Now that Lee’s gone, we can go a bit more ABBA
It’s Saturday afternoon in Coventry. At the centre of a circle of rowdy kids, one young dude with multi-coloured hair is the recipient of back pats and admiration from the others. He smiles a bloody smile, as a trail of red saliva run down his chin. If it was Friday night, a lad with a bloody mouth might not be so unusual in Coventry, but on a Saturday afternoon when it’s all in good spirits, it’s a different matter. It’s an unlikely scene for the (reasonably) family-friendly Godiva Festival, and it’s all thanks to the gnarly Leeds quartet Pulled Apart By Horses. On a Saturday line-up of unknowns and soft lads, PABH were a welcome addition and excelled on the main stage.
A week later at 2000trees Festival in Cheltenham, I’m stood talking with bassist Rob Lee from Pulled Apart By Horses, who looks back on the day fondly “I think I said something on stage like ‘I think this is the best one so far of the summer’ and that sounds so like kissing ass, but actually it was. It was a massive crowd, it was the biggest crowd that our drummer – our new drummer – has ever played to, so it was pretty overwhelming for him. We just really didn’t know what to expect from that festival, so to get that kind of a reaction was just awesome. It’s one of those where you look out in the crowd and people are smiling and you can see they’re enjoying it, so it was good”
No strangers to the world of 2000trees, Pulled Apart By Horses have played the festival a number of times; including the infamous mud bath that was the 2012 edition. Something which Rob remembers all too well “…I think the last time we were here it was a few years ago, and it was just like a total quagmire; you couldn’t walk anywhere. But yeah, it’s a great festival – it’s good to be here.”
A few hours on from our interview, Pulled Apart By Horses took to The Cave stage at Trees and tore the place apart. The tent was absolutely rammed, and the crowd didn’t stop moving throughout their set. They even played ‘I Punched A Lion In The Throat’, which I’m pretty sure was the first time in a while for them. Though it’s a wonder I can remember any of the set, due to the knockout effect of Tesco brand mojitos…Of the few times they’ve played Trees, they’ve always had an increase in crowd size, which of course added to the pressure for that evening’s gig, as Rob added with a laugh ”…this time round, if it’s sort of half empty, we’re all gonna go home crying I think”
Godiva Festival and 2000trees only made up a small part of the summer for PABH, with their calendar still full of festival appearances. They’ve also just knocked out Truck Festival and Tramlines these past few weeks, with Y Not Festival, Boardmasters and even a showing in Switzerland for the Jval Openair Festival still to come. But there’s one festival in particular that stands out amongst all the other dates: Leeds Festival. Last year, with an hour to go before they took to the stage to greet their home town crowd, Rob collapsed backstage. Whilst crowds were awaiting the carnage, a message appeared on screen announcing they weren’t playing. Obviously there were no hard feelings (aside from a chorus of boos from the crowd,) and they’ve been asked back this year, with the announcement coming in the form of a personalised note from Rob appearing on the band’s website. On the subject of the festival and the note, Rob confirmed “It was kind of half a thank you and half an apology. But really, it’s kind of overwhelming to be asked back to that, because I felt really shitty about not being able to do it up to this date, so hopefully we’ll be able to make amends for that and put on a good show for people”
As for the illness, Rob’s currently rocking a clean bill of health as he adds with a smile “Over it now – hence the water”
From one bump in the road to another just a few months later, it came as a bit of a shock when drummer Lee Vincent announced via social media that he had left the band. Writing on Twitter one morning in February, Lee confirmed there was no drama involved in the situation and went on further to suggest his replacement would “kick your dicks in.” The split genuinely seemed amicable between both camps, with no specks of bad blood between them, as Rob neatly summed up the situation “I think he just decided to grow up, whereas we’re just still all immature bastards…” Pausing briefly to enquire as to whether he’s allowed to swear, he continued on with a laugh “Ok, fuck it…But yeah, he’s got a kid and his wife’s a tattoo artists and her career’s doing really well in London, so they moved down to London. I think he just sort of had enough of being in a sweaty van with a load of knobheads shouting all day long [laughs] But it’s all totally understandable, and completely amicable – that’s the press story by the way [laughs]”
Enter his dick-kicking replacement, Tommy Davidson. Tommy has played with a number of Leeds bands like These Monsters and Department M, and has been dick-kicking about the scene for a while. On Tommy joining the band, Rob continued “We’ve known him for a long time – he’s always been there since the beginning. He’s been in quite a few different bands in the Leeds scene, but he was in a band called These Monsters who were like kind of an inspiration – don’t tell him I said that. They were going a little bit before us, and we played a few gigs with them, so we’ve known him since then – he’s always been around. We’ve shared the same sort of practice room with him for quite a few years. To be honest he was just waiting there [laughs] with claws out for when Lee decided to go; he was like ‘I’m in!’ To be honest I was unsure at first, because he’s such a good friend, I was like – how’s this gonna work? But then the first practice that we had, it was just like – yeah, that’s perfect. It works. We’ve not had a bad gig since he joined, so tonight’s the night [laughs]”
It’s evident as soon as you see the new line-up with Tommy that something is different – one glaring omission being his lack of tattoo’s! A few more hours in the chair are needed if he’s going to match the level of Lee… “He has actually got one tattoo on one arm, but it’s kind of floral and you can’t really see it that well. We’ve told him he’s gotta get a few more tattoos – A hell of a lot more” laughed Rob.
With Tommy on board, I was eager to hear whether the band had begun to work on any new material. Thankfully, Rob was able to answer in the affirmative. “We’ve been writing and recording. We’ve been demoing every week as much as we can. That’s going great as well. We’ve been really getting into demoing and recording stuff and mixing it at home. It’s being a total geek, but it’s a real pleasure to record Tommy”
The pairing with Tommy has worked perfectly from the first time he hit the skins in practice. But it’s not just a lack of tattoo’s that sets him apart from Lee, as Rob continued “His style’s completely different to Lee’s. Lee had this really chaotic, edgy sound – Very powerful. But Tommy’s powerful in a much more sort of controlled way. Although they’ve got very similar influences, I think Tommy’s got slightly different influences as well, and he’s kind of bringing that into the new material, which is great.”
The new material will follow on from last year’s Blood, their third album. Returning with a gritty, grungier sound, the album saw the PABH boys holed away in the studio for a much longer period of time than previous releases. This allowed them time to really focus on the development of songs and not just work out another album’s worth of similar material. Speaking with guitarist James at last year’s Southsea Festival, he commented that there was a lot of hard graft involved and more time spent on production, as they wanted to try and further themselves as writers. The hard graft certainly paid off, with Blood being their first album to crack the UK Top 40 on its release.
Blood came out in September of last year but for the band it feels like a lifetime ago, as Rob comments “A lot’s happened in the time. To me, it still feels like our new album, but then I think back to when we were recording it and some of the stuff that happened in the studio [laughs] it just seems like a really long time ago. But yeah, it still feels like a new album. But we’re very eager to move on and get the next one out”
One particular highlight of the past 12 months came in the form of a European tour with, of all people, Kasabian. The juggernaut that is Kasabian took off around Europe in winter of last year, and with PABH in tow, it looked to be the ultimate LAD party. Whilst Rob chuckled about the tour, dismissing the idea that it was as wild as one would imagine, the final night in particular did see guitarist James causing havoc “…apparently James kept them up all night, and he was fighting Tom out in the street, not wanting to leave. James was like ‘come on, let’s stick around and party’ and Tom was screaming at him.”
Winter also saw another single release from the four-piece, a few months on from Blood. Teaming up with the brilliant DZ Deathrays for a Christmas themed 7”, PABH smashed out the Slade classic ‘Merry Christmas Everybody’ whilst DZ Deathrays opted for the heart wrenching ‘Lonely This Christmas.’ The release was put out through the wonderful Too Pure label (who I haven’t stopped writing about recently!) who have been doing wonders lately. Talking about their relationship with the folk at Too Pure, Rob added “Paul Riddlesworth is a great guy. Again, he’s been with us from the start and he’s been really supportive with us. It’s cool when you’ve just got little ideas that you maybe can’t twist your labels arm into doing, or your manager’s like ‘no, we can’t afford to do that.’ Paul will go ‘yeah I’ll put it out, no problem’ [laughs] So it’s cool to do nice little bits of weird stuff in that way. Fans seem to really like that; little oddities.”
Returning to the subject of new material, Rob jokes that whilst the plan is for a mid-year release in 2016, “…that probably means it’ll come out early two years’ time from now.”
As for the direction the new album will head in, it’s early days right now. Though it’s to be expected that they’ll head into the studio for a number of weeks as they did with Blood “It’s in its demoing stages at the moment. I think we have about seven or eight tracks of mainly music, a lot have them have got vocals on and vocal ideas.”
With a triumphant leap into the UK Top 40 with their third album and a tour with LADS Kasabian under the belts, a summer’s worth of festivals with new drummer Tommy await. It’s been a pretty big year for Pulled Apart By Horses, and with a fourth album on the way, things are looking to go from strength to strength. Though with Lee now out of the picture, the upcoming album could see an even bigger change in their style, as Rob adds with a laugh “I can’t really tell what it is at the moment… We’re going ABBA; we’ve always wanted to do that. Now that Lee’s gone, we can go a bit more ABBA”