Music interview - Pulled Apart By Horses: ‘It’s going to be a party, basically’

Pulled Apart By Horses. Picture: Steve Gullick
Pulled Apart By Horses. Picture: Steve Gullick
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It’s been a big year for Leeds alternative rock band Pulled Apart By Horses – with their first ever top 20 album – and fittingly they’re rounding it off with a big festive blow out.

Pulled Apart By Xmas features seven bands, including PABH, performing on two stages at the Brudenell Social Club in Hyde Park on Sunday.

“I keep forgetting it’s kind of a big deal,” says guitarist James Brown, one of the three constants in PABH’s line-up since 2008, along with vocalist Tom Hudson and bass player Robert John Lee. Original drummer Lee Vincent left in 2015, to be replaced by Tommy Davidson.

“We always knew we were going to be doing this Pulled Apart by Xmas thing at the Leeds gig but we couldn’t get it together in time for the tour announcement, and that’s because of the bands that are playing. We announced it three weeks after we announced then tour and that’s because it took quite a bit of time to get everyone on the same page.

“Blood Red Shoes are really good friends of ours and they’re a big band so it took a little bit of time to get them on board because they’re finishing their new album. We managed to twist their arm into coming up and playing here, and the same with Honeyblood as well, they’re quite busy at the moment and they’re actually on tour when that Christmas show is happening in Leeds but luckily they had a day off there and they’ve tagged it on to the tour that they’re doing.”

Brown admits the mini-festival “nearly did turn into our own Leeds party”, along with city bands Weirds, Forever Cult and Crows. “We could have easily just stuck six Leeds bands on because there are so many about now, it feels like there’s been a little bit of revival, but we thought ‘That’s good but if we’re going to curate a bill we’ve got to make sure there a bit of everything on there’.”

Pulled Apart By Horses scored their first top 20 album in 2017. Picture: Steve Gullick

Pulled Apart By Horses scored their first top 20 album in 2017. Picture: Steve Gullick

Coming at the end of their national tour, Brown promises PABH are planning something special for Pulled Apart By Xmas. “It’s Christmas – we’ve got to do something,” he chuckles. “It could be mulled wine on entry or Christmas covers, but it would be daft not to do something.”

There could even be some costumes, it seems. “When you end up doing a gig on Halloween you’ve got to get dressed up and if you’re going to do a Christmas gig we will do something,” Brown says, adding: “There will be a cover track in there because we always do one for every tour; hopefully there will be an actual Christmas cover for that show.

“There will definitely be a few treats in store, we just need to decide what, and not be too cheesy with it as well. It’s going to be a party, basically, and if it goes well and it’s a good day and everyone enjoys it I think we might do it every year. We might not play it every year but we’d do a Pulled Part By Xmas where we curate the bill if people like it.”

The band’s fourth album, The Haze, reached Number 12 in the UK charts on its release in March. While obviously pleased PABH had finally broken through in mainstream terms, Brown sounds a note of caution. “It’s difficult,” he says. “The last record, Blood, did really well and that got top 40 and that was quite exciting. But while it’s still good [that The Haze went higher] it doesn’t mean that much any more, I think, because the charts are kind of broken.

The records are never constructed out of a game plan, they are what they are with what’s happening at the time

James Brown

“When Ed Sheeran’s album came out the top 40 singles chart was just all his songs off his albums. People used to tune into Radio 1 to listen to the top 40 singles to get to hear new music; I remember that week it was just an Ed Sheeran playlist, it was like that defeats the point of the charts, really.

“Streaming is obviously the thing now, even over digital downloading, and it’s good because it opens up the chart, it gives everyone a chance, but I think something has to happen to the charts. They to split it again so there’s a streaming chart then there’s a physical and download sales chart because it’s just a bit of a mess at the moment.”

What a high chart position has meant, however, is a few new opportunities for the band. “We haven’t done it yet but there’s a lot of talk of [touring] America,” Brown reveals. “We’ve always wanted to do it but I think since we started the band we’ve just scared the living daylights out of people in America. People have [said] ‘They’re like a heavy metal band and they jump around’, well we’re not a heavy metal band at all, we’re bordering on indie almost with some of the songs. I think this time a few people have maybe taken notice that might not necessarily would of in the past so we’ve been discussing plans to go out there next year which would be incredible for us.”

Brown acknowledges there has been a change in dynamic since Vincent’s amicable departure from the band but he feels it’s been beneficial. “It kind of had the same feeling we had with the first record where it was all quite exciting and it felt fresh and new,” he says. “I think The Haze out of the last three records is probably the most similar to the first album, it’s got that b***s to the wall kind of vibe, and I think it took us back to then. You’d be writing the music purely because you enjoyed playing it in the practice room and you’re just bouncing off each other. I think on The Haze Tommy has played a big part in that.

“There’s no one writer, we all write together, and he came into the band and he became part of it. We went away to Wales to write and drink and it was just all exciting again.”

If Blood was “a step towards a bit more pop”, The Haze continues the band’s transition. “We never sit down and go ‘Let’s make this one a bit poppy’, it’s always just a result of what’s happening at the time and how everyone’s feeling,” says Brown. “If they’re giddy and excited or what music they’re listening to. The records are never constructed out of a game plan, they are what they are with what’s happening at the time, but some of it is quite poppy on this one but it’s never a decision that’s made, it’s literally we write how we feel and what’s going on around us.”

Also on the band’s itinerary for 2018 is another Australian tour. “They like rock music in Australia and for some reason they like us as well, which is nice,” Brown says.

He hopes there will also be time to start working on another album.

“[Until now] it’s almost been a thing where you feel like you have to wait because you can’t constantly keep feeding people, you need to go away for a bit to make people excited again when you come back, but I don’t really think that’s the case any more. I think with the internet and social media people want stuff now and it’s all immediate, people don’t like waiting, they just move on to the next thing. I think if you’ve got the music there it’s so easy to put a record out, you just send it to the label and it’s all over Spotify and Deezer, you click a button and then your album’s up and out, so I think if we can get another 12 songs together next year we’ll just put it out and go again, why not?”

Pulled Apart by Xmas is at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on Sunday December 17. www.pulledapartbyhorses.com

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