Having gone through some major changes over the last few years, Pulled Apart By Horses are crashing (in a good way) 2017 with a striking new album, a new drummer and a refreshing and bold attitude. Without further ado, here’s what we talked about with the band’s bassist, Rob Lee.
After you guys released your third album Blood back in 2014, you went through some changes within the band, such as Lee [Vincent, former drummer] leaving the band and you spent a year without management or a label. How was it like that period of time for you all?
I think it was an important change for us to go through because we’ve been together for quite a long time up until that point and we had a really good run with our previous managers. We released a couple of albums on a label called Transgressive and then we did one with Sony RED. We got to the end of that period really. It was a group decision. Our managers were kind of going in a different direction that we wanted to go in, so we just kind of felt like it was time to reset everything a little bit and go back to that sort of naivety and the unexpected nature of when you start a band and you don’t have management, a record label and things like that. It was a freeing experience to be able to concentrate on writing, but at the same time it was kind of uncertain what we were doing, but I think that added an excitement to writing again and reset what the band was again really. Also in that time, Lee saw it as an opportunity and we could tell that he wasn’t quite comfortable in the band for a little while. I mean, he’s got kids and a wife and then moved out to London and he was kind of away from us. We weren’t together as much as usually when we write, practice and things like that. He kind of called one day and said that he was thinking about slowing down and just do casual band things, like maybe we all getting day jobs and then just sort of do the band in our free time like just playing shows a few times a year and stuff like that, and the three of us were like “No, no, no! We want to keep doing it full time, even more now that we don’t have restrains with management or label to worry about.” So then he said “I think this is an opportunity for me to do other things.” We all agreed and seemed the right time to change another aspect of the band, which was the lineup.
With Lee’s departure, you welcomed a new drummer which is Tommy Davidson [formely of These Monsters]. What did he bring to the band’s dynamic and creative process?
We have known Tommy for years and he has been part of the music scene and played in different bands. We shared a practice space with the bands that he was in before. The way that our band has always worked is very democratic and we always do things as a team, so having someone that we knew really well already to join in with us was really cool in a way that he brought a new personality to the whole thing, especially the creative aspect of it, so it was big aim to go to do all that and to go through that change.
What did you take from those crucial changes into the making of your new album, The Haze?
From not having management nor a record label, we didn’t feel any pressure, but after a few years when you got like three albums out already and you think about things like “What label are you going to take the album to? And how’s gonna do it commercially?” and then you kind of start imposing on yourselves certain aspects of expectations from management and people like that. You kind of have a team around you for commercial stuff. One of the things that was always put away in the background was kind of the vocal thing where we started off being quite sort of screaming kind of band, like the vocals were all shouts. Over time we have developed that into a sort of more melodic vocal approach. We always wanted to do that on our terms gradually and learn how to do that, but there was always a bit of pressure about a few things. We don’t have that pressure anymore. We did end up on this album with more melodies, harmonies and more singing on it, but we did that on our own path rather than feeling the need to do that. It just really opened up the whole thing creatively. There was no expectations of what we needed to be doing and when you’re in that sort of environment you just feel more free to create whatever you want, so that was important. A lot of interviews that we’ve been doing, people are asking about Lee leaving and the new drummer and it’s kind of weird because for us it’s been like two years since that and Tommy has been involved in the band for two years now. We’ve been writing and gigging together and so it doesn’t feel like a new thing to us, but I definitely think that he brought a new level of enthusiasm and creativity to the whole writing process. Like I said, you could tell that Lee was becoming a little off and not into the band anymore, so that was maybe slowing down the creative process whereas having somebody new that was really excited to be doing it that really invigorated all of it again to get back to the creative aspects of it. And of course Tommy has very different influences. Everybody has different sort of influences and he’s also a very creative person in general. He’s got a screen print in business. The three of us – myself, Tom [Hudson] and James [Brown] – we all came to Leeds to study art and design, and that was what Tommy did as well. In that way we all have mindset a little bit more. Tommy has also got involved with the visual aspects of the band, which is really cool.
“We felt like it was time to reset everything a little bit and go back to that sort of naivety and the unexpect nature of when you start a band…”
You said that you guys wanted to get back to that spontaneity of your first record and simply have fun. Listening to The Haze, it really conveys that energy and attitude. What can you tell me about how was it like for you guys to write these tunes with that mindset?
It was a transitional period that we went through of no longer having a management or a record label to worry about and having a new lineup… The whole thing felt really fresh and new again, there was no sort of responsibility to do anything anymore. With the first album you don’t even think about recording an album, you just write some songs and you’re just a bunch of friends hanging out together and you want to just play music and eventually play some gigs. You don’t put any expectations into what you’re doing, so there’s a real spontaneity and sort of naivety that goes into the first album, I think that applies with all bands really. The second one you kind of feel like you start thinking a bit more about everything. With the third one you think even more and you kind of start really thinking about what you’re doing. I think the third album was the most serious thing we have done. I think lyrically was a bit more serious. It was important explore that and go through that, but we felt like we needed to get back to our roots, just the fun aspects of it. One of the things that we were able to do as well when we were writing was we actually had our own practice space in Leeds, which is great. We can go in and out whenever we want to and that’s really great, but obviously we’ve been in and out for about like five or six years and so it becomes like home.
You guys went to a tiny and remote cottage on a dairy farm in Wales for 10 days, to just be away from the world and any distractions and focus on this album. How much beneficial that was for you all?
We wanted to put ourselves in a different situation just to get a new atmosphere into the record. We ended up hanging out in a cottage in the middle of nowhere in South Wales and there was literally nothing around it at all. There was just old farms’ fields. We could stay up as late as we wanted to make noise throughout the night. There was distractions at being in Leeds where you got your family, there’s always something else going on and maybe other gigs to go to, but we were really locked in just the four of us and that was a really great bound experience. We obviously knew already each other really well over the years, but as band over those couple of weeks that we were there that was a really important aspect doing it as well. It almost felt like we were just kids having a sleepover. [laughs] We just did whatever we wanted, just getting up, play music and having freedom rather than thinking like “We have to meet at this time to practice” and then thinking about getting home and stuff like that.
You had Ross Orton on board to record this album, at his McCall Sound Studio in Sheffield. How was the experience to work with him?
It was excellent. We did the first album in Burlington which is obviously away from home, the second one we did at Monnow Valley Studio in South Wales which is a quite legendary studio, then we actually did the third one in Leeds and we were doing it a week a time and then we would be at home every night. With this new one we did in Sheffield which is not that far away, it’s like an hour away from where we live, but again we were taking ourselves out of our comfort zone away from home. I’m actually from Sheffield, I grew up there and so for me it was an important thing to do, just to go back to Sheffield and spend some time there. I moved away when I was really young and to go back there was really nice. It was a great experience for me personally. But yeah, we’ve been fans of Ross’ work and all the things he has done. He worked with Drenge and I’m really into them, a band called Wet Nuns who sadly their drummer passed away a while ago. We loved the work he did with that band and also he did some stuff with Arctic Monkeys as well. I guess he had kind of a way of keeping up that north and Yorkshire vibe in the album, which we wanted to keep that because we’re definitely a Yorkshire band. Ross is such a great person to work with and he has that kind of Yorkshire’s working class mentality. It was really great working with him.