The Horrors Embrace Familiar Territory With Their Sophomore Album

The Horrors, practicing their rock-star sneers
Tom Beard

In With the Old
band the Horrors embrace familiar territory with their sophomore album

“There was a lot of tension in the air, and everyone had sweaty palms.”

Nearly everyone who has been in music has felt like this at least once, somewhere along the line. But bassist/synth player Tom Furse, a founding member of English rock band the Horrors, isn’t talking about a high-profile gig in his home country or even a worrisome intergroup meeting. Instead, thanks to the band’s second album, Primary Colours, the Horrors were up for the Mercury Prize in the U.K., something close to a Pulitzer Prize in music in terms of national attention.

“I was really pleased about it. It was nice to get that appreciation—and we were in good company,” he says, referring to such fellow nominees as Bat for Lashes, Friendly Fires and overall winner Speech Debelle. Even without the prize itself, it’s yet another highlight for the Horrors, who are scheduled play Detroit Bar on Wednesday.

The Horrors initially seemed destined to be one of many groups worldwide that form out of a love of classic garage- and psych-rock singles but rarely move beyond reverent covers and amiable pastiche. In combination with their young age—practically forming right out of school earlier in the decade—it was possible the first splash they made with early singles and their full-length debut, Strange House, would be the only one.

With the release of Primary Colours’ striking “Sea Within a Sea” single and video, happily riding a classic Neu!/Can motorik groove within an inch of its life, followed by the roaring no-feedback-too-explosive blast of “Who Can Say,” the Horrors started putting their own stamp on their sound, something Furse explains can be a balancing act in terms of inspiration and wider perception.

“We love all good music, and we spend our time finding strange records across all genres,” he says. “To be honest, I don’t like a lot of music that sounds really original today because, in trying to be original, it often loses some of the simplicity and magic that you love most about the records that first inspired you. However, I think some of the things we are doing with sounds are very forward-thinking and are getting increasingly more sophisticated, both live and in the studio.”

Part of that sense of greater creativity can be seen in the attention the group are getting from other musicians—Portishead’s Geoff Barrow coproduced Primary Colours, Damon Albarn recently recruited them to participate on the next Gorillaz album, and Trent Reznor handpicked them as an opening act for Nine Inch Nails’ New York City shows during their farewell tour (Cowan describes the event as “just so electric. . . . The audience was very appreciative”).

Perhaps a more telling aspect can be seen in how the Horrors readily embrace an aesthetic approach that goes beyond simply being in a band. Some of their earliest activity included putting on club shows and creating fanzines; the group collectively appeared under the guise “the Black Tubes” in the third series of the recent U.K. comedy classic The Mighty Boosh; and noted video director Chris Cunningham, famed for collaborations with Aphex Twin, among others, not only worked with the band’s visual style from early on, but also ended up as a Primary Colours producer.

“We were the first band he has worked with,” says Furse with pride, “but it was something he had wanted to do for a long time. It was a very good experience—and nice to work with someone who was as nervous and excited as we were, as opposed to working with someone who’s been doing it every day for years.”

With so much going on and more already coming up—following their American tour is a Mexican one, then a jaunt throughout Europe—the Horrors are riding a heck of a wave. But if Furse’s comments are any indication, they’re taking it all in stride by planning even more to do.

“In the new year, we are going to play a few more months of shows, have a few weeks to ourselves, and then write another record,” he says. “We’ve been talking vaguely about new ideas, but until we start writing, we can’t be sure of what it will sound like. I’m very excited about it, though!”

The Horrors at Detroit Bar, 843 W. 19th St., Costa Mesa, (949) 642-0600; Wed., 9 p.m. $15. 21+; also with Future Static at the Glass House, 200 W. Second St., Pomona, (909) 865-3802; Oct. 2, 8 p.m. $15. All ages.

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