Music

Horsell Common to The Rescue

Horsell Common have been simmering away across Melbourne stages for the past few years, building a very tidy reputation both locally and interstate. For a band that prides itself on being independent without any motivation or interest in following gimmicks and rehashed sounds, Horsell Common are instinctive when it comes to inking punchy tracks with a steadfast ethic for hard work and commitment.

Not only have Horsell Common sparked deserving attention since the band’s breakthrough recording Satellite Wonderland through Boomtown Records last year, the three-piece has achieved a presence which screams the notion this band is entirely comfortable in its own skin. Brooding lyrics and crunching guitar work have stamped Horsell Common’s empowering presence convincingly, together with soaring bridges and an edgy aesthetic which oscillate the band’s uncanny tightness you can only expect from three lifelong friends. It’s the ultimate gameplan that is paying off, as guitarist and frontman Mark Stewart confirms. “I guess the main thing is that we aren’t obsessed about sounding like anyone else. In fact, it’s the opposite. We refuse to listen to any kind of music when we write, then that way there is no danger of the songs not sounding like us. When we write a song we know that we are going to have to play it live a million times so we better love it. We aren’t trying to reinvent the wheel, but we don’t want to give you something you already have in you CD collection.”

2007 thus seems to be Horsell Common’s year and the band is running with every opportunity thrown their way. Touring non-stop, including an advantageous appearance at this weekend’s triple j AWOL event in Burnie, as well as recording their long awaited debut album The Rescue, Horsell Common are the epitome of the Australian independent scene – delivering superior recordings to rival any heavyweight band with unrelenting determination. While the band’s lyrics – at times – channel the frustrations of a world mesmerised by namesakes and the fashion stakes, Horsell Common seem to have their feet cemented in independence without burning any bridges. Stewart is content with that. “Well, being an indie band is all we’ve ever known. I can honestly say we’ve never met with or been approached by a major label and I doubt they would know what to do with us. Being independent means we work extra hard and we are involved in everything we do; that way there’s no one to blame but ourselves when things go pear-shaped. Plus, I think the landscape is changing now anyway – the minute a major label wants a cut of the $20 you get from selling a T-shirt at a show, then you know that something’s not right. The future will be awesome for independent Aussie bands – the internet evens the playing field a lot and there is no substitute for good songs and hard work.”

Substitution is an inconceivable concept for Horsell Common. Rather, reputation and level of competence have spoken favourably for the band and attracted champion producer Stephen Haigler ( The Pixies, Brand New ) to Australia to help the lads record their debut in May this year. So why did Horsell Common choose to go with an American producer rather than sourcing local contacts? “We tossed a few names around but we couldn’t all agree. We then went to our CD collection and picked a bunch of records we loved and just checked out the credits to see who produced them. Haigler’s came up a few times so we thought we’d ask him. He liked the demos and was available so we went with him.”

Horsell Common aren’t strangers to smaller recording projects and have already released a total of three EPs and a split release with good mates Trial Kennedy. To construct a truly impressionable debut full-length album therefore enacted an invigorating approach to the band’s recording mindset – an objective which Stewart believes the band has achieved. “The only goals were that it had to be better than anything we had done before and we weren’t allowed to write the same song twice. It had to be interesting from start to finish for ourselves and for whoever picked up the record. Yeah, I think we have done that.”

Song-writing for The Rescue commenced in January this year and continued on through to May, just before Haigler’s arrival into Melbourne. Having an outsider from the Australian scene on board proved to be a learning curve for the band. “More than anything he had the most input on the guitars and the vocals. We spent so much time on both that it’s really all I remember about the recording itself. He was always keen to try different guitar/amp combinations for each part of each song, to the point where you wanted to kill him. Looking back, I’m thankful for it but at the time it looked like we wouldn’t get the record finished.

“He did spend a lot of time giving me shit and mimicking my voice which was a bit of laugh considering he can’t sing for shit. He makes Cripps sound like Michael Bolton. I would constantly play him local music that I love and he would instantly respond with something from back home that he loved. It seemed like a bit of a pissing contest at times but he did put me onto some great bands.”

What has resulted is a noteworthy debut that sees Horsell Common drawing more on rock dynamics while retaining the band’s distinct shout-out style, underpinned by pounding rhythms and emotionally charged lyrical smarts. Stewart admits that the pressures of recording under a strict timeline resonated through their efforts and has contributed to the album’s overall appeal. “We thought a month would of plenty of time to do the record. Plus, that’s all the time we could afford. Satellite Wonderland and all the other recordings we had done in the past had been completed in under a week so we didn’t see time ever becoming a problem. Holy shit, were we wrong! Half the gear in the studio we tracked in didn’t work, and if it did work we ended up breaking it. Our own shitty gear loved to crap out on us when we needed it most. We had issues on a daily basis which made for some really tense times. You can hear it in the record I think but it’s one of the things I like about The Rescue. Right now, I’m torn between never going into a studio ever again and writing another record, giving it another go as soon as possible.”

Horsell Common have achieved a commendable package that fans would be proud of. ”-  “Automation’, to me, sounds like the best long song we’ve ever written together. It doesn’t really seem to get boring anywhere and it has a killer end to it. Musically, it was one of the first songs written for the record but it wasn’t until months later that we put vocals to it. Even without vocals it was fun to play. –  “Sing The News’ is the only Horsell song that I have completely written at home and then bringing it into the studio as a finished song. It’s a very simple song but I think it builds well and I really like the lyrics on that one. It literally took about fifteen minutes to complete as a band; I think that’s some kind of record for us. Then there’s –  “Surgery’. The first time we played it all the way through was about a week out from recording and we could just tell that it would go last on the record. We have played it live once or twice and so far it’s the song I look forward to playing the most.”

While The Rescue rips across across national airwaves, Horsell Common are already in touring mode and working hard to compliment their recording efforts. “We are going to tour our arses off right up until the end of the year. Then we will stop and make another video clip or two. After that, we will hit the road again and play these songs to anyone who will listen. It’s gonna be awesome!

The Rescue is out now through Boomtown Records. For all further info and upcoming dates, head to Horsell Common’s MySpace.