Over the past few years, Sydney psych rockers Zeahorse have been building a reputation asone of the noisiest, most energetic live acts going around. But releasing their debut album, Pools, has been a much trickier process than deafening a few hundred pairs of ears in a sweaty club. The album was recorded almost three years ago and according to bassist Ben Howell, the band initially had trouble releasing it.
“We were going to put the album out ourselves about a year and a half after recording it, but we decided we didn’t have enough money to do that. So we sent it round to a few labels in Sydney and HUB picked it up; then you add another year and a half onto that to put it out properly,” he says. “It’s a really good feeling to get it out, obviously”.
Pools was recorded at a farmhouse in the tiny northern NSW town of Whian Whian and Howell says the remote location – and the fact they camped out in the backyard of the farmhouse for the duration of the recording – helped focus the band on the task at hand. “We were living and breathing what we were doing. We didn’t have to wake up in our own beds and then drive through traffic, and then park in a car park and get out of the car… We literally got out of bed, walked into the studio and started recording.”
While many young bands with energetic live shows struggle to capture the feel of their gigs on record, Zeahorse had no such trouble. Grunge-tinged tracks such as ‘Tugboat’ and the lead single ‘Pool’ crackle with a raw energy that Howell explains was definitely by design. “We actually did the record live, all the tracks are all of us playing live in one room together. That’s the only way any of us were able to translate our live energy to a recording, by actually playing it live.”
Ahead of a national tour supporting Wolf & Cub, Howell says they’ve learnt a few lessons from touring with acts such as The Black Angels and Them Crooked Vultures. “When you watch bands like that, they’re real showmen. Between songs, when no-one’s playing, the frontman will be talking to the crowd and we suck at that. We are the most awful showmen ever, we just have awkward pauses between songs where everyone tunes their instruments and fixes pedals … We’re trying, we’re getting there. We’re not very good at it, but we’re getting better.”
The years of touring as a support act have also taught the band what to play live and what tracks to keep tucked away in the back catalogue. “Most of the time, if you’re supporting a big act and the crowd’s had a few beers and they’re pumped up, the last thing they want to hear is some slow, seven-minute epic about Lord Of The Rings. They just want short, fast punk songs.”
The seven-minute Lord Of The Rings epic Howell refers to is one of Zeahorse’s earliest songs, ‘Big Tall Trees’. But even if the band has a change of heart regarding its live style, it’s a song you’re still unlikely to hear at a gig. “I don’t think we can remember how to play it, that’s the sad thing,” laughs Howell. “Instead of admitting to people that we forget how to play songs, we just pretend to be too cool and say, ‘We don’t play that stuff anymore man, we’ve moved on from there!’”
BY KEIRON COSTELLO