Josh Hayward is quite a nice chap. The guitarist for U.K. garage punks The Horrors is polite, well-spoken and downright affable.
Just don't ask him about the startling shift in style from the band's debut to their recently released second album.
That question turns Hayward from Prince William with a Boddington's buzz into a Gary Oldman character on bad crank.
“It's just fucking pointless to keep repeating the same record,” Hayward said in an interview from a tour stop in New
York City. “It's a shame that so many people have asked about this and don't expect bands to put out different albums anymore. Pigeonholing a band into one brand of music is fucking stupid. It is. It's really fucking stupid. Who wants to see the same thing over and over again? It's disgusting.”
The difference between 2007's Strange House and this year's Primary Colours is stark. Much of House's raw, freak-punk guitar dirges, macabre carnival keyboards and smarmy snarls of singer Faris Badwan are nowhere to be found on Colours. It's almost all been replaced by surges of synth; dreamy, blues-tinged expansiveness; and deliberate pacing. Even the little you can make out on Colours' hazy, blurred cover photo is in stark contrast to House's black and white, New-York-Dolls-at-a-funeral snapshot.
Still, Hayward doesn't understand what the fuss is all about.
“We didn't sit down and go, ‘Oh, let's make a shoegaze album,'” he said, chuckling a bit at how fast the topic can light his fuse. “That'd be fucking absurd. If you're making music, it should be a reflection of who you are as a person, surely. Colours is representative of how we felt at the time. We were in the best moods possible, and we wrote a euphoric record. It's just far more personal and introspective than the first one. And that's where we felt we wanted our music to go. The third one will be different again.”
Those looking for even more in-depth explanation on the change may find Colours' production from Portishead founder / guru Geoff Barrow a plausible contributing factor. The Bristol-born producer and multi-instrumentalist is a bona-fide master of mellow. But Hayward says working with Barrow was anything but predictable.
“It was quite inspiring and strange,” he said. “When we went to Geoff, we gave him a CD of all our demos and thought he'd be, like, ‘Take these instruments out here; make it faster there,' and whatnot. Instead, he came back and said, ‘No, you've tracked it, lads; you don't want to change this at all.' He said, ‘You don't want to go and produce it from a different standpoint and fucking ruin it, so just record it as you had it.' Telling us to do what we had already done was quite strange, but I guess that's good production, isn't it?”
Barrow's hands-off approach left the band feeling somewhere between gratified and questioning why they needed anyone in the first place. But it wasn't as though they were ready to ask for their money back.
“He's a genius and so fucking good at what he does,” Hayward said, “that I couldn't really argue with him. But he did say that next time we didn't need him and should record it by ourselves. It was really quite lovely and flattering.”
Regardless of the change in sound, people seem to like what they're hearing. Colours was nominated last month for the prestigious Mercury Prize, alongside such acts as Kasabian, Bat for Lashes and Friendly Fires. Even though the award was claimed by rapper / singer-songwriter Speech Debelle for her debut, Speech Therapy, Hayward views the process as positive.
“I don't really care about awards,” he said. “It's dangerous to think about things like that when you're creating. I think it's dodgy ground. But I like it when people want to be challenged. It's important. I don't know about you, but I've never fallen in love with anything that was easy. And all music should really be about love.”
The Horrors play with Japanese Motors on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/thehorrors.
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