Interview: Dark Horses

Casting reverbed howls from behind silhouetted chains and motorcycle jackets, Dark Horses paint a striking self portrait of themselves. The Brighton based band have spent the last few years building from the top down, recording the majority of their new full length record Black Music and garnering support from well-established recording artists early on in the band’s development.

We conduct the long awaited and postponed interview in the dressing room of the band’s headline show in the north of the capital, surrounded by heaps of wires and equipment of varying colours and importance, boxed in by walls scrawled with a sea of Biro graffiti. Aside from a brief appearance by guitarist Andy, I sit alone opposite the Swedish born front-woman Lisa Elle with nothing but a borrowed dictaphone and stolen shirt to add a dose of non-existent professionalism to the informal exchange of words.

Lisa is the feminine centre piece to a band fully emerged in stylised nihilism, focusing and defining and balancing their distorted version of lo-fi, neo-rock punk into something more compelling and attractive than if it were an all-male affair. I ask her to describe Dark Horses to someone who has never heard of them before: she pauses, and tells me; “I’d say it’s future rock and roll. It’s only natural to be referring to the past a lot of the time; because of that overload of information it’s very hard to project into the future. It’s almost like we’re being held back by things that have been before.” From her description, they sound like a product of their digital environment, more so even than their actual one; a band making the most from the relatively damp social and cultural surroundings of the 21st century by merging a modern approach to past ideals.

“It means you’re forced to define what it is you do, rather than try and be like them.” The lead vocalist recalls how finding a fan in Kasabian’s Sergio Pizzorno fed the group’s pursuit of musical self-awareness and confidence through a support slot in their 2009 UK tour. “I think the best advice is in the example that someone sets as opposed to what they say to you. We’ve been lucky to have experienced actually sitting and watching these artists perform many times. In hindsight that opportunity forced us to be more coherent and to have our own voice rather than be reflected or impacted or influenced by other artists.”

On stage at least, they seem to find their voice through confidence disguised as introverted arrogance, like Joy Division’s rougher cousin, growing up in a tougher area of town, with a poorer, more diverse school system. I ask Lisa about performing live and how the new material has fared on stage; her answer further defines the band’s journey as something far from typical: “It becomes its own identity; it sort of turns into a creature of its own will. We recorded the first parts of the record before we played live with it so it was framed by the recordings.” Pausing again, she describes the early testing ground for new material: “Initially, we performed with lots of larger artists in front of large audiences who didn’t have a reference and didn’t know where to start with us, so you really have to make sure that moment is absolutely and completely 100% there and that you’re delivering that escapism.” It makes sense, to me at least, that a band starting their career in the deep end would have such a strong musical jaw line. As well as a measured and intentioned approach aesthetically.

Lisa seems embracing and welcoming of the band’s past when I ask about the journey so far and how they have been able to mature with time and on stage experience, “Yeah I think it only makes us healthier (laughs), sometimes you can’t control those things and as a creative you are meant to keep the focus on producing new stuff and keep moving forward which is what we’ve done.” When I ask a question directed at the future and what they think will make them happy with their music, guitarist Andy, who appeared from behind the closed door moments before to take a place next to Lisa, chimes in and gives the final word on behalf of the band: “It’s a funny one that, because you always think the goal is ?  on a basic level ?  is to make music that you’re really pleased with, but then that is unachievable really isn’t it, because you’re always looking for the next step. I think for us it’s to keep doing that.”

Their debut L.P Black Music is out on the 29th of October on Last Gang Records. I’d recommend their live show to anyone interested in the idea of futuristic punk rock nihilism: it’ll likely make your average life seem quite exciting and interesting.

Words: Charlie Wood