“We do the best things when we don’t think.”
In an industrial suite behind Amsterdam’s Melkweg theatre, The Horrors’ lead vocalist, Farris Badwan, and guitarist, Joshua Hayward, spell out their fifth album with anecdotes that led the band to their latest studio production, aptly titled V.
There was a time—when the Backstreet Boys reunited and the Eurythmics disbanded—when this group first bonded over enigmatic 60s garage rock in a pub somewhere in Southend-on-Sea, UK. Since then, the five have dawned from the dark and gritty goth club to leading an experimental sound cult into a sonic singularity that would revolutionize a modern-day discernment of what was formerly understood as “horror”. No other band has emerged in the rite of ‘post-indie’ over the past decade to establish itself as a first-class carrier of The Horrors’ spirit, but the band itself.
Today, The Horrors’ game plan has been fully revealed, with V emerging as an enraptured layer cake of the industrial and the euphoric; The Horrors are back with a vengeance. And not because they’re mad, but just because they can. “There are a lot of layers that make up an album”, Farris nods. “But we’re just making stuff up, we never think about how to make a record. It’s actually our worst album yet…” He lights a cigarette and stares blankly at the room, while Josh leans over the table and wonders out loud what day it is. “Making an album is spending a lot of time on a record and not discussing it as a whole,” he continues, and as he inhales, Josh adds, “but he usually keeps the lyrics hidden from us.”
“Yeah, sometimes I write in a way that’s too abstract. I already have a hard time making myself understood in daily life, so in songs it’s even harder. Therefore I usually finish lyrics in the end,” Farris returns, “but it’s not like most bands where one guy writes all the lyrics, it’s because we all do it collaboratively. We are building upon each other’s writings, and it changes until the end. Sometimes also the feeling of a track changes—then we need to rewrite the lyrics to channel the feelings that come with it. What’s mostly important is to feel what direction the album is going. And it takes a while to get to that point. The hardest thing is to hold it together and for everybody to feel the record is going in the same direction. Wherever that direction is.”
Farris and Josh detail the new album’s formation, which is comprised of 10 evocative, avant-psychedelic strains, signalling the spirit of their nuclear roots. “We have never really told anything; we do the best things when we don’t think,” Farris asserts. “But with every record, we change the way we make it. So once we’re in the studio we just start. One song at a time. Which takes about a year.”
For V, the band conjured with producer Paul Epworth (the man behind the heyday of Bloc Party and LCD Soundsystem) to channel their inner demons. Soon, Josh confesses he met Paul 15 years ago at a party. “I was looking for a job and figured Paul was the go-to guy. But then he turned me down.” Farris heckles with a more flippant side of the story: “Paul came a party at Josh’s place and fell asleep on the couch, so Josh slid a note down in his pants, asking for a job. So, the next morning Paul came knocking angry at my door saying: ‘WHO’S JOSH, that guy put a note in my pants!’” “What I basically learned from that situation was that if you want a job from someone, you shouldn’t touch his penis before you’ve said hello,” Josh commemorates, “I never called him again.” And the rest is history.
While the band is reaching new sonic heights with their ‘tenniversary’ record at current, their music has undergone a turbulent trajectory of sonic influences, with a specific nod to the band’s own past. While Farris states that their records “often sound like shit right until the end,” The Horrors’ archetypical sound makes up for it every time. “You have to make a lot of wrong turns to feel the right balance, and you want to find a collection of things that complement each other. Otherwise it doesn’t work,” he adds. “Making an album is like a painting, you never really know when it’s finished.”
Words by Ruben Baart
Photography by Yaël Temminck