Interview: The Horror The Horror

30 Questions with The Horror The Horror

The Horror The Horror first caught my ear with their standout contribution to an already stellar compilation - "Songs we have learned to sing" for Velvet Klubb/student radio in Uppsala, which I reviewed in June '05. That song is "Sound of sirens," and I stand by what I called it then, "an insanely catchy slice of indie rock." The Stockholm-based group has had a busy eight months since then, signing with German label Tapete, recording their debut album and touring Germany. The re-recorded version of "Sound of sirens" is on the FM4 chart in Austria, and second single "I blame the sun" can't be far behind.

The self-titled album has just been released in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, with Sweden and Benelux releases expected soon. The UK is also buzzing for The Horror The Horror, with lots of talk of a bidding war. Once you hear the record, you'll know why. From the stop-and-start of "Ipanema" to the laid-back opener "De-evolution according to THTH," the album showcases the band's knack for wrapping melodies and hooks galore around the vocal/lyric talents of Joel Lindström and the complementary guitars of Johan Jansson and Mattias Axelsson. The group will be touring Germany, Austria and Switzerland in March and April.
- Matthew W. Smith

Collective answers are labelled as THTH. Individual answers have the initials of the particular band member:
Jakob Frodell - drums
Johan Jansson - guitars, vocals
Joel Lindström - vocals
Patrik Thorngren - bass
Mattias Axelsson - guitars, vocals

01. The band started in 2002. How long had you known each other, and what brought the band together?

THTH: Actually we started out earlier than 2002, we just did our first shows in 2002. We all met in Uppsala and we have known each other for some time before we started the band. Some of us played together earlier on, in local bands. We just had some good timing that we all were out of bands at approximately the same time and we just wanted the fun of hanging out and making some sweet music. So initially we just played for fun whenever there was time - we didn't even have our own rehearsal space. But as the music got better and better we also became more serious about the band and the music we made. After a while we felt we needed a second guitarist to do the songs justice, so in early 2003 Johan came into the band and things kind of fell into place from then on.

02. Who picked out the name?

THTH: I don't think we really know who initially picked out the name, it's just an expression we use from time to time describing the state of things when you are out of money or out of love or something like that. And also we like Joseph Conrad and "Apocalypse now!"

03. Since you started out on the Stockholm club scene, what's been your favorite gig you've played so far in the city?

THTH: It must be when we played Fritz's Corner at Debaser for the first time in 2003 because it's a really good club and the venue is good too, with good sound, and the crowd just got really into it in a way that was new to us. And also they gave us lamb filet with some pretty nice red wine-sauce to go with it (pretty nice I must say) and that has not happened since. You know it's all cous-cous and pasta salads usually.

04. Do you/did you play any covers?

THTH: We haven't done it yet, but we have discussed doing various songs from different artists like Hüsker Dü, Annie, PiL, and Echo and the Bunnymen, among others. (However we have been known to steal as much as possible from other artists.)

05. How did you get involved with the Velvet/Songs We Have Learned To Sing compilation?

THTH: We played the Club Velvet in Uppsala last spring and they put together that compilation of bands that had been playing there.

06. The word is Tapete signed you on the spot after a gig. How did that relationship start?

THTH: A fan/friend from Germany told us that Tapete could be a good label for us (thanks again Michael!), so we sent them an e-mail with a link to our site, and they downloaded our demo-songs. A couple of months later their A&R guy came up to Sthlm and saw our show at this small club. Apparently they liked it. This is probably not a good tip for new bands though - the record label people told me that's the first time they even followed a link like that, so it must have been fate...

07. For your first single, you re-recorded "Sound of sirens." Did you approach it any differently the second time around? Tweak it at all?

THTH: Basically we played it faster on the new version. And I think one guitar line on the bridge is a bit different. And we forgot to put the tambourine in the mix on the remake.

08. Did you know producer Martin "Konie" Ehrencrona before making the record? How did his production style help the songs?

THTH: Patrik knew him from before and the others only knew of him. He has the same kind of approach as we do to music, just to try to keep it simple. No unnecessary overdubs when it doesn't fill a purpuse and so on. His studio is completely analogue which gives a more direct kind of working process than in a digital studio, more based on playing good and less on mixing and using effects and stuff afterwards to make it shine.

09. How do your songs usually develop? Does one guy bring a hook or a riff, and everyone piles on to it? Or is it more spontaneous?

THTH: Usually one of us comes up with a guitar phrase or hook of some kind and then the others copy and innovate, add their own ideas into the mix and when we get the right feel to it the lyrics are added. Sometimes the ideas are quite developed from the beginning and sometimes not. However, a lot of the songwriting process takes place in the rehearsal room.

10. Joel, how would you describe the experience of writing lyrics in a language other than your mother tongue?

JL: I had a good English teacher in TV, cinema, novels and music of course. I have mostly been listening to British and American music for all my life so it feels kind of natural to me. And really, English is the language of pop and rock music, isn't it? Also, I find it easier to be honest writing the lyrics in English. The language makes kind of a filter that gives me a certain kind of security and distance to the material which makes it easier being direct and less embarrassing being true.

11. Do you foresee writing/recording any Swedish-language music?


12. The big hooks really stand out in your songs. Is it a conscious thing, or do the melodies just come to the surface as the song takes shape?

THTH: You think? The melodies are just something that comes out of the bank of melodies that I have stuffed my head with, over the years. The melodies reflect the feeling I get from the beat and the harmonies and the attitude of what the band is playing.

13. Which song on the album has changed the most since you first started writing it--and how?

THTH: Oh, it's so hard to tell because some of the songs started out as something completely different than what they are now. On some tracks we might have only kept one bass line from the initial idea so that is a pretty big change I guess, when you through away a whole verse and chorus and only keep the bass line. But probably "Twice in a lifetime" changed the most in a way becuse we only had one guitarist when we started making it and we felt it really needed those twin-guitar things. And also when Patrik came up with that super-cool bass line, that wasn't there from the beginning, it really made the song!

14. "This is a lovesong" is a great song to end the album with, with the staccato guitar and tempo changes. Is there a chance it could be the next single?

THTH: Thanks, we thought so too. We haven't decided on the next single yet. It is one of the songs still in discussion though.

15. The first single "Sound of sirens" is on the radio charts in Austria, and you played there recently. How was the show, and how have things taken off for you in that country?

THTH: The show was really mindblowingly strange and overwhelming. To play in front of 2,000-3,000 people on an enormous stage, outdoors in January, broadcast live on national radio, is a really strange thing. We have only played relatively small clubs before, you know. However, the crowd really seemed to enjoy the show, dancing and screaming, and we know the radio station is playing our songs, but we don't really know that much more about what is happening. We will just have to wait and see.

16. You're touring Germany, Austria and Switzerland in March and April. Will you have more touring plans for later in the year?

THTH: We have plans to tour Sweden and Benelux this spring and the UK and some summer festivals hopefully. About this fall we don't know yet. We do know they want us back in Germany for the fall, though.

17. Is a UK release for the album in the works?

THTH: It is absolutely. We are choosing between different labels and distributors as we speak so we can't really tell who will be distributing the thing yet.

18. The promo single for "I blame the sun" has a demo track called "I lost my girl to alcohol." Is there a chance you'll re-record it for the next album?

THTH: Don't know, nothing planned for that yet. But we would like to record the second album as soon as possible.

19. Speaking of which, have you written new songs since the album was finished? Are you able to write on tour?

THTH: Yeah, we are writing new material all the time, really cool stuff of course. But not on tour so far. It's hard to play the guitar in a mini-van.

20. Jakob, your favorite drummer is Hal Blaine. What are your favorite songs that he's played on?

JF: Besides the stuff he did for the Beach Boys & Phil Spector, a big favourite is "Someday man" with Paul Williams.

21. Joel, working in a record store, do you often get inspiration/ideas for your own music while you're there?

JL: Yeah, sure I get a lot of inspiration as to stuff I can steal and put into our songs. But really it's no different from when I'm listening to music at home. And also in the record store I'm of course forced to listen to a lot of crap music. Sometimes I feel it's kind of embarrassing knowing as much about stuff like the follow up-single of Lou Bega or Venga Boys, as I do, but I still like to show it off whenever I can.

22. Mattias, since you're a fan of the "The office", how do you rate David Brent's talents as a musician and video artist in "The office special"?

MA: It was astonishing. Whatever he tries out, it is always a blast. A work of a genius.

23. Johan, I'm also a big fan of the first 3 bands/artists on your list of those you listen to. So, what are your favorite tunes by Ride, Supergrass and Desmond Dekker?

JJ: Ride - "Drive blind" (it was music like this that made me start my first indie band)
Supergrass - "Sun hits the sky" (A delightful combination of energy and melody)
Desmond Dekker - "Israelites" (I know this might be too obvious a choice, but the song just makes me want to dance and sing)

24. Patrik, who are your favorite bassists?

PT: Charles Mingus.

25. Everyone: what are your top 3 albums of 2005?

JL: Animal Collective
LCD Soundsystem
Broken Social Scene

MA: Pernice Brothers - Discover a Lovelier You
Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
Handsomeboy Technique - Adelie Land

JJ: M.I.A. - Arular
The Magic Numbers - The Magic Numbers
Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene

PT: Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
Hot Snakes last album, I don't know if that came out last year but it is a killer. Otherwise last year didn't provide any good albums. Sad but true.

JF: Broken Social Scene - Broken Social Scene
Pernice Brothers - Discover a lovelier you
Jenny Wilson - Love & youth

26. How is the atmosphere being a band based in Stockholm? Do the bands/clubs have a good support system? [I'm only familiar with Accelerator, which I went to in '03 and '04.]

THTH: There are a few clubs to play. Debaser is basically the best place and has been for the last couple of years with a lot of different clubs. They will have to close down though because they are rebuilding the part of Stockholm where it's located. I think they will relocate somehow though. And Mondo was a big place which recently shut down, because they had been serving drinks to 14-year-olds and they didn't pay their bills... So the future is kind of uncertain but there are newer places like Street with new good clubs and a there lot of smaller ones like Landet and Ove med Skägget, so it will be good.

27. Since at least several of you are football fans, how much hype do you think that first round Sweden-England match will get in the World Cup this summer? Seems like it's been since the 1960s since England beat Sverige...

THTH: Oh, it will be a big hype alright with Svennis being sacked after the World Cup and everything. Sweden 3 England 1. But the big hype will be about us playing at halftime (hopefully, eh, not completely confirmed yet ;-).

28. What positive aspects do you see in being a Swedish band?

THTH: It seems like some people in other countries find us a bit more interesting and exotic than their local acts, because they make a point about us being Swedish. But it's hard to tell. We have never been from another country so we have nothing to compare with, really. I guess. I have noticed that certain fans seems to be really interested in the nationality of bands even more than which genre of music the bands are playing which is pretty strange, but if it helps us in any way it must be a good thing.

And also we get government funding that pays a small part of the rent for our rehearsal space, which is a good thing about being Swedish.

29. What's the most frustrating thing about being a Swedish band?

THTH: Some of the places we want to play are pretty far to travel to. That is a bit frustrating. You know Sweden is a bit out of the way wherever you are going.

30. Last, what do you hope to be able to say about The Horror The Horror at the end of the year?

THTH: We are all alive and well and we are friends and we are making some wonderful music and, oh, funny thing how we conquered the world so rapidly.

.:About the author:

Matthew W. Smith is a writer/editor based in Richmond, VA.