Glacial doomgazers Sugar Horse have been had an eventful last two years to say the least, playing with the likes of Vennart and JOHN, opening the PX3 stage at ArcTanGent to an almost full tent, playing a livestreamed set with the aforementioned festival, releasing their last EP Drugs and even getting the occasional mention from the monumental juggernauts of music journalism. Not too bad for a band that have a complete disregard for urgency.
The Bristol based 4-piece are not ones to shy away from a new challenging concept that stand's out amongst the array of innovative music pouring out of the city’s backrooms. Encapsulating this is their new single and accompanying short film 'The Great Shame'. Slow, miserable and dense to an asphyxiating degree, the track and film is a prolonged gaze into the miserable abyss below presented in the form of a documentation of a long abandoned London tube station. Inspired by and featuring cuts from oddly tense 1989 documentary The Heart Of An Angel, the film is complete with reflections on conspiracy theories, the futility of life and unshiftable misery. It's uncomfortable, it burns with an underlying sense of abstract madness and it's the full encapsulation of all things Sugar Horse.
With 'The Great Shame' out today, we spoke to guitarist/vocalist Ash Tubb about the latest stand-alone single, the accompanying video, travel, flat earth and Wine Gums.
It’s early on Monday morning, what starts your week to get you going?
"I normally start the day with a crying baby waking up me up at 5am and it gets worse from there. Only kidding she just wants attention."
What has been keeping you going through 2020?
"At the start of lockdown I saw it as an opportunity because we are hoping to release an album at some point in the next decade. I set myself a challenge to write a riff or chorus/verse for an hour each day. Ended up with 30 song ideas which I whittled down to about 19. Our songs are so long it’s like a King Crimson triple album. That’s where ‘The Great Shame’ came from and there is another which we may look at releasing next year as a stand alone single. We are going for the Factory Records, Joy Division, New Order thing. Peter Hook mentions in his book about those stand-alone singles and how no-one buys them."
What have you been listening to and watching during lockdown?
"Watched ‘Arcadia’ by Paul Wright, which is archive footage cut together and sound tracked which inspired the new song, turning mundane footage into a horror movie which is what I took away from it at least. Would recommend watching it at night in the dark."
"Also been watching loads of Adam Curtis films, Homeland. Love Homeland with all the twists."
"Been listening to the new Greg Puciato record and loads of Meshuggah. Trying to understand how they write and steal some magic."
"It’s like leaning over a precipice and it reflects where we are and it connected with me."
How have the reviews and reaction been to your very long, extended play, Drugs that landed earlier this year?
"I didn’t really expect much as it is very obtuse. When it came out I was queuing at Asda my phone was going nuts with notifications and tags. It’s been pretty insane, I am not used to being in bands that people actually like."
You're releasing a short film for you're new singe 'The Great Shame', how would you describe it?
"It’s way too long, it started out as a joke as all our songs are too long. It’s hard for us to write songs that are four minutes because everything is so slow that by the end we get to the second chorus, we look at the stopwatch and it’s already at four minutes thirty seconds and we have four more sections to do. We thought it would be funny if we just release one song longer than the EP. We didn’t get to that point as we found out it is hard to write a half hour song."
"Jake and I watched a BBC documentary from 1989 called ‘Heart of the Angel’ by Molly Dineen. It’s about the Angel tube station in London which closed in 1990 for renovation as it hadn’t be touched for decades. The staff had worked there for 30-40 years, it inspired some lyrics for the song. There’s a sample in the middle from Derrick who works in the ticket office who is just abject misery. He has accepted who he is and that’s fine with him which I find hilarious and uplifting. After also watching Arcadia I just thought why don’t we cut the clips up. "
"It’s all about the old structures being turned on their head. The old guys upstairs moaning in the office and then you have the young and non-white people working underground picking hair out the rail tracks. A woman singing a tune and she doesn’t seem as miserable as Derrick who counts change upstairs. It’s like leaning over a precipice and it reflects where we are and it connected with me."
"You are born, you live, you die" says the protagonist in the film, thoughts on this?
"Well he’s not wrong is he haha?! Our parents’ generation are in the mould of that guy, not as miserable though! Being resigned to ‘this is my role in life’ and staying in their lane and that they accept it. Saw a lot this growing up. It was very over the top but it made me laugh in a weird way."
What were some of the other inspirations other than ‘Heart of the Angel’?
"Music including Dopesmoker by Sleep, Mirror Reaper by Bell Witch (listen to that if you have an hour), 'My Father My King' by Mogwai. Using these to research how to make a long song not sound boring and repetitive, then I went in the other direction. Bit of The Chariot, Windy & Carl, The Dillinger Escape Plan, just ripping off other bands and making me look like a genius."
What is your process for writing for you?
"It’s different for each song, but I write 60-70% of the material and leave space open for the band to layer things over the top. It’s very organic when we write and demo a song together. For example I’ll bring in a vocal rhythm then write lyrics later, sometimes based on an accidental phrase I spurt out which will then dictate the themes of the song."
I noticed it has BBC logo kept on it, worried you’ll get sued?
"Definitely get demonetised! Was thinking about putting another logo in but it didn’t work. It’s just funny keeping it in."
"Radio 4 and Wine Gums, non stop party bus."
If you do get sued who are you hiring as your defence lawyer?
"Dev (IDLES) probably knows someone? Scarlett (ArcTanGent organiser) maybe? I’ll just represent myself and go in with an insanity plea."
The lift guy in the film asks the question Is the world round or flat. What is the best way to deal with flat earthers?
"With all of these internet conspiracy people they just think ‘oh someone is arguing with me, we must have something here’. Just treat it as comedy. There is literally a horizon!"
The documentary focuses on a crumbling station in Angel, London. Do you think our public infrastructure is much better in 2020 30 years on?
"Have I slipped into an Alan Partridge interview? Are we going to talk about the predestination outside my work?"
Yes. Favourite way way to travel?
"Sedan chair carried by the cast of Top Gear. "
Travelling on the road in the tour van how do you pass the time?
"Lots of cigarettes, podcasts. Last Podcast on the Left is a good one. Listen to a bit of Radio 6 and Radio 4. That’s how you know you’re a rock star. Radio 4 and Wine Gums, non stop party bus."
Will ever write more songs under four mins?
"We’ve got one for the album! It’s got lyrics and everything. The album is going to be pop bangers like New Order. Then we wrote two eight minute songs and that went out the window."
What’s next for Sugar Horse?
"Another single out in the new year. Next week we are going to start recording album one with Andy Hawkins at The Nave in Leeds. Saw a picture of the live room which is a church which is so on brand."