After being blown away by Horsebeach’s stunning self-titled debut LP, I was eager to talk to the band and discuss just how one of the best dream pop records of recent years was written in the endless Manchester drizzle. Ryan Kennedy, lead vocalist and guitarist (and the man behind writing, recording, and mixing the record), was kind enough to speak to me about it.
Gigslutz: Hey! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I loved your record. Tell me a little bit about Horsebeach, how did the band come about? How about the name?
Ryan: Hey, thanks man! My pleasure, I love doing these things. The band was originally just myself messing about with my guitar, trying to recreate all the bands I was hearing at the time. After a while I started recording them and gathered up a little bunch of songs, at which point our drummer Matt Booth – we’ve been mates forever – was saying I should do them live. We recruited Matt’s brother, Dan, and our old school friend, Tom Critchley, and got ourselves a rehearsal room. That was almost two years ago. I’ve just been writing and writing since then.
The name is less easy to explain! None of us are quite sure how it became Horsebeach. I guess we were listening to things like Beach Fossils, Beach House & Beach Boys and at the beginning there was a surfy sound so something with beach in the name seemed right. What is interesting is that quite a lot of people hear it in different ways if you say it to them, we’ve had people think we were called Whore Speech, Hoarse Peach, Whole Speech… All sorts.
I noticed that the album was recorded and mixed by yourself, was it important to you to keep the album as authentic as possible, with it being your first full-length?
Absolutely, ever since I started writing for Horsebeach I’ve had an exact image of what it was going to sound and look like. With it being the first LP it was quite important to get it right, the debut being somewhat of an introduction to the world. With me having the chance to write, record and mix it all, I’ve had a good opportunity to keep the whole album as close to that original idea as I could, even down to being able to design the cover art. I took a few weeks off work, locked myself away in my flat and got it all straight onto reel to reel tape.
There’s a lot of dreamy textures within the album that many would say were from the same vein as the likes of Beach Fossils, yet there are nods towards The Smiths and more jangle-pop driven ideas too. Do you think it’s important to keep your taste as varied as possible when writing to avoid being pigeon-holed in to one genre?
I think you’ll always end up being pigeon-holed in some way. I think it’s really important to keep your taste open- absorb whatever music comes your way; I work in a record shop so I get to listen to all kinds of stuff and every now and then something will make me think slightly differently about how I write my music so I’ll go back and try something new. Luckily we keep getting compared to all the bands we really like so it’s not so bad!
Would you say that there are some bands you listen to that people would have no idea you were a fan of having heard the record? If so, who?
Maybe some of the more electronic stuff like John Maus, Colourbox, Dirty Beaches… I bet most people wouldn’t have me for a Metallica fan, but I am. …And Justice For All is amazing.
How has the album been received live? Do you find it hard to tell whether you’ve won people over when you’re playing support slots, or is that something you recognise easily?
We did a launch at Soup Kitchen on 1st Aug to celebrate the LP, loads of people turned up and the atmosphere was great but a lot of the crowd were people who knew the record already so it’s easy to tell they’re into it. When you support and no one’s heard the recordings, that’s when people are judging you from what they hear and see at that moment. I have to go on stage assuming people like the music otherwise I’ll feel a bit lame and won’t put all the effort in. By the end you get people nodding a bit, turning to their friends saying stuff and afterwards people come say “Hi” and reassure you that you’re not the worst band in the world, so it all becomes clear in the end. Getting the album ready to play live was tricky at first, songs like ‘June’ and ‘Midnight’ have synth in so I had to try and incorporate that into our live set. I write songs by layering the instruments up on my own, rather than all writing as a band, so I have a habit of including more instruments than we can play live at one time, so it take some creative workarounds sometimes.
For a band based in Manchester, there’s quite a lot of sunny imagery within the lyrics, yet there’s an undeniably-Mancunian morbidness at times too. Do you think it’s important to balance escapism with reality when writing records?
Some people will prefer one to the other. I tend to lean more towards the escapism side; when I was writing some of the earlier ones I was struggling quite badly with anxiety so it all helped me forget a little. The problem is that the fantasies I constructed to escape were often as morbid as the reality, take ‘Even’ for instance, inspired by Yeats’ poem ‘A Man Young & Old: Part 3’. The story of lovers drowning… But I found them comforting nevertheless as I said in ‘Yesterdays’ : “I wish I could throw away the thoughts, that poison my mind, but I take a kind of joy, embracing the lies.” So then clashing with this is my inspiration from the likes of Galaxie 500, Real Estate and a lot of other sunny American bands which all kind of comes together to make Horsebeach.
Imagine you had all the contacts you could ever need, who would be your dream band to tour the Horsebeach LP with?
It would probably have to be Mac Demarco, he’s a big inspiration of mine and he’d definitely be fun to go on tour with. Or TOY, I’ve seen them a lot and they are really nice guys.
Thanks to Ryan for speaking to us, you can hear the record here: http://horsebeach.bandcamp.com/album/horsebeach-3