Photos by James D. Kelly

Styling by Vanessa Roberts
Words by Hannah Forbes Black


Cinematic and uncompromising, The Horrors are back, with a new confidence and an amazing second album. And with their belief that “a band should look like a band”, they’re still the best-dressed group in town - some things never change…

The Horrors have always provoked oddly extreme reactions. Beloved of every music journalist in the UK within about five minutes of their first gig, they once had the whole of Britain arguing about their archly savage brand of rock ‘n’ roll, their middle class background and the cut of their trousers. Two years on since debut ‘Strange House’ was released, they’re back with a gorgeously spiky, soaring new album, ‘Primary Colours’, that takes their sound in an entirely new direction. Think My Bloody Valentine mixed with psychedelic ’60s pop, and a dash of Suicide - and imagine that as a soundtrack to a film about the end of the world. “The big influence we took from other artists this time round was how they experimented and pushed sonics in recording,” says keyboard/ bass player Rhys Webb. “Kevin Shields [of My Bloody Valentine] completely destroyed the conventional idea of how to record with ‘Loveless’ - the slowing down of tape, sampling feedback and the thunderous layers of guitar - it’s hugely inspiring, sounds like nothing else. I don’t think we were necessarily directly influenced by the songwriting but definitely by the sounds.”

Guitarist Joshua Third has the perfect analogy for the album already prepared: “I’ve only been able to describe it as imagining you’re a child and you get to the top of a really big hill and then you ride down it on your bicycle without your brakes on. That feeling.” “It’s quite mind-bending, euphoric, astral…” adds Rhys. With the help of producer Geoff Barrow of Portishead and, surprisingly, cult music video director Chris Cunningham, who produced two tracks on the album, The Horrors have crafted an eerily uplifting clutch of songs that sounds like nothing else out there. “We never wanted to be a straightforward garage band and I don’t think we ever were,” says Rhys. “There was never a question that we wanted to evolve. The first record was more a document of us living and growing as a new young band playing live and we wanted to capture the live show, and this one was something different. With the first record we touched on the idea of attacking the mind with a visceral use of noise and this time we were really into the idea of provoking people in a different way.” Accordingly, ‘Primary Colours’ has a new restraint and spaciousness, taking in influences from Portishead’s live show to Phil Spector’s ’60s girl groups to Arthur Russell.

"We never wanted to be a straight-forward garage band and I don't think we ever were."

While other bands produce a kind of indeterminate indie mishmash, The Horrors have delved into the more interesting offshoots of music history to produce a unique sound. “There is a very emotive undercurrent running throughout the record,” Rhys explains. “It definitely has its mental highs and lows. It was a very organic process and very honest, I think. Me and Josh recorded the vocals for the track ‘Who Can Say’ in my flat’s hallway with my leopard-print duvet hanging on the walls! Spector’s girl groups manage to evoke such feelings and are always somewhat sinister.” When they’re not locked away in the studio, have they been able to enjoy their success? Do they feel - whisper it - famous? “When we arrived in Mexico and there were two hundred mad kids with bowl haircuts in wrestling masks waving sombreros in the air, waiting for us, that was pretty weird,” remembers Josh. “But apart from that, not really. I don’t really know what being famous means.”

Lead singer Faris Badwan turns up - conveniently - as we’re discussing lyrics. “I like to write lyrics as we’re developing a song, not before or after,” he says. “You can have a total contrast with the atmosphere of a song but it’s really great when you have everything tying in and everything pushing in the same direction.” Visually, sonically and sartorially, The Horrors like to pull it all together. “We’re a band where everything strives for organic coherence,” says Faris. That might sound a bit like a science experiment, but it will all make sense when you hear ‘Primary Colours’.


Read ClashMusic's review of The Horror's 'Primary Colours'

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