What we’re really looking forward to in 2021 are new records from some of the best bands around right now. Here, Laura Stewart talks to Ash from the self-proclaimed “decidedly average band”, Sugar Horse, whose new music you need to listen out for in 2021. They definitely are not your average band.
Being an independent musician was hard even before COVID-19 brought the world to a halt. With venues being shut down, tours cancelled, and releases postponed, the ongoing pandemic has shaken up the music industry as a whole, and independent artists are among those whose livelihoods are most threatened by the global crisis. Despite all this, 2020 has been a prosperous year for new music and artists have been finding increasingly inventive ways of getting themselves seen and heard. For once, I think we can all be grateful for social media for keeping us entertained through the dark times. There is hope for the new year, though it may take some time to return to normal, we do have new music to look forward to.
LS: Hey Ash, thank you for taking the time to speak to me. 2020 is almost over (yay!). What have you missed most this past year, and what are you looking forward to?
AT: It’s certainly been a shitter, hasn’t it…Still, I’ve been in a relatively privileged position of job security and have managed to get a bunch of band stuff done, that I’d in no way have had time to do otherwise. Plus spent a bunch of time with my daughter and partner and that’s a massive luxury.
I’ve definitely missed playing shows. We were supposed to go on tour with Black Peaks and St Pierre Snake Invasion earlier this year, but obviously that got cancelled. That was a huge blow. I’ve missed just the straight volume of shows as well. Nothing like being pummelled by a massive PA. It’s meditative in a way, and I didn’t realise how important it was for me until it was taken away. Such is life.
LS: It’s been rubbish. I never went out pre-pandemic, to be honest, but I have spent the last year listening to great music and now I really want to see bands live! But it will be worth the wait, I’m sure. You have a new album on the way, can you tell us when it will likely be released? And what we might expect from your new stuff?
AT: We certainly have a debut album in the pipeline. I’m actually looking at a bunch of Logic plugins as I write this. “WHY ISNT THIS WORKING PROPERLY…” type stuff is a regular occurrence at this stage [laughs]. Unfortunately I can give you zero information at this stage. You’ll have to wait, although said wait won’t be too long. We like working fast, so I reckon about halfway through this year it’ll be out.
I can tell you it’s really grandiose. We’re playing with a bunch more textures and influences than we have done before. It feels a bit more punk or noise rock to me than our previous EPs, but then it’ll completely shift gears and go into something very different. There’s a song that sounds like a Flaming Lips/My Bloody Valentine collab; there’s one that sounds like Deftones playing with a big symphony orchestra, there’s one that sounds like Mclusky with Matt Pike on guitar…it’s a pretty confusing listen [laughs].
LS: Argh! I can’t wait! Deftones with a symphony orchestra! I am sold. That really does sound wonderful. How did the new style come to be; what is your songwriting process?
AT: It varies from song to song really. Normally one of us will have a part, whether it be a riff, a verse, a drumbeat whatever… We’ll kinda play around with that and flesh it out into something bigger until it’s like nine minutes long and we all laugh at our own sense of grandeur.
Saying that, sometimes one of us will bring in pretty much a whole song and sometimes (although quite rarely these days), it’ll start from nothing and we’ll just jam something out.
It’s a pretty quick process normally. Very rarely takes us more than a 4-hour practice to have something together and demo’d. Then it’s my job to put some vocals on it… which is easier said than done.
LS: Who are you inspired by musically?
AT: We all like pretty varied stuff, so the list is LLLLLOOOOONNNNGGGG. There are a few bands we really agree on though. We all really like Mogwai, this disgustingly heavy band Sumac, My Bloody Valentine, Pavement etc. It’s a pretty varied list. Personally, I am obsessive about this (now defunct) Manchester band called Oceansize. If you haven’t listened, you must! I love The Cure as well. Jake and I are both really weirdly into The Fall; there’s this 90s Boston band called Swirlies which I adore. Arab Strap, The Chariot, Red House Painters, Low, there are loads. Essentially if it’s really angry or really miserable, I’ll probably love it.
LS: Great list! I adored Oceansize. Where would be your ideal gig and who would you be on the bill with?
AT: Oh Jeez….that’s a question. For a venue, I’d probably have to pick the Trinity Centre. For those unfamiliar, it’s a big converted church in Bristol—Community owned and run now. Sometimes there are shows in there, but nowhere near enough in my opinion. I saw Low in there with Jake a couple of years ago and it was spellbinding. Anyway, I digress. I reckon I’d go for a bunch of bands from my youth that have all broken up now. Get them all back together and watch the awkwardness unfold in the green room because I have no doubt they all hate each other [laughs].
I’d have Cocteau Twins headlining, with Oceansize, The Chariot, Blakfish, Tubelord and the house band would be The Fall, but I’d have every member that’s ever played on a Fall record there, and the band would alternate all night and play stuff from all over their catalogue. Also, having Mark E Smith comparing would be fucking hilarious.
LS: If we were to take a look in your (Christmas) fridge right now, what would we find?
AT: As I sit here on Christmas Eve, there is a lorry load of fruit and veg. I have a one-year-old and pretty weirdly she will eat nothing but fruit and veg. A very strange human being already, I know.
There’s a load of alcohol-free lager, obligatory Christmas cheese and a big pork joint that I’m probably gonna turn into Porchetta on Boxing Day. I’m a flash bastard me.
LS: Yay for weird children! My son is the same. He will eat a massive Sunday dinner but turn his nose up at chocolate and crisps—clearly not my child. I think secretly we might be very lucky. So what’s next for Sugar Horse in addition to the album release? Got any plans for 2021 when we are all allowed out to play again?
AT: We have another single out at the start of February. The video is really mad and kinda interactive, so that should be kinda cool. We’ve got a couple of live things in the pipeline, but like everyone, we can’t really announce anything yet, because sod’s law it’ll get cancelled or postponed. We’ve got a Livestream with our pals at Exchange in Bristol coming up and a couple of fancy seated/socially distanced shows. We’re also booked to play the ArcTanGent festival, and I pray to Baphomet that goes ahead. I’m itching to chuck out some riffs at a deafening volume.
LS: Thank you again for talking with me Ash, I am so looking forward to new music from Sugar Horse. Your DRUJ EP was one of my most played records of 2020, and it certainly helped me through the most messed up year of our lifetime (so far).
* Warning, strobe lighting in this video *
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