Clare Carter of The Horn The Hunt talks to Andrew Darley about the band’s unique sound, and how the upcoming third album promises a big creative leap.
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Formed during a winter spent in Greenland in 2008, Clare Carter and Joseph Osborne decided to try and write some music together. What started out as an experiment soon became their debut album. The music took threads of inspiration from their favourite musical genres of rock, electronica and pop and crafted them in a way that sounded uniquely their own. Since then the duo have grown increasingly confident in their work and vision; releasing their second album, Depressur Jolie, in 2011 and have just completed their third album.
The new record, due for release in the coming months, will see the band take their biggest creative leap yet. The pair have abandoned the digital recording methods that have been the foundation of their sound to date in favour of an analog production. Based in Leeds, The Horn The Hunt have a burning desire to take their music further afield and their new album may be the one that reaches and captures the imagination of a larger audience. I talked to Clare about the new album, the intense relationship of working as a duo and their constant desire as a band to better themselves.
Where did the name The Horn The Hunt come from?
It means the thing that we’re trying to get at. The spark and the chase!
In your online description, you say that your music is “pop music coming out of the dark desert canyons and wild horse chases”. Do you feel your sound has a specific sense of place or even time?
I think each album we work on is different. I used to be a visual artist and still am so I think that feeds into the music, in that I’m always thinking of places and events. Right now, I feel that’s where the music we’re making comes from and how I see it. Lots of different channels merged into this desert canyon land. (Laughs) Whereas, our previous album doesn’t sound like that at all. But it’s not concept-based. I don’t set out with an image and try to do that. As we’re both making the record, you start to get hints of what the different songs are telling you, what kind of place they belong and what it looks like. The idea comes at the end in a way. The meaning is brought to you.
Was there moment when you knew you wanted to make music or was it always there?
Well for ten years I just painted and then I decided to try write music instead. At 16, I first picked up a guitar and wrote some songs but I always felt that I couldn’t do it or it wasn’t what I should be doing. I was a visual artist and that’s what I should do. Being a teenager and seeing my favourite bands and them as people with such power and creating poetry on stage with the music was really inspiring. Me and Joe grew up in the ‘80s and ‘90s so our teenage years were grunge. Bands like The Jesus Lizard, The Pixies, Nirvana, Hole and all the Riot Grrrl bands were hugely influential. It was them really who made me want to sing. But then later, we both got into electronica and it was those two influences coming together that made us form The Horn The Hunt.
Going back to the beginning, were there any differences in vision for what you wanted the band to become?
I don’t think we knew what it was going to be at all. We just started working together. I didn’t have any previous experience as a singer or a songwriter apart from just dabbling in my spare time. Whereas, Joe has always been in bands and involved in mixing and mastering. The crafting of sound is his thing. Mainly, I wanted to see what I could do as a songwriter and Joe said he’d record it … then he said I’ll play bass and synths on it and eventually he said “I’ll produce it”. (Laughs)
And that was my next question, can you tell me about the relationship of writing and recording together as duo? I imagine it’s quite an intimate process.
Yeah it is! A lot of it depends on personality. Sometimes we’re chalk and cheese and we can be highly critical of each other and we don’t let each other get away with anything. It can become quite heated and angsty but we’re perfect working partners because I’m an ideas-person and he’s a process-person.
So is there a point in the recording when you both collectively know when a song or an album is done?
No! Those are things that are harder to put your finger on. We work very well together; we leave each other alone in the writing and recording. I do my bit and he does his. But the minute it comes to deciding tracklists or asking if a song needs something else; those are things that are harder to rack up.
You’ve recorded in several parts over the world including England, Norway, Spain and Holland. Do you find that location can influence your creative process?
I do actually. Before we even thought about becoming a band, the first song we ever wrote was in Greenland in a wooden shack by the sea. We recorded the sound of the waves, I put a vocal down and Joe put some bass down. Later when we listened to it, we thought it really sounded like Greenland because it’s always dark there and can be quite oppressive. But our last two albums have been recorded in Leeds so maybe they sound just like Leeds! (Laughs) But I don’t think so. In our music, there’s a lot of trickery and production. So we can make an album in England that sounds like it came from the desert.
I know you’ve mentioned that you started as a visual artist but how does the imagery for your music come together? Are you hands on with it or do you like to collaborate with others?
I’d love to get other people involved but at the moment we’ve been a totally DIY band. We’ve made all our artwork, stage outfits and projections. We’ve recorded, mixed and mastered all the music without any outside help at all. So it’s very hands on but I would love to work with someone else and not just for the sake of it. I want to meet the right person to collaborate with and meet minds.
Is there a video or artwork that you are particularly proud of?
No because I’m too critical in that way. (Laughs) I’m the artistic director for the band so most of it comes through me. I always feel it’s just not good enough and we need to get a professional in and it shouldn’t be so incestuous. But there have been moments such as the ‘Black Fire’ video which is coming out in September. We just went to a cave with a discoball and torch and we managed to make something beautiful. I’m not into slick, professional looking things. I’d rather there be some magic. I’m really inspired by Michel Gondry because he’s big into smoke and mirrors and trying to fool the eye. I find that far more exciting than CGI and graphics. I still believe in old-fashioned theatre and props. But to answer the question: I’ve yet to make something that I’m entirely proud of and think is amazing.
You’re currently playing shows at the moment. Is it something you enjoy?
We play quite sporadically and we’d love to tour more. We haven’t had the opportunity to take the music to where we’d like to take it. We’re playing Spain and Portugal next month. We love playing and we feel it’s the only thing missing now.
Given that your music is quite layered, how do you find interpreting songs in the live setting?
We’ve tried playing as duo, with a drummer and as a four piece. For the album that we’ve just finished, we definitely want at least a five-piece band because there’s so much going on in the music. Like I said, I feel like we haven’t got the live aspect of the band quite right yet. I know other people may disagree and say we sound great live. We’re playing as a duo right now, using a lot of ambient and electronic elements and it does sound quite big to others. Ideally, we would like a band and that’s why we haven’t toured properly yet.
And you mentioned there that the new album is finished. Can you tell me a bit about it?
Well it’s a double album! But I can’t say too much about it. It has a title but I want to keep it under wraps for the moment. We’ve only just finished it and we’re not 100% sure when it’s going to be released or who’s releasing it. All I can say is that it’s like the description we started this interview with! With all the wild horse chases. It’s a purely analogue album and we got a drummer in to do all the beats. There is no programming involved and we bought two analogue synths. It’s a huge jump from our previous stuff. It’s quite long as there’ll be 18 songs on it and some of them are instrumentals. It’s a lot more laid-back and it’s a bit more rockier.
Is the ‘Gold’ single an indication of where you are going with the new album?
Yes! We left our previous label and we wanted to release something that sounded as though we were breaking away from the past! ‘Gold’ was the first song we recorded with our drummer and we just wanted to put it out there on 7 inch and ‘Lungs’ is its B-side.
Have your previous two albums in any way shaped the new album?
Well the debut album was simply an experimentation and a documentation of it. With the second album, Depressur Jolie, we had a clear idea of what we wanted to sound like. It was really up and down, quite a hysterical album. From there we knew that we wanted to get rid of the programmed beats and digital elements for this one. We wanted to make something completely analogue that played to the human pulse rather than a computer. We got rid of all the electronica and made something completely new. But that doesn’t mean the next album after this one will be the same, we could go back to electronica.
In your biography you say your aim is to make “challenging pop music”. Do you feel you achieved that so far?
Similar to how we approach our artwork, we’ve been highly critical of ourselves and feel we can always do better. In the big picture, I do think we’ve achieved this because we don’t fit into anything. And that’s been hard for us, in terms of being a part of a local scene and getting people to talk about us. But because we don’t fit in, I know we’re doing something right!
For me, pop music just means it’s accessible and we would like to be that, but push it as far as we can take that accessibility. We want to include all the extreme emotions of life in our music and not just have a one-dimensional sound that when someone puts on The Horn The Hunt, they go to a particular place. I’d like to offer more of a mirror in a way, rather than an air-freshener. Our focus has always been to come up with something that we haven’t heard before and if we can do that, then that’s the challenge.
The Horn The Hunt’s third album is expected for release in the coming months. Their new single ‘Black Fire’ will be released on September 15. Click here to preview and purchased it.