Category Archives: Features

Gunning For Tamar – Interview

rrGunning For Tamar are out on tour! Right now! (Dates below). Before heading out, I caught up with Joe and D’Arcy from the band on a grey old night in Oxford.

Dave: Twenty twelve was a good year for Gunning For Tamar, what was the best thing that happened?

Joe: Europe was cool, and the last tour that we did was some of the best shows that we’ve played, and 2000 Trees. It was the first tour that we did where I saw people singing the words of the songs. It’s just little things like that, to get that response. At one show we were opening and asked if the crowd were looking forward to seeing the other bands, but these six or seven guys in the front row screamed “No! We’ve come to see you!” And they were shouting for an encore. And of course we couldn’t because we were opening! But you can’t underestimate how it adds to the drive when other people believe in what you do.

D’Arcy: One show we played in Belgium, it was the most boisterous show we’ve ever done, and then to play at 2000 Trees on a stage that is bigger than my house….

Joe: Yeah, 2000 Trees was the first time stage people were there to help carry our stuff, and we just very politely said “Oh yeah, no, don’t worry about it.”

D’Arcy: And I felt really guilty as well, because a really pretty French girl started carrying my equipment and I just started thinking “Oh no, don’t do that! I’ll do that!”

Joe: So I guess making a bit of a dent was the highlight. I want us to be a massive band. Not like Red Hot Chili Peppers, who make an album, and people buy it because they like the songs, but nothing else. I want it to matter to people. The bands that I like, their fans, the bands mean so, so much to them.

I guess plans for 2013 are building that audience and connection. You’ve got a new EP on the way, Camera Lucida due out on Alcopop! Records on April 1st. Where did that name come from?

Joe: A book that Dan (guitarist/keys) was reading inspired a lot of the songs and lyrics. It’s partly based on the concept where you look at a picture, and you relate a memory to it, but that’s based on what you see in the picture, and not necessarily a real memory.

D’Arcy: In the book it goes so vivid that it says you remember smells, and actual senses, and you actually create this image in your head from the picture. It has a real focus on the relationship between the conscious and sub conscious.

Joe: There’s one song which came from when I was having these obscene night terrors for six months. They were uncontrollable and horrific, and it was certain things that were happening during the day that was creating these things within my subconscious. I’d sit up in bed and start saying things at night, and my girlfriend wrote down what I was saying to show me in the morning, and we ended up using the lyrics in song, just batshit crazy things I was saying.

D’Arcy: I should probably tell you that I break into your house when you sleep and whisper terrible things into your ears.

What’s the story behind the Camera Lucida album artwork? As a band you’ve got form after the Deaf Cow Motel EP and ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single artwork for some unusual imagery.

Joe: It’s a fine line from keeping it interesting and abstract, and being pretentious. Even song titles or lyrics, it’s not done to be pretentious, it’s because we think it’s interesting. There’s nothing pretentious about our band at all, we’re not trying to be above people’s heads.

D’Arcy: We work with a lot of really artistic people as well. We give them the songs and say right, what do you get from this? We don’t tell them what to do at all.

Joe: The artwork for the new EP came from when I was drunk and at a party, and a girl showed me this picture.

D’Arcy: That story starts off so bad.

Joe: She showed me this picture of her from when she was younger that looked really odd and creepy, and I said yeah, that’s really unbelievable, and I said to her, that could be our next EP artwork. I asked her if we could use it and she’s been really kind and said yes. And it really ties in with the whole Camera Lucida thing, because it has got a really eerie feel to it, and you can create your own ideas of what’s going on.

After the incredible Lewes Herriot designed poster that came with the ‘Dark Sky Tourism’ single, are there any plans to do anything similar with the new EP?

Joe: I think we’re going to be really boring and release it on a CD.

D’Arcy: Perhaps we’re being a bit more grown up.

Joe: We had fun releasing the watch (for the Time Trophies EP), and we had fun releasing the poster, but you have to be careful that you don’t fall into releasing things in funny formats as a gimmick. I’m not saying it has, but I think it can take away from what you’re trying to push. If you make it so fucking crazy, people are going to think, this is zany, and think more about that side of it. We all think that these songs we’ve written are the best we’ve ever made, and we want that to be the gimmick.

Do you think that added value with releases is important for the indie music industry? As obviously, you’d love to get the band to a point where you could make a living out of it.

Joe: You release music on a watch, because you think it’s really cool. And that’s what Alcopop! Records and Big Scary Monsters are so good at doing, they are so interesting with what they do with their releases, but they have to be. They do have the freedom to do that, because they are indie labels.

D’Arcy: I don’t poo-poo it at all, I think we’ve just hit that point where we’ve worked really hard over our EP, and we want the attention to be on that.

What are your thoughts around a possible Gunning For Tamar album?

Joe: It’s nice to develop over an EP, or two, or three. There are very few lucky bands that come into being, and know what their sound is straight away. It has taken us time to develop into something that we want to push on with now.

It’s nice hearing you say that these songs you’ve written are the best you’ve done, and it shows the value in waiting.

Joe: Impatience is probably the biggest curse of bands. The primary concern has to be, “I have to love this song.” Whether you get a major label deal out of it is irrelevant. You have to be able to look back at it in X amount of years, and be able to say that I’ve loved every song I’ve written.

D’Arcy: You have to be proud of your own work. We write the music that we write because we love it, and if anyone else likes it, that’s a bonus on top. The new stuff, we’re so proud of it, as rubbish as that sounds, and as non-indie as that sounds.

Joe: There’s no overruling. There’s no dictator in our band. If we’re working on something, and someone says they’re not feeling it, we’ll put it to the side. It might not be the straightest route to being the biggest band in the world…

Is that the goal?

Joe: Of course! Every band… unless you’re well punk, which…. we’re not. You start a band because you want as many people to enjoy it. The moment you start worrying about not being picked up or whatever, you lose focus of why you’re doing it.

D’Arcy: You start a band to play that piece of work that you are so proud of to people. If they like it, that’s a bonus.

Joe: It’s kind of more fun when they don’t like it. It makes shows more fun if you play to crowds who don’t like you. But sometimes you win people over.

UK tour starting on 16th March – EP ‘Camera Lucida’ out on April 1st on Alcopop! Records.

Catch them live:

16 – OXFORD Academy
18 – MANCHESTER The Castle
20 – LEEDS Nation of Shopkeepers
21 – YORK Stereo
22 – NEWCASTLE Head of Steam
23 – LIVERPOOL The Shipping Forecast
25 – LEICESTER The Cookie Jar
26 – LONDON Power Lunches
27 – BIRMINGHAM The Flapper
28 – DERBY Ryans Bar
29 – BRISTOL The Exchange

01 – SOUTHAMPTON Avondales
02 – BRIGHTON The Green Door Store
03 – CARDIFF Clwb Ifor Bach
04 – KINGSTON New Slang
05 – PORTSMOUTH Edge of The Wedge
11 – BATH Moles

HPH February 2013 – Spotify Playlist

Well somehow January managed to pass by without getting the Spotify Playlist treatment. Lucky January. Instead, here’s 10 musical nuggets to tide you over for the time being.

There’s new discoveries for me from Oxford’s-own Traps, The History of Apple Pie and Rat vs Possum. There’s some excellent tracks from new albums, thanks to the likes of Local Natives, Toro Y Moi and Everything Everything. And finally, a motley collection of other stuff, such as Youth Lagoon (who I’m suddenly completely obsessed with), Deap Valley, and FIDLAR. So something for everyone, as long as everyone likes alternative music that is. Yep, sorry about that.

Dev Hynes – Balls, oranges and Beyonce’s little sis

Dev Hynes. A name that is no doubt fairly well-known in our strange little music criticism world. But beyond our obsessive compulsive fanaticism of the music industry, amongst the musical ‘plebs’ if you will (thanks Andrew Mitchell), he certainly is not as revered as he deserves to be. His musical path hasn’t been straight forwards. It’s been a windy river, journeying into the murky depths of dance-punk as part of the band Test Icicles, flowing to the eddies of a solo acoustic-folk project called Lightspeed Champion. From there, he jumped ship to create grooved-out R ‘n B  under the moniker Blood Orange. And now he’s moved away from the spotlight to work with Solange, the oh-so-obviously sister of Beyonce. So this here is a bit of an ode to the man.

Test Icicles

The band that described their success as something of a joke gone awry, their sound was a visceral collision of confusing genre strands. It’s equal measures punk, pop, metal, and a little math-rock. The band name was originally Balls, but switched to the much more subtle Test Icicles. The first track I heard was ‘Boa vs Python’, a blizzard of noise and fiery biscuits, but beneath all of that there’s some sneaky melodies and hooks in there. A bidding war broke out to sign the band, they ultimately signed to Domino, released one full length record, and split up not so long after. Hynes explained to NME that “We were never, ever that keen on the music. I understand that people liked it, but we personally, er, didn’t.”

Lightspeed Champion

This is where I have to take a bit of a backseat. I never really got into Lightspeed Champion. There’s no particular reason why, sometimes things just don’t work out. So, here’s a picture of a kitten.

Blood Orange

For some reason I just fell for Blood Orange straight off the bat. I love the sparse R ‘n B atmosphere, where an artist doesn’t try to hang too many bells and whistles onto a beat, and Hynes as Blood Orange found a way of making that happen. Tracks like ‘Dinner’ and ‘Champagne Coast’ just have a warm fuzzyness to them. Delicate flickerings of guitar or keys come fluttering across, but at no point become overbearing. I love listening to one of these tracks and then jumping back to a Test Icicles track, it sounds like the equivalent of Lars Ulrich of Metallica announcing he’s going to embark on a folk-rap side project.

Blood Orange’s only LP, ‘Coastal Grooves’ came out in 2011, so what has Hynes been up to since then? Well. . . (besides working with Theophilus London and Sky Ferreira).


Why, he’s been working with Beyonce’s little sister of course! The UK is going a little crazy over her track ‘Losing You’ at the moment, and it sounds like Hynes has still got his Blood Orange hat on. It sounds easy, uncomplicated and effortless. The track comes from a forthcoming 7-track EP to come in January 2013 and I’d expect to hear more of the same. And then after that, what’s next for Dev Hynes? Who the funk knows. But the odds are that it’ll be worth a listen, and I can leave the kitten pictures where they should be, on Tumblr.

A year for Punk!

GnarTowards the end of the year it’s a bit of a tradition to get a bit listy. But this year, borne partly out of the fact that I’ve read a million year-end lists on music sites, and already contributed to other lists, I’ve decided the world doesn’t need another. But what I will do is post up a few highlights and Spotify playlists instead.

Ohio’s Cloud Nothings ‘Attack on Memory’ came early in 2012, and for me it was a beautifully unexpected smack in the face, but it set the tone for a great year for Punk. From the visceral fiercness of Metz to the pop-punk overtures of Gnarwolves, and plenty in between. Japandroids 2nd LP is easily one of my favourite records of the year; an anthemic ode to maximalist guitars and euphoric vocals.

And finally, hey! Blink 182 have a new EP out! And it’s good! When have Blink ever released an EP before? Part of me thinks (and is too lazy to research) that they haven’t, at least for a long long time, but it feels like a smart move.

So all this, and a little bit more, is in the Spotify playist below!

HPH Spotify playlist – Nov 2012

Yes, it’s that time again! The almost-monthly collection of musical nonsense in Spotify playlist format! Hurray!

Eleven tracks for your listening pleasure this month. Although Spotify will only let me display eight tracks in the little box do-dah down there. Cheeky buggers. So somehow I completely missed the news that Hundred Reasons had reformed to do a couple of shows recently. To make up for this pejorative crime against my soul, one of my favourite tracks of theirs leads the way this month.

There’s a little more retrospective action too with an old Postal Service song I rediscovered this week. But, like my sock draw, we must keep things fresh, so there’s some exciting new stuff from Joey Bada$$, The 1975 (although this track was floating around when they were ‘The Big Sleep’, that band has had more name changes than I have pairs of socks), Ra Ra Riot and Chad Valley.

(This post is a little sock-heavy. Guess who just did some washing. Rock n’ Roll!)

Finally, some Gunning For Tamar (a HPH interview with them soon) and, apologies, but I snuck a Christmas song in there. In my defense, it is the greatest Christmas song of them all. Thanks Sufjan Stevens.

HPH October Spotify Playlist

Well here’s a little thing I’ve been meaning to do for a while. Here’s a little playlist of what this Horse has been listening to over the past month. This’ll become something of a regular feature, probably monthly, perhaps more often. It won’t neccesarily be all brand new stuff, but hey, this month, it pretty much is! Enjoy!

So this month we have the likes of Kendrick Lamar (the rapper with a whole lot of hype right now, and for good reason). Also featuring is a little bit of Divine Fits (side project of Brit Daniels from Spoon), one of the new Little Comets album tracks, and some gnarly old Gnarwolves.

HPH – October2012

So this month we have the likes of Kendrick Lamar (the rapper getting the most hype right now, and for good reason). Also featuring is a little bit of Divine Fits (side project of Brit Daniels from Spoon), one of the new Little Comets album tracks, and some gnarly old Gnarwolves.


2012 preview – Jacques Greene, Polarsets, The Heartbreaks and more…

I’m in quite a list-tastic mood right now, so following on from HPH’s top 10 albums of 2011, it makes sense to have a little look ahead.

Well, as the post-dubstep genre continues to fire off into every possible direction, we have some interesting things to look forward to. First and foremost, there will be brand new Burial LP out early next year, which is so exciting it makes my brain want to explode. His little ‘Street Halo’ EP earlier this year was brilliant, but just too short for my greedy desires. So the opportunity to fall head first into the first Burial EP for around 5 years is beyond exciting.

I think it’ll be a big year for producers in general. After seeing the success of SBTRKT this year, moving from dishing out the odd track here and there to a brillant debut full length LP, I’m hoping to see more artists follow in his footsteps. Firstly, will Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs continue dishing out 3/4 – track records? A full length record could really help Oxford’s-own Orlando Higginbottom etch his music further into people’s skulls. Secondly, I really hope 2012 sees a lot more music from Jacques Greene. He’s such a talented producer, I’m pretty much just dreaming of a beautiful LP landing in my lap from the skies. In the meantime, we can just keep listening to what he’s done so far. So here’s ‘Another Girl’ by Jacques Greene.

Moving on, could this be the year that the ‘Blessing Force’ captivate the music world? For the uninitaited: (nicked from the Guardian)

Blessing Force are a community of artists, musicians and writers in Oxford. Often found hanging out at Foals’ stable The House of Supreme Mathematics, the collective are a bit like The Young Ones meets University Challenge. Thankfully, there are a handful of really great bands involved, particularly Jonquil and their frontman Hugo Manuel, aka Chad Valley, Trophy Wife and former Youthmovies member Andrew Mears, aka Pet Moon.”

I’m a big fan of a few of the bands, like Motherhood, Solid Gold Dragons and Trophy Wife. It’s quite interesting to have a bit of a movement going on in Oxford, but they do seem to keep themselves to themselves a bit, in that there isn’t much of a physical buzz about them out on the mean streets of Oxford. Will any of the bands break through on their own to permeate the nation’s consciousness? Who knows. In the meantime, there’s a wonderful mix-tape of the Blessing Force bands that’s been stuck up on soundcloud. You can listen to it here:

Finally, there are a few more bands currently floating about in that pre-first-album fuzzy landscape. Various Cruelties look set for big things next year, Chemicals is an excellently executed track and excites me with regards to what else could be coming from them.

Polarsets are another band that have been on my radar for a while since they popped up on a Kitsune compilation I reviewed several months back for Culturedeluxe. I described their track Sunshine Eyes as: “Indie dance at it’s best,” and everything else I’ve heard from them since is equally as good.

Polarsets – Leave Argentina

Another helping hand from Kitsune led me to the excellent The Cast Of Cheers. Angular, Foals-esque fretful riffage leads the way here. The band recorded their debut album back in 2010 and stuck it up on bandcamp for free, but it’s now sadly disappeared from there. Hopefully 2012 will see more from them.

The Cast Of Cheers: I am a lion

And two more bands to end on. Clock Opera seem to have been teasing us for an eternity with a wealth of great singles. A debut LP is on its way next year, apparently. They’ve also thrown together some brilliant remixes too, including a reworked version of Everything Everything’s MY KZ YR BF.

Clock Opera – Lesson No. 7 (In Session)

The Heartbreaks make fantasticly Byronesque indie rock music. They’ve got a great vocalist with great lyrics, catchy riffs and I have absolutely no idea if they have a full-length debut out next year, but it’s about time they bloody well  did!

The Heartbreaks – Save Our Souls:

HPH’s top 10 albums of the year

December is a time of lists. Everyone is at it, from Pitchfork to Santa Claus (he’s checking his twice, you better have been nice). Last year at CultureDeluxe, we attempted to make some kind of communal top 10, combining together all of our votes to select an overall top 10. In the end there was quite a plethora of selections, with nothing clearly leading the way, so we all chose an album or two that we loved from the previous year, and scribbled some words about said album/albums.

However, now Horses Playing Harps exists (I can hear your cheers from here), so I can have my say on the best 10 albums I have had the pleasure of hearing in the last 12 months. Hopefully you all wildly disagree, otherwise something has gone terribly wrong with the world. Here goes:

1. SBTRKT – SBTRKT // Came out of nowhere with a thrilling and engrossing post-dubstep sound.

2. Ghoestpoet – Peanut Butter Jam and Melancholy Blues // Brilliantly British rapper with great production and great lyrics.

3. Little Comets – In Search of Elusive Little Comets // Anyone who can write a song about a former chancellor of the exchequer and make it sound good deserves a spot in the top 3.

4. Bombay Bicycle Club – A Different Kind of Fix // Another album of new ideas, new sounds and same old greatness.

5. The Joy Formidable – The Big Roar // Lion-hearted post-Britpop with addictive hooks and a great frontwoman

6. Bon Iver – Bon Iver // Insanely beautiful record, complete and fulfilling.

7. Rustie – Glass Swords // Like the party-animal version of SBTRKT, never a dull moment.

8. Drake – Take Care // What he does best: introspective rap, well produced, with some great guestspots and a dash of the late Gil-Scott-Heron.

9. I Break Horses – Hearts // Briiliant warm and fuzzy indie noise.

10. Hyro Da Hero – Birth, School, Work, Death  // Breathing fresh life into the rap-rock genre, with ex- Mars Volta/ Sparta members making some great noise.