The critical reception for Pulled Apart By Horses’ second LP Tough Love far from echoed the album title. When the Leeds four-piece dropped its sophomore release in early 2012, the album was almost unanimously praised for its art-punk audacity and accessibility. The band’s lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Tom Hudson says the record’s success gave them some creatively revitalising freedom in the lead-up to their third album.
“We haven’t done it before, but [we’ve taken] a year out to write and focus on new material, so we’ve been developing that,” he says. “Now it’s just come up to time to record. We’re recording in Leeds, pretty close to home.”
After roaring into the global consciousness with their self-titled debut in 2010, the band wasted no time heading into the studio with producer Gil Norton (Pixies, Foo Fighters) to work on album number two. Hudson elaborates on how their recent album preparations differed from their approach to the first two records.
“With the first album it was like, we’d started the band, written a bunch of songs, toured it about and the album was more like a bit of a calling card – ‘Just put down these songs that you’ve got already.’ The same with the second album, really. We had double the amount of time but it was just like, ‘Get in there and record the songs and get out again.’ We’ve allowed ourselves a bit more time, space and freedom with this album, and have enough time to play about and create some weird sounds and experiment and have fun.”
Taking a year out to focus solely on making an album is akin to committing yourself to an academic thesis. At the outset it looms as a formidable prospect, requiring patience and a steady work ethic. Hudson recalls how intimidating the task appeared at the beginning of last year. “When I think back to when we first went into the practice rooms to start writing new material, we didn’t have a fucking clue what we were going to do,” he admits. “It was pretty scary actually, because it was like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a year of not really playing many shows and we’re writing the next album,’ and we didn’t really have a vision or an idea for it.”
Perhaps the band (completed by guitarist James Brown, bass player/backing vocalist Rob Lee and drummer Lee Vincent) didn’t have too many fixed plans when it began work on a third full-length, but Hudson identifies at least one determined ambition.
“We’ve just been trying to push ourselves and write something different. We don’t really want to tread on the same ground that we have before. We still want it to be the same band but there’s no point in just regurgitating the same album that we’ve written before. We’re pushing ourselves to try out weirder sounds, weirder time signatures. Vocally, me and Rob are trying to push ourselves and change the way that we sing.”
Not wanting to repeat yourself is of course an admirable intention. Yet despite the fact that moving forward seems a logical step, it’s easier said than done, and many bands trip up in the process. Hudson says Pulled Apart By Horses have been looking for inspiration.
“One of the big albums for us guys recently would be the Queens of the Stone Age album,…Like Clockwork, just because it’s crafted so amazingly and there’s a lot of different sounds on it. Some of the songs are a bit more mature or whatever, but then they’ve still got that edge and it’s still ballsy. They’ve got as much intensity as they had before but they’ve just changed the game and stepped it up a level.”
Josh Homme’s desert rockers are a very good example of a band maintaining an essential and unmistakable sound without ever having to directly rehash its earlier work. Again, Hudson states his intention to achieve something similar. “I think there’s something in the way that we play and the way that we write that’s always going to have that certainthingthat we’re not really in control of. But I want to change things up and change the sound a bit, just to challenge people. I don’t really see the point in bands just doing the same thing again and again.”
Now that 2013 is over, Pulled Apart By Horses will soon be back on the road and their first stop is Down Under for next month’s Soundwave tour. However, it’s not as if this trip will be the foursome’s first relief from the intense album production.
“We’re still a bunch of lazy bastards, at the same time,” laughs Hudson. “We’ll plan some bits [of songwriting] out, but sometimes we’ll just end up chatting, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes for five hours.” But it’s not all so chilled out. “Halfway through writing this album I felt quite a lot of pressure. I think I was overanalysing stuff too much. Then I went full circle and thought, ‘Let’s just do what we want to do because that’s what we did with the other albums, so fuck it.’ Sometimes you’ve just got to ignore everything and stick to your guns.”