Horsell Common


Hard work is something Horsell Common is all too familiar with. Having released 3 EP’s and split CD with Trial Kennedy, this Melbourne trio are about to drop their debut full length.

We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Mark Stewart…

Interview w/ Mark Stewart (Vocals/Guitar)
of Horsell Common

By Cameron Chambers


It’s a bit quiet down your
end of the line mate.
 

Ha ha, I’ll do my best to speak
loudly as possible. 

Sounds like a plan. How are
you this evening?
 

Yeah really good mate, how are
you? 

Yeah, good man. We’re on
a tight schedule so let’s get into it!
 

Let’s! 

After 4 EP’s
and a hell of a lot of shows we’re finally getting a Horsell Common
full length! What can people expect from the new record?
 

Something a little bit different
I reckon. To me, the record is in 2 halves. If people think they are
going to get what they’re expecting then they’ll get that in the
first 4 or 5 songs, but after that the record goes somewhere else. It
gets a little interesting and goes somewhere else… it does something
that we haven’t done before. 

The difference between recording
an EP and recording an album was enormous. Originally, before we recorded
we thought that you just needed twice the amount of songs that you had
for an EP but so much more goes into making a full length.  

It was harder to keep ourselves
interested in the record and even harder to try and keep all the songs
interesting. To keep people’s attention for 40 or 50 minutes took
a lot more effort than before.  

“The Rescue” has been a
long time coming, why the wait for a full length record?
 

Our attention span at the end
of the day, ha ha. We were actually talking about this the last time
we were all in the van together and looking back, our EP’s sound a
bit lazy. If we’d stayed for another week or two then we could’ve
had a full length’s worth of material together… especially on Satellite
Wonderland. That could’ve been a decent album! 

There was no chance of us doing
another EP although we actually said that before we recorded Satellite
Wonderland but we fell into the trap again of writing 6 songs
that we were happy with and getting itchy feet, ha ha.  

I know you guys have
always laboured over every second of every song that you’ve written
– was it an arduous task to piece together 11 tracks?
 

Yeah it’s fucked! Unless all
3 of us are happy with every second of music that we have then we have
to scrap it and start again. Most of our songs are written without any
preconceived ideas or riffs or anything like that. We just get together,
have some food and then start piecing the songs together.  

For “The Rescue” a few of
the songs were written at home which was cool. When I’m writing lyrics
at home I have an acoustic guitar with me for phrasing. I just strum
at some chords to see how the lyrics will sound and on one particular
song on the record I took it in to rehearsal to show the guys. I just
said these are the lyrics I’ve got but we can throw away the chords,
I was just using them to help me write, but they said the chords sat
behind it really nicely.  

The song didn’t really change
much from there; the guys just added their parts so that was a rarity
for us. Normally no one comes to the studio with a song, or even half
a song! 

When you’re choosing songs
for an EP, you’ve got to go with the most instantly recognizable and
hardest hitting tunes. In saying that, does writing a complete record
require a different approach compared to making an EP?
 

I think so. When you’ve got
too much of the same thing 11 of the same songs doesn’t seem all that
interesting to me. We were conscious of that when we were writing so
we knew that we had 11 or 12 shots – or songs – to get it together
and that  made us feel like we could do what we wanted.  

We didn’t have anyone from the
record company knocking on the door asking how thins were going… no
one heard it until it was finished! We actually asked them to come down
but they never did, ha ha. Jaddan, the Boomtown owner was supposed to
come to the studio but he broke his foot so yeah, no one ever came in.  

We pretty much get a free run
of what we do and we definitely made a general decision to keep it as
interesting as possible. We didn’t want a record that sounded like
Satellite Wonderland but twice as long. We wanted something that was
interesting for us and for the listeners.  

Respected US producer Stephen
Haigler signed on to oversee “The Rescue”
– how did you guys swing that?
 

It’s actually not as interesting
as it sounds. Most of the records that we’ve done we just sit at home
and look through our CD’s and look for records we like and his name
popped up on a Brand New record, something from Local H and Samiam as
well. So we just thought oh yeah, his name’s come up 3 times so we’ll
get in contact with him. 

We sent links to our MySpace to
him and he liked it. There was no way we could get over to the States
so we asked him to come over here. Australia is such an appealing place
for a producer and he’d actually been here before and used the same
studio we were working in too. It’s as boring and simple as that,
ha ha! 

Do you feel having Stephen
on board helped you guys to create a record that may not have been possible
without him?
 

In terms of his attention to detail
I think so. In the past with some of our other records we’d pretty
much get a guitar sound and then start tracking the guitar parts. But
Stephen wanted a different amp and guitar sound for each verse and each
chorus and then he’d want to try something different again. 

He wanted so much shit going on
in the songs without it sounding ridiculous. It was frustrating at times
though, I’d be like “What the fuck is he doing, just give me a guitar
sound so I can record!?”  

Sometimes it took longer to get
the sounds we wanted but at the end of the day it sounds great. In the
past we just had one massive guitar sound but with this record we had
4 smaller guitar sounds and they became this huge sound and I think
it’s more colourful that way. It brought a certain aspect to the record
that we hadn’t tried before. 

 

Would you consider working
with another overseas producer again?
 

The fact that he was American
had nothing to do with it. We’ll take the same approach with our next
record as well. We’ll just find someone that we like and if they happen
to be from somewhere else and we can swing it then we’ll do it! 

If it’s an Australian guy then
even better because it’s cheaper! Ha ha.

The 11 songs that make up
“The Rescue” are incredibly diverse and show another side of Horsell
Common, one which many fans probably didn’t know was there. How do
you think the slower songs will translate in the live setting?
 

Dunno, we haven’t played them
yet! Ha ha 

We are playing 4 or 5 new songs
live at the moment but they are the more live sounding songs
like “Help Is On Its Way” and “Good From Afar”. You know, the
no brainer, loud guitars kind of songs to get behind.  

We’ll get the slower songs out
there eventually. Each time we jam we try them out. None of the arrangements
are ever changed that drastically before going into the studio so if
we ever did something in the studio that we can’t pull off live, then
we’ll just revert to playing it how we originally wrote it in rehearsal.  

We’re happy with the songs before
we go into the studio so we’ve got no hesitation to play them the
way they were demoed!  

Stephen Christian of Anberlin
contributes vocals on “I’m Dead”
– did you guys approach him to sing on the track or was it something
that came about once your bands had toured together?
 

Well, apart from Satellite Wonderland,
which was supposed to have some of our friends singing on it but we
didn’t get around to it because we recorded it in 2 days, we’ve always
had friends sing on our records… and we’ve always sung on our friends
albums too.  

We have Lisa from Capeside singing
on our acoustic track as well but when we wrote “I’m Dead” we
just thought this is a nice little part, let’s ask Stephen if he wanted
to do it. It just so happened that Anberlin were coming through town
at that time so we shot him an email and demoed the song for him and
asked if he’d be interested. 

His vocals for that song were
actually recorded on the first day we were in the studio so we did the
vocals and then hung out for a couple of hours, grabbed some dinner
and then went and saw the Anberlin show at The Corner. It was great! 

As you mentioned,
“Annie, If You’re Listening” features vocals from Lisa of Capeside
fame on guest vocals – are we ever going to hear this song live?
 

I hope so… although I don’t
own an acoustic guitar. We’ll play some shows and I’ll buy one!
I would really love to play it live though, I think it could be done
really well. Especially in smaller venues.  

Traditionally, Boomtown Records
bands have always gone over well with a younger audience, do you think
“The Rescue” is a record that kids will be able to get their heads
around?
 

We’re on a tour at the moment
called Breakout which is strictly 12 to 17 year olds and the new songs
are going down better than the old songs so there you go! Ha ha 

Has being on Boomtown given
you guys a chance to open yourselves up to a new audience, one which
might not have given you guys a chance previously?
 

Absolutely. We did the Boomtown
Showdown last year and then a run of shows with Behind Crimson Eyes
in December which was really cool. 

We’ve always been the odd band
out on most shows so it’s not an issue anymore. The Boomtown tour
wasn’t any different for how it’s always been for us. We started
off playing hardcore shows so yeah, nothing’s really changed. 

A lot of bands write music
which is very “hear today, gone tomorrow” but Horsell Common have
always strived to do their own thing
– do you think “The Rescue” is something that will still sound
relevant in 10 or 20 years time?
 

I hope so! I definitely have a
huge respect for… there are a few bands in Australia who I really
look up to because they have these loyal fan bases. Bands like You Am
I, Something For Kate and Karnivool. Their fans are just so unbelievably
dedicated.  

I don’t have any ambition for
us to be like Oasis and be enormous, I’ll tae the small fan base over
that any day of the week. We love to work our arses off and grow our
fan base with us.

The general vibe of
“The Rescue” reminds of bands like Far and the Deftones
– who were some of Horsell Common’s key influences when writing
the record?
 

I think you hit the nail on the
head mate. We’ve always been into those two bands. Last year we got
to tour with Jonah Montraga (ex Far front man) and we got to play 4
or 5 songs with him each night. It was the most unbelievable experience
for us as a band.  

We had to play our own set before
him every night and we played at twice the normal speed so we could
get off stage and play with him! At the same time, it still felt really
natural and not all that different to our own shows. There was just
heaps of melody and fun and big guitars but yeah, I guess that’s where
we do take our influence from.  

The clip you guys shot for
“Good From Afar” turned out really well, who came up with the concept
and location?
 

That was me actually. I didn’t
come up with the location but I wrote the treatment. We write all the
treatments for our own videos. We figure they’re our songs so we may
as well tell the story ourselves. 

We did it in the old ballroom
at Flinders Street Station. It used to be used as a club in the 40’s
and 50’s and it’s falling down now… we were lucky to get in there
for the day! We were only given 12 hours to do the video between 7am
to 7pm and they only gave us 24 hours notice that we could use it! They
called and said you can have the room, but it has to be tomorrow. We
basically emptied our houses and grabbed random stuff to make the place
look homely

The theme was to make it look
like where we recorded… like we had been there for 6 months because
that’s how we did the album. Toby Anguin shot it. He’d worked with
our friend’s bands and he was awesome so we knew we should go with
him. He was stoked to work on it and it turned out unbelievably well! 

That’s 15 minutes
mate so I think we’ve got to wrap it up but thanks so much for your
time again mate.
 

No, no. Thanks heaps for doing
this. 


For upcoming tour dates check
out http://www.myspace.com/horsellcommon 

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