In what feels like a alternate universe there was once a time where we could don our gladrags, cut some questionable shapes on a dancefloor and leave the mundanities of the weekday behind. Indeed, if you were skulking around the South London streets on a Sunday night you’d be able to do just that in the company of disco dynamos Horse Meat Disco. Now basking in their seventeenth year together, the quartet (consisting of James Hillard, Jim Stanton, Luke Howard and Severino) show no signs of slowing down despite the current climate keeping us at bay from their colourful carousings.
After a meteoric rise that saw them headline international music festivals, score residencies in the iconic clubs of New York and Berlin and hold down some epic radio shows, Horse Meat Disco have taken the leap of releasing their full length debut album, ‘Love And Dancing’; the name itself encompassing everything it means to be a part of their collective.
Speaking of their origins, Luke Howard recalls: “We began at a bar in Soho as a monthly party and then we moved to The Eagle in Vauxhall. Our first party there was on New Year's Day and it was 2004, and there weren’t very many parties on New Year’s Day at that time. It became popular because it was a fun, eclectic party on a Sunday. I’d already been DJ’ing for about fifteen years, as had Sevvy, and I was really into disco. Sevvy grew up on early Baldelli, James’ dad was a DJ, Jim was an old raver from the 90’s... so it just kind of happened!”.
- - -
- - -
After a trip to New York City in the mid 80s, the possibilities of nightlife evolved before Luke’s eyes. “For me, it was so exciting to be somewhere where people lived and breathed that music in the clubs; the spaces were so much bigger than the ones in London at the time, as were the sound systems, so even if you’d heard a song a million times, it would just totally transform the sound. I really love that NYC club culture but I don’t feel like we’re trying to emulate that cause we’re a night at a pub!”
Yet just two decades later, he would be playing weekly nights in the venues that inspired him in his youth, each one brimming with the four piece’s all-embracing energy. “We were very much surprised by the success,” Luke exclaims, “we’ve had a residency in New York for about five years now... and I don’t want to sound like a bragger, but ours was one of the busiest nights! I still couldn’t believe we were selling out these parties there and it was just astonishing. We were doing the same in Berlin, and I could understand it a bit more there because we’re part of this queer nightlife scene and there was a gap in the market for our sound; it was different and people liked it because there was that cross pollination of queerness between London and Berlin.”
Trailblazers in the name of diversity and creating the safe spaces that are nowadays integral at the heart of the club scene, Horse Meat Disco have never left behind their residency at The Eagle pub in Vauxhall that established their movement despite their catapult into the star-studded world of superstar DJ’s. Luke smiles: “The Eagle is a special spot and the staff and everyone that works there is so lovely, and I think because we’ve been going there for so long, it’s became a mini London institution.”
“The regulars are stalwarts of the place and truly adore the venue and the way that the owner, Mark Oakley, runs it. In spite of everything, we’ve managed to keep the weekly night going and it never seems to fizzle out. Pre-lockdown, we’d still be there at 3am on a Monday morning, dancefloors full, people clap at the end and it’s like wow…that is so nice.”
- - -
- - -
Although those sweaty stumbles home armed with heels in one hand and a kebab in the other are far off, the party pioneers have blessed us with the perfect consolation prize, their album ‘Love And Dancing’, out now via Glitterbox Recordings. A collection of seven years’ worth of work, the LP is a testament to their talent; with not a cover or a sample in sight, it boasts an impressive selection that only proves Horse Meat Disco are at the forefront of disco’s future. With an exciting array of features, including the iconic Kathy Sledge and N’Dea Davenport, it is nothing short of spectacular.
“We’re very excited and proud and a bit nervous about the album because we hope people are gonna like it as much as we do, and lucky that we got to work with people like Luke Solomon for a start, he’s the producer and without him, it wouldn’t have happened. We’ve gotten to have such amazing artists on the album, like Amy Douglas, Kathy Sledge, N’Dea Davenport and more. It’s been a collaborative effort, so we thank all the people involved.
It makes for the optimal living room shindig soundtrack, with songs such as 70’s-esque ‘Let’s Go Dancing’, trumpet laden banger ‘Burn’, and the anthemic ‘Message To The People’ transporting you to straight back to the lights of the multicolour dancefloor. “It started off with us making music with Darren Morris, and we had all these demos which Luke reproduced with ROY INC, and then we’d send instrumentals over to Amy. She’s just really brilliant at what she does so it was really exciting to see what she had come up with and have her on board from the early stages.”
Unfortunately their upcoming UK tour has been placed back on the shelf for now, and a question mark hangs over the future of nightlife as a whole. Although the inevitability of closures were well known, Luke explains the other dangers that were becoming clear in the midst of the smoke machines. “Things aren’t going to go back to how they were before; it’s really sad but perhaps it’s a time to reset things and think about how we want things to be. I never want to lose that experience of being somewhere where people just feel free in their bodies to move and to have that sense of community with the music and those around them,” he explains.
“It’s not about looking at DJ’s and filming them. Look at eachother! Listen to the music and let your body dance to it! That’s what we need to go back to, and not staring at some people because they’re twiddling some nobs. I think things were getting too big and people were getting too much money and it wasn’t about music anymore, but hopefully we will get to a stage where we can get close and dance together again; I think that we should continue dancing until we drop dead on the dancefloor... but not anytime soon!”
- - -
- - -
In the hopes that the world will transform into a place that emulates the positivity and freedom that Horse Meat Disco effortlessly exude, what is the message that they aim to spread with their new release?
“We used to call ourselves the queer party for everyone, so I suppose it’s taking that sense of how important it is to get together and feel safe, to not feel judged, to be able to dance, to let yourself go, to be able to enjoy yourself because life is tough; it’s about going out and trying to have a good time with your friends and appreciate music as such a powerful force for good and that’s our ethos. To share good times with people that you care about and enjoy yourself.”
“I don’t want sound too hackney’d or cliched, but to come together and not harm anybody, to allow people to be who they are and feel safe together. We’re four gay men and being in the gay scene has been a huge part of our lives. It’s about finding that magic and taking a bit of that out into the world... while saying: Let’s Dance!”
- - -
- - -
Horse Meat Disco's new album 'Love & Dancing' is out now.
Words: Becca Fergus
Join us on the ad-free creative social network Vero, as we get under the skin of global cultural happenings. Follow Clash Magazine as we skip merrily between clubs, concerts, interviews and photo shoots. Get backstage sneak peeks, exclusive content and access to Clash Live events and a true view into our world as the fun and games unfold.