Interview with King’s Horses: ‘We try not to be obvious in our lyrics’
Hull-based, alt rock band, King’s Horses, brought out their debut album, Waveforming, last month, offering us 11 fast and loose fuzzy stompers.
King’s Horses comprises Matt Barratt (guitars and vocals), Elliot Mann (bass), Chris Arksey (drums) and Emma Fee (keyboard). Barratt and Arksey work together as graphic designers. Fee is also in another band in Hull, The Happy Endings. Their name has several origins: ‘There’s a band called Pulled Apart by Horses (an alt rock band from Leeds), we really liked their name,’ Barratt said. ‘I liked the sound of it, I don’t want people to think of Humpty Dumpty! Oh, I’ve put that in your mind, haven’t I?!’ I tell him that actually their name makes me think of a king’s cavalry charging into battle and he laughs.
The album is a sweeping collection of broad and fragmented songs using worn guitars and keyboards, droning drums, warm bass and wavy tape delay. It was recorded over 18 months, offering their view on subjects such as anxiety and social narcissism. However, while a lot of it was recorded pre-COVID, Barratt ended up finishing it off at home: ”In the Waves’, ‘Weird Michael’ and ‘The Moment’, I ended up finishing those in my kitchen,’ he said.
‘I’m a big fan of The Beatles, they invented music’
Barratt is the main songwriter in the group: ‘We did ‘You Shouldn’t Keep It to Yourself’ and ‘Don’t Take It to Heart’ but we had no idea we were making an album until we had a lot of songs,’ he said. ‘I’m a big fan of The Beatles, they invented music. I love their White album, it was a huge inspiration.’
The opening track, ‘You Shouldn’t Keep It to Yourself’, was inspired by people he knew with anxiety issues: ‘I know someone who’s smart and articulate but he has issues with confidence. I know people with anxiety problems who have amazing things to say, they shouldn’t be afraid to say them.’
I tell him that on this track, his voice reminds me of Neil Thomas’ from Pavey Ark and we get chatting about how he knows them: ‘When we first played the Humber Street Sesh, my guitar string broke, it was essential to the song, and their guitarist (it could have been Thomas or John Hamilton, their bass/lead guitarist) lent me his guitar, they’re good lads.’
Interestingly, for a debut album, the songs on Waveforming are quite different to each other, stylistically, and the first time you listen to it, you have no idea what to expect from the next track. When I tell him this, he sounds really pleased: ‘We wanted the songs to be different, stylistically. That you can hear that, it’s a big compliment. I love Radiohead and Blur. I really like new bands like Palace, they’re quite bluesy. These influences weave into our songwriting.’
Another track, ‘Unlucky for Me’, is a criticism of religion and is deliciously poppy and sarcastic, kicking off with the lines ‘The man in the sky, he’s done fuck all for me’: ‘It just came out, it seemed to be about not believing in God, maybe my subconscious was talking to me,’ he laughed. ‘I’m a big fan of Mac DeMarco (a Canadian singer-songwriter), I tried to emulate him.’
‘It felt dark and sinister, so I invented a dark character for the song’
‘Weird Michael’ is not based on anyone he knows but, rather, was inspired by the guitars on Gorillaz’ ‘M1 A1’ song: ‘It felt dark and sinister, so I invented a dark character for the song,’ he said. They’ve already got an idea as to how they’d like the music video to look: ‘We had this idea where someone wears one of those cameras on their head, filming themselves, so you wouldn’t see their face, you’d see them running down the street being crazy. Then, right at the end, you’d see the face of this ‘weird’ person and they’d have a normal job in society.’
Hull’s music scene is very close knit, according to Barratt. ‘The thing is, everyone knows each other, you’re all like friends,’ he said. ‘Bands like Low Hummer are very integral to the local scene. Dan (their frontman, Dan Mawer) organises The Sesh.’
Barratt’s band to watch in Hull is Slowgaze, who describe themselves as ‘born from a love of crate digging and drunken record nights with friends’ and whose music is heavily laced with nostalgia, drawing from a melting pot of influences, including funk, jungle and tropicalia. ‘They’re the next big thing coming out of Hull,’ he predicts. ‘Hull’s always had the big music scene but people haven’t had the exposure. It’s one way in and one way out, like it’s our little island. People like Dan in Low Hummer know what they’re doing, though, and they’re passing that knowledge onto other people.’
He cites The Beatles and Blur as two of his biggest influences. ‘The magic for me growing up were bands like Oasis and Elbow, albums that take you places. They’re amazing, they write great songs with really interesting parts. We try not to be obvious in our lyrics. Listening to bands like Elbow helps you to shape what you want to write. You write words down and think, nah, that’s naff, how would Guy Garvey (Elbow’s frontman) write it? A song’s not a song until all the band has put their parts on it.’
If he could have written any song, he picks Radiohead’s ‘Weird Fishes’: ‘In their ‘From The Basement’ session, they did an amazing set, including this song, it’s a song that builds up. A song that beats that is Blur’s ‘Beetlebum’, this question’s like asking what your favourite song is, isn’t it?,’ he said laughing. ‘It has interesting chords, it doesn’t try too hard but it has intricate parts. It takes you places.’
(Photo from left to right: Chris, Elliott, Matt and Emma)