From time to time you will stumble upon an album which will simply stick with you. It will pretty much sum up whatever it is that you happen to be into-put simply, it ticks all the boxes.
My Grey Horse release the hugely anticipated I Still Don’t Understand on July 28th. It’s one of those genre questioning collections, packed with a distinct percussion driven energy and sprinkled with the group’s refreshing sense of humour.
And with My Grey Horse you really do get the genuine article. Every aspect of the album is entirely of their own composition. And when we examine the makeup of the group we uncover creativity in abundance. An illustrator, an animator and a filmmaker comprising three of the five. And whilst genuine chemistry is no fluke, My Grey Horse have what you may describe as a long standing advantage given that theirs is a brotherhood built on exactly that. Three brothers to be precise- Peter, John and Oobah Butler along with close friends Tom Mott and Joe Nicklin combine to produce the spark of artistic depth ever apparent throughout their debut album and carried forward from their Stop Before The Dry River EP.
Packed with poetic and emotive lyrics set atop striking swirling guitar tones and sweeping melodies and topped with captivating layered harmonies, if Stop Before The Dry River was the eye opener, then I Still Don’t Understand is set to be the head turner.
And when it comes to the evolution of this high-energy five piece, the band’s originality is key as Peter Butler explains. “The sound of the album was very important. It’s all about being true to the themes and songs. We didn’t want anything to be over produced at all, so we recorded into an old cylindrical Hop Kiln in Hampshire onto analogue tape”.
Written from a retrospective and almost bittersweet perspective, the theme is often one of thoughtful reflection. Need Wood is a wonderful example of that evolving diversity. That striking, clanging percussion grabs you at the onset, striking a resounding balance with those dreamy layered harmonies and paving the way for a distinctive lead vocal.
Days Shall Follow opens with a now familiar percussion rhythm which is wonderfully regimental and set astride plucky, clanging strings and vocal which is direct, bright and folky-every part the perfect accompaniment for those swirling, flowing harmonies.
Waste of Air brings with it yet another ingredient- the element of mystery. Uplifting yet rather profound in tone and served up on a colourful beat, this track heightens that sense of intriguing curiosity through its functional yet thought provoking and artistically profound video.
Many will already be familiar with the music of My Grey Horse, but with I Still Don’t Understand we now have a truly distinct foundation on which the ambitious group shall build. The album will serve as not only an announcement, but also a curious glimpse into just what we may come to expect from a hugely exciting group.
The July 28th release date ties in nicely with highly anticipated live performances kicking off on July 22nd as My Grey Horse support The Veils at London’s Village Underground before what is sure to be a triumphant homecoming on July 27th as the Midlanders headline The Stratford Picturehouse Bar in their native Stratford-upon-Avon.
Here’s our exclusive My Grey Horse interview in full…
LADIM- It seems as though we’ve been waiting a while for I Still Don’t Understand, and having heard the album, the first thought is that it’s DEFINITELY been worth the wait. How do you feel as the release date creeps into view? Any nerves?
Oobah- Thank you. Other than the odd twitch, not so much; we spent so long working on the album and I think it’s good. If I didn’t think it was good at this point I’d probably just throw the towel in. So my overriding emotion is excitement to hear what people think.
Tom- We’ve been playing a lot of the album live over the last month or so which has been great. A few of the songs are pretty tough to get through, lyrically I mean. You can sweetly harmonise them all you like but some parts have been really getting me right between the eyes.
LADIM- We’ve seen the album described (rather beautifully) as a retrospective, bittersweet celebration, and it certainly feels very upbeat throughout. Do you feel you may have laid some preconceptions to rest with I Still Don’t Understand, or is it simply a case of natural progression?
Oobah- This is without doubt our most optimistic release as a group, and probably the most retrospective. I think that sadness from the past comes from a happy place anyway. You wouldn’t long for a time or try to relive it if the memories were grim, would you? So the fact that the songs sound a little more incandescent compliments how lyrically it’s a little sad. We’re trying to put things to bed on this record, but they keep on rising in the night. That’s how Pete came up with the title I Still Don’t Understand.
LADIM- Much has been said and written about your diverse and creative backgrounds. With this in mind, just how important was it to you as a group to have total creative control over every aspect of the album?
Tom- It was definitely really important, and we have been fortunate enough to have the backing of a great label (CRC) who not only allow but really encourage that freedom. John’s artwork and Pete’s video direction are really integral to the band. It has really enabled us to present ourselves totally honestly through mediums which are undeniably entwined with music. Having such autonomy hopefully lets people identify with us even more directly… Of course there are plenty of artwork B-sides. If you come to a show you might just get to see one of Pete’s hand-drawn “horses” on the merchandise table.
Oobah- I like to think that within the music alone you can see that we’re artists as opposed to musicians. I know that there are heaps of musicians who are better than me, but so long as I can convey what I’m trying to achieve artistically on my instrument, I’m happy.
LADIM- I read recently that you’ve recorded into an old Hop Kiln in Hampshire! This takes originality to a whole new level! I have to ask, who’s idea was it, and (honestly) did the rest of the band think you were barmy?
Joe- It was actually an idea from our record label boss, Charlie. We scoped out the place about a year before and recorded an EP, Stop Before The Dry River there, after that we were sure on it as a location.
Oobah- We’d had a lot of problems with the studios we’d been in before because a really, really important part of putting this album together was for us all to be playing live. We wanted the songs to sound like the instruments they were played on, inside the room they were recorded in. From the moment we went to Earth Terminal (the studio) the absurdities and pure theatre of the place were perfect. And it was big enough for us all to play together in.
LADIM- The track Day Shall Follow is a wonderful example of what to expect from the album. The video is amazing, it has fun written all over it! The setting looks beautiful, but again I have to ask, who’s idea was it that you should get into the lake? More importantly, was it as cold as it looks!?
Tom- It was colder and wetter! We didn’t realise there is a difference between wetsuits and drysuits. We did get wetsuits to wear under our clothes, but I think wetsuits are designed to be worn tied off at the waist on a Hawaiian beach- not halfway up a mountain in Snowdonia.
John- I had the original idea of us being submerged in water, but the more material that Pete and I put together for the record, the more it kept feeling completely appropriate. So throughout the artwork, video and photos there is that theme.
LADIM- Historically much is made of the difficulties which can arise when siblings work together in a band. Has this ever been an issue for My Grey Horse?
John- I think that generally the little things are blown out of proportion, but the bigger issues are a lot easier to get past. We’re completely comfortable with arguing with each other over a lost guitar lead or being too close on the mic, but because of this, issues that could be significant in other bands feel like a breeze.
LADIM- If I Still Don’t Understand is a taste of things to come, then it can’t come quick enough! What can we expect from My Grey Horse in the future?
Tom- Maybe a jingle for the Welsh tourist board. If they ever return our calls.
My Grey Horse release I Still Don’t Understand on July 28th through CRC Music. Catch the band live in London at the Village Underground on July 22nd, and at the Stratford Picturehouse Bar, Stratford-upon-Avon on July 27th.