Since their debut release in July 2010, Leeds 4-piece Pulled Apart By Horses have quickly carved out a name for themselves as hard rock fiends. Over the last few years, they’ve built a loyal following supporting big name acts like Future of the Left, Foals and The Bronx, not to mention big time stadium rockers Muse. Now with their follow-up album Tough Love just days away from release, they’re looking forward to smashing out a slew of high energy shows on their imminent European tour. Bassist Robert John Lee says, the band’s sophomore album has a massive new ‘bigger balls’ sound … MusicFeeds spoke to Rob this morning …
MF: Hey how you doing? Thanks for talking to me today …
Rob: Great to talk to you …
MF: New album is out in a matter of days now … you excited or shit nervous anticipating people’s reactions?
Rob: (laughs) Yeah, we’re terrified – no seriously we’re really excited. We’ve made the best album we can at this point and we’re really proud of it. It’s like having a little baby and bringing it into the world and then you’ve got to let it go into the big bad world.
MF: The video for the single Venom is going off online at the moment. What can you tell us about the concept behind it?
Rob: The guy who directed the video, Bob Harlow, is an amazing Director and he comes up with amazing ideas. We were heavily involved in that side of things before but we’ve built a really good relationship with Bob and when you do that you learn to trust people more creatively. He really takes the reigns on that stuff now and it’s amazing. The Venom video is based on this thing called Idle Hands – by a guy called Seth Green. It’s kind of a horror film where a guy is cursed and what happens to him because of it. The whole thing is all a bit metaphorical – like taking control of your destiny and not letting anyone put a ‘curse’ on you to take control of your life.
MF:You guys have done pretty well since your debut in 2010. This follow-up album is lyrically bang on PULLED APART BY HORSES, but the sound has grown pretty noticeably. Do you reckon you’ve become better players having toured so much and that’s now translated to what we hear on Tough Love?
ROB: Yes, that’s exactly it. When we first started out, we just got together for our own enjoyment. We never had any ideas or ambitions to become a big band or to do it professionally. Over the years, we’ve learnt how to play so much better. That’s the biggest challenge to becoming a ‘real’ band in that sense – to play really well and keep getting better. We’ve been touring so much over the last 3 years and in that time we’ve played for each other and really worked together to hone it.
MF: What was it like working with Gil Norton of Pixies and Foo Fighters fame?
ROB: It was like a dream come true. We were kind of nervous at first because there were a few horror stories about him firing drummers and that – like being a bit of a hard ass. But you know, that’s what we wanted … someone to kick us in the ass and give us a real challenge and improving us as a band. But then we met him, and he was a really nice guy. We got on really well and became good friends and hung out loads. It was an amazing experience working with him.
MF: Sounds like it was a productive learning curve … biggest lesson?
ROB: Oh yeah, we learnt loads, but you know one of the things he said: there’s a lot of ego in this band, a lot of personality and I’m here basically as a referee to make you realise that if you work together, that’s when you’ll be at your best. It’s something that we’ve always known … what we do as a band is something greater than the sum of its parts – no single one of us could have done it on our own and we were lucky to have met each other. It’s a real team effort … and he just asked us to appreciate that more and just hone it. It’s a very sort of psycological process (producing); that’s what we learnt as well. He’s (Gil) very much into the psychology of what each of us individually brings to the band and the best ways to bring that together to make the best music we can.
MF: Having said that, there is a lot of ego in a band – you must clash all the time …
ROB: Yeah, all the time. That’s a lot of what the album Tough love is about in a way – you know you could have all these arguments and individual egos and wanna get your own way, but at the end of the day, if you love what you’re doing enough then that’s more important … and yeah, you know we do love each other. We spend so much time together. We’re like brothers, and, you know, family/brothers fight … it’s not all easy … but we have a lot of fun.
MF:Speaking of ‘your sound’ – you’ve said before that you’re a “pop bastard at heart and if you peel away at the screaming, there’s a classic pop structure behind all the songs” … where does that come from? I’m sure most of your fans would never put the words pop and Pulled Apart by Horses together …
ROB: The honesty of it is when we grew up as a kids we got exposed to really cool music early on. All of our parents were playing Led Zeppelin and ACDC, but at the same time u get pulled in by pop music that’s on the radio, like Michael Jackson for example. Pop music is universal isn’t it – it kind of brings everyone together.
MF:It feels like there’s a stream of cryptic slogans in a lot of your songs, like you want fans to work hard to get it. Is there some kind of coded message that we should be getting from Tough Love as a project ?
ROB: What we’re writing about lyrically is what we’ve experienced and what’s affected our lives in the 4 years since we started out – it’s that idea to appreciate what you’re given. In some ways, it is a bit mystical – there’s some reference to pagan magic and spells (not that I’m involved with that) but I just find it really interesting, so I guess in some way it is metaphorical. The cool thing about having abstract lyrics and imagery or being a bit more cyrptic is people can have their own interpretation of your song, and that’s a creative process in itself – it allows the listener or the fans to get involved on the creative process of the song.
MF:I haven’t seen you guys live, but I hear you’re prone to injury quite a bit because there’s usually some stunt action on stage. Do you plan that stuff or does it just happen in the moment?
ROB: Yeah, John’s got his own little signature moves where at a certain point in songs he climbs right up on top of the speaker stack to jump off, and we’re all terrified every time he does it. It always feels like he’s gonna fall off and kill himself. When you’re playing live, you just get caught in the moment … none of that stuff is thought about beforehand.
MF: And even though it was a while ago, what was it like playing with big stadium rockers Muse ?
ROB: It was amazing. Like mind blowing. It’s so surreal that you go up there and you can’t see the back of the crowd. It’s so thrilling, but in a way you’re less nervous because it’s more intimidating sometimes playing to a small crowd of people you know. It was so surreal – like an out-of-body experience almost. We got off stage and we were in this weird daze.
MF:From afar and from what the music media tells us, it feels like the UK rock scene is pretty healthy at the moment … do you feel like the success of Pulled Apart by Horses has played a leading role in this resurgence of the genre …
ROB: I’d probably sound a bit arrogant saying yes to that, but if that was true, that would be amazing. That’s one of our goals with this band: to keep live guitar and rock music alive. We’ve been inspired by amazing rock music growing up and we just want to keep that alive.
Pulled Apart By Horses second album Tough Love will be released January 27, 2012