Last year, UK non-conformists Sugar Horse launched a creative onslaught with their EP, Waterloo Teeth. The project, though at just four entries deep, corralled a dynamic ensemble of contributors, featuring collaborations with members of Heriot, Conjurer, Pupil Slicer, IDLES, Biffy Clyro and more - some fourteen different musicians in total.
The release not only challenged the notion of genre, but framed a compelling affront to conventional heavy music. While the compositions touted plenty of aggression and cathartic resonance, the more delicate, spacey stanzas created a masterful ebb and flow that transformed songs into journeys.
Whether a blessing or a curse, Sugar Horse is best defined by their disinterest in repeating themselves. With Waterloo Teeth, the idea of crafting a collaborative pallet for a host of guests to roam freely was the connective tissue that gave the project continuity. Given that, it seems only obvious that the next submission from the UK collective offer stark contrast to what preceded it.
On Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, the latest EP via Fat Dracula and Metal Blade Records in the US, Sugar Horse assert a special kind of artistic self-reliance, leaning only on one another to achieve a new level of musical fulfillment. The kind of brazen blitz associated with the most eruptive moments on Waterloo Teeth, are now countered with extended entries of ominous drone - long stretches of musical minimalism that challenge the band to craft something memorable without the spectacle of spaz.
It should be said that while the drastic about face could itself could be misconstrued as stylistic spectacle itself, Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico is more a reflection of Sugar Horse's inability to remain idle. Enamored with the nuance of drone, the band's latest effort is their personal crusade to make something interesting in a much more subtle, restrained way.
The band's Ashely Tubb spoke about the kind of chameleon quality that characterizes Sugar Horse and how their latest EP soothed a different kind of creative itch. Tubb weighed in on the kind of influences that played a part on this EP and how working outside the lines of traditional heavy music is where things get interesting.
See the premiere of live playthrough of Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico here.
You're a band where nothing you do sounds anything like what came prior - what's the inspiration for changing up your style so often? Is it a challenge to keep coming up with fresh ideas?
Tubb - I guess we’re all into really eclectic stuff really. I wouldn’t really class anyone in the band as an particular type of music fan. We’re all just heads in general I s’pose.
With that comes a little bit of a reluctance to settle on anything. We’re into a lot of bands that are just full tits metal all the time, and that’s awesome, but I think we’d get bored of that pretty quickly and shifting genre slightly, or take an unexpected left turn keeps writing and playing interesting for us.
It’s also super liberating to know that nothing in particular is expected from us. No one really knows what we’ll do next, so we can do whatever we like and it seems folks just roll with it.
This EP focuses on the note A - it's an unusual and interesting idea - where did that thought originate and how did it come to fruition to what it is today?
Tubb - I’m a really big fan of simple music. Technical proficiency has it’s place and sometimes it’s necessary to allow a particular musical idea to properly come across, but technicality for its own sake is pretty tedious. I don’t really care how fast someone can play, or what weird time signatures something is in if the music as a whole does nothing for me.
That’s kind of why 'Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico' sounds the way it does. It’s kind of taking that anti-muso mindset to it’s logical conclusion. Just have it be one note… for ages… and see what you can do to make that interesting.
We’re also big fans of drone music like Windy & Carl, La Monte Young and Spacemen 3. That kind of harmonic stasis thing is really appealing, but tends to be in the experimental realm. Trying to bring that feeling into something with more of a traditional Pop format is something we do a lot.
Your last EP, 2022's Waterloo Teeth, featured several guests over four hectic songs - here you've decided to do it alone over one long piece - how did it feel almost going back to basics by yourselves after working with so many talented artists last time out?
Tubb - It almost felt like a bit more of a safe space I s’pose. Back to something a bit more familiar.
On 'Waterloo Teeth' we kind of wrote a whole record, but left purposeful spaces where guests could slot in maybe, or silence they could work around. That was something we were very aware of when we were pulling that record together, so it was almost an exercise in self-restraint. Just holding back, so another artist can put their stamp on it.
We wanted to give all the collaborators free rein on that record. Just let them do whatever they liked and commit to keeping it. Made it so exciting getting the recordings back and hearing everyone’s ideas for the first time.
I think the most difficult thing was just trying to wrangle 14 separate musicians to strict deadlines. That was the real challenge… as always… the mind numbing logistics.
Who were your main influences musically this time out?
Tubb - For this piece in particular there was a lot of drone influenced, like the artists previously mentioned, but on top of that there is a whole middle section that I like the think of as a kind of Norma Jean does Drive Like Jehu. Where it’s the big stupid metal chugs - which is something we’ve never really touched before - over a kind of endlessly cycling rhythm section.
The section contains the “The Thin Lizzy Bit”. Which is just me and Jake improvising a tonne of discordant, random notes and feedback for however long we deem acceptable on that particular night. That bit’s pretty Drive Like Jehu influenced as well, but also has a tonne of bands like US Maple and Sonic Youth in it too. Just that complete spontaneity thing, where you don’t even have to think about harmony even. It’s just creating horror.
Our songs can be a little rigid, just by the nature of them having quite tight dynamic changes, so everyone’s gotta be pretty on the money and hit those right. That’s still fun, but we wanted to work a couple looser, more what happens in the room is the show type moments into the set just to mix things up for the audience and (most importantly) us.
What was the idea of presenting this EP in a live playthrough style like this?
Tubb - I guess just hammering home the idea that it’s one piece of music, that’s really supposed to played as a whole.
All Hallows Hall, where we recorded the session, is actually the exact same room we recorded the studio version as well….on the same day.
In fact, all of the mics and everything are set up in exactly the same way. Really you’re just hearing the second take of the studio version, which I think is really cool. It’s kind of a blurred line between studio and live versions with us and it always has been really.
Now you've been a band for a few years and have several, very disparate, releases under your belt, how do you navigate the cohesion of a live show?
Tibb - Ha! Good question…..I think we’re still working on that.
At the moment it completely depends on what kind of show it is.
If we’re headlining, then we always try to play a nice mix. We’ll normally try to start with some of the more melodic tunes, then maybe move to some of the more discordant Noise Rock type numbers, then finish with the heavy stuff.
If we’re playing support shows we try and tailor it to the audience I s’pose. Like we did a few shows with Conjurer last year, so decided we’d do The Knebworth Set….which is just all the heavy ones really. Then the other side of that is we played some shows in Europe with 65DaysOf Static recently and we thought Post Rock fans might enjoy some more drawn out, droney numbers a bit more.
As I say, it depends on who we’re playing to and how long we have. Seems to have worked well so far….although I’m sure quite a few audience members would beg to differ.
Get the latest EP from Sugar Horse, Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico - HERE