Interview Pulled Apart By Horses
We speak to James Brown – lead guitarist for the Leeds-based grungesters – ahead of the release of the band's second album, Tough Love
Nathan Dainty (c) http://www.verycreative.org
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"The thing that surprised all of us most was when Radio 1 were playlistying the single," explains James Brown, lead guitarist in Pulled Apart By Horses. "That was really weird. Totally unexpected.
"We didn’t really set out with any aim to do anything like that. We just liked playing live, really. We didn’t think anyone would sign us, or we’d sell 10,000 records. The fact we sold 10,000 records is mind-boggling. We never expected it to sell anything like that!"
It’s fair to say the rise and rise of Pulled Apart By Horses is perhaps one of the most surprising success stories to come out of Leeds in the last few years. Formed from the ashes of two local acts – Mother Vulpine (who James used to put out records by) and It Takes Bridges (a band James was a founding member of) – they were, and still are, a raucous bunch, famed for their frenetic live shows, band injuries and huge, riff-based, grunge-influenced anthems.
Quite how they became so popular, despite playing such fast-paced, riff-focused music so far from the mainstream, clearly still confuses James. "2010 into 2011 was basically a year of constantly, constantly touring," he says. "We did four singles off the album, three headline tours, European tours, Australia… we were going full pelt, and it came to this year, you’re just so busy your mind’s not thinking about how your record’s doing, how it’s selling, who’s listening to it, if it’s Radio 1.
"Then we opened the NME/Radio 1 tent at Reading on the Friday, we were the first band on, so we were thinking ‘who’s going to get up at 12.30 to watch us?’, then we came out on stage and there were 12,000 fans and we just all looked and smiled at each other, and we just thought, ‘well we must be doing something right’.
"It’s like playing an arena, 12,000 people coming to watch you. At that point, that’s when I pinched myself, all these people coming to watch us and singing and stuff. It’s just a bit weird. It was bonkers."
The band have spent the past few months recording their second album – Tough Love – with producer Gill Norton. "At first we’d written half the songs and we were a bit edgy because we didn’t know who we wanted to record it with," says James. "We were watching the Foo Fighters film Back and Forth in the van and this bit came on when Dave Grohl was talking about Gill Norton and me and Lee in the van looked at each other and said, ‘it’d be amazing, wouldn’t it, to work will Gill Norton’. So we emailed our label and they said ‘oh we’ll ask him’, and we were like ‘yeah, you can do, but I’m sure nothing will come of it’, and then he emailed back half an hour later and said ‘yeah I want to do it’. They told us in the van and we were like ‘fuuuuuck!’.
"We were nervous because we didn’t know what he’d be like, but we just really clicked with him and he’s like a really friendly big bear. But it was intimidating at first, because he’s worked with Foo Fighters and Pixies – our favourite bands – well Foo Fighters used to be. He basically became like the fifth member, there’s even a few parts on the album where he played as well. I just think we were bang up his alley, the kind of band he loves to work with and it was a bit of a project for him as well, he’s not really worked with smaller bands still trying to get somewhere, he was just like a dad throughout the whole thing."
The result, James believes, is an album which is far more cohesive than their first. "We’re really happy with it," he says, "it feels like we’ve stepped up a bit, and it feels like more of an album. The first album was just like the songs that we had at the time, and then Transgressive were like ‘do you want to put an album out?’ and that’s all we had.
"This time, we’ve sat down and actually written an album and done a thought process; we’ve actually made a record rather than piece together a record. I think you can kind of hear that when you listen to it. There’s a bit more dynamic to it and a bit more structure. It feels like there’s a middle part to the album and an end. There are steps up and down, and I’m really pleased with it. I think it’s good. No, I don’t think it’s good, I think it’s amazing."
The album comes out at the end of January, and once it’s out the band will be hitting the road in February, but local fans were annoyed to see there’s no Leeds date on the tour – although James mentions elusively that there’ll be something special happening later in the year. So, was the city important to them when they were starting out? "Yeah, without a doubt it helped us," says James. "There are so many bands in Leeds, we just ended up being influenced by them – like That Fucking Tank, This Et Al, there were loads of bands that made you want to be in a band, it’s such an influential city. Plus it’s such a supportive city with people willing to help you, whether it be labels, venues or promoters, it’s just a really good starting point. It gave us a spring jump – not that you can’t do it anywhere else. It helps, doesn’t it? It’s a massive part of the band."
Tough Love is out 23rd January, the band play Sheffield Leadmill on 16th February and Manchester Club Academy on 17th February
Posted on Monday 16th January 2012
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