but our best friend joined and we played a shit-load of amazing festivals with him, and then we just became the band again. It was perfect, like, "Right, shall we make a record? Fuck it, yeah, let’s make a record." The Haze is the child of that situation, if you like – it’s shaped and charactered by those events, and what happened. I guess that’s why we’re all really buzzin’ about this new record - it feels like a really honest, true thing to us.
You’ve been at it for quite a while, but it sounds like you’re still so excited by everything.
We were at Radio 1 just before this, and Huw Stephens pointed out that the last time we did a session with him was eight years ago. Fuckin’ ‘ell, we’ve been doing this for eight years! That’s crazy – I don’t think I’ve done anything continuously for more than two years. I can’t even hold a job down! There’s no fatigue.
The main thing is that we’ve always done what we’ve wanted to do, regardless of any trend, vibe or manager breathing down our neck. We’ve always done what we’ve wanted to do, and that’s kept the enjoyment factor of the whole thing quite high. It’s not a job to us – I don’t think you can call something a job if you enjoy it. It’s your life, I guess. People enjoy it as much as we enjoy it, so I can’t get jaded.
So there’s no end in sight just yet!
Well, I’ll be in a wheelchair in a couple of years I reckon, anyway. If I keep on jumping off speaker stacks and stuff, there’ll come a day when I’m on crutches and god knows what. People will be missing an eye and stuff. I’ll be dragging my corpse on for two hours. But the end is definitely not in sight. We’ll be annoying people for some time yet...