The Horrors know fame is nothing to be frightened of

With an acclaimed new album and their biggest headlining gig, the inventive five-piece are on a roll, says Elisa Bray

At a tiny pub in the heart of east London, a crowd is gathering. Inside, Tim Burgess of The Charlatans and members of Klaxons are among a group of 150 fans watching The Horrors play a secret gig to launch their third album, Skying. Last month, Bobby Gillespie and Damon Albarn went to see them play. It may only be a Monday night, but this is the hottest ticket in the music world this week.

Skying, the follow up to the Mercury Prize-nominated Primary Colours, has been the deserving recipient of rave reviews that claim it to be The Horrors' best album yet. It has also proved to be the band's most commercially successful album, selling more copies in its first day of release than Primary Colours did in a week and taking the band to third place in the midweek chart. In another nod to their burgeoning appeal, their single 'Still Life' has just been A-listed on Radio 1 . It is all quite a leap from the five-piece's emergence from Southend in 2005, as a black-garbed garage-rock band with stage names such as Rhys "Spider" Webb and "Coffin" Joe. The Horrors' mop-haired singer, Faris Badwan, then calling himself Faris Rotter, would douse strangers in black paint – many dismissed them as a cartoon goth band. Now, however, the band, who are in their early to mid-20s, find themselves playing to ever widening crowds, at the Wireless festival in June and at a forthcoming date at the Roundhouse which will be their biggest UK show to date. They are aware of the evolution of their fanbase.

"We get a lot of that, people turning up in polo shirts, and it's great", says the 6ft 5in Badwan, his long wiry legs folded under the table. "In the beginning, with [the band's debut album] Strange House, the crowd was all people dressing like Josh [Hayward, the band's guitarist]. I love watching that change, it's really intense. When we played Wireless, a festival for a wide span of people, it was really good they were actually listening. It was weird because I've been in that situation often where this is a world that they don't want to be part of."

Badwan says the band would be happy if their success led them to headline spots at festivals. "I want to reach as many people as possible and if I can do that without compromising..."

"Compromising" is not a word that you would associate with The Horrors. Primary Colours was produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead, but he suggested that they should go it alone for the next one. Having recorded their first song in Edwyn Collins's studio, and having spent time at a facility owned by Damon Albarn, both of which they describe as "just full of everything you'd ever want to see and more", they decided to build their own. A search resulted in the discovery of an ideal space, in the loading bay of an old factory – conveniently, next to the pub in which tonight's gig is held. At the newly acquired space Hayward, the band's resident physicist and "mad scientist", set about building the synthesisers and equipment that would help to create the psychedelia of the new album.

"I think the building of the studio was the biggest factor in the record's evolution," says Badwan. "We built equipment that doesn't exist."

Before they found the studio space, The Horrors made a failed attempt to write the album near Bude, in Devon. "We thought we'd relive dreams of [The Rolling Stones'] Exile on Main Street and have a mad month of playing and parties, but it didn't really end up like that," explains Webb, the bassist. "We were excited about that adventure. It was a great old house, but of course it was just the five of us and I think the whole thing with the Stones was they had loads of other people hanging out. We actually found we really wanted to get back to London and that London was really important to what we're doing."

Devon, however, was where they wrote the eight-minute track "Moving Further Away".

"That came out almost out of the frustration of not having a good time being there," says Webb. "I think it felt like it wasn't that much fun to be working and the only way you can do stuff is when you're actually having a good time and that's how we want our music to feel – we want to enjoy it."

There is a sense of enjoyment on Skying, which builds on the sonics of Primary Colours but leaves behind that album's claustrophobic edge and takes on a lighter feel. Imagery of skies and seas complements the overall sound, which came after Badwan's gorgeous 1960s girl-group inspired project with the soprano Rachel Zeffira, Cat's Eyes.

"We thought our last album was euphoric so I'm probably not the best person to ask," says Badwan, with a smile. "I know everyone succumbs to the odd cliché and everyone writes a rotten lyric, but I never like them to seem too planned out or pretentious. I like it when people make their own insights."

Webb says: "I think you can really paint a picture with music. The early stuff was quite straightforward and monochrome. I think we did want to go technicolour and psychedelic and explore what we could do with what we had to do it with. We're all interested in that feeling of a warped sense of reality, elevation in music and the way music can affect the listener and how you feel when you hear it. It's a really powerful thing. The idea of elevation and euphoria is something that we like."

Webb puts the new, expansive sound down to the band's approach, which sees all five members contributing to the songwriting process. "That's one of the things with us – it's not just one guy writing a song on his guitar, it's on five different levels because everyone tries to inject something into it. The songs end up being fuelled by these magical ideas and sounds.

"We wanted to explore this idea of space. Primary Colours still feels expansive, but was frantic and the rhythms were fast and furious. It just felt like these songs have a massive feeling of landscape and almost nature in a weird way and it could be completely chemical-induced visions of something that doesn't exist – it was just this feeling of space."

Are the songs chemically induced? "We don't take drugs when we're working in the studio," Webb says. "A few times we have experimented with that, but we just end up doing stuff which sounds great at the time but then you listen back. So, no, narcotic consumption is reserved for weekends or the evenings but there is an influence of that. It's ecstasy, really."

Webb, Hayward, and Coffin Joe, the band's drummer, come from Southend, where they discovered garage and psychedelia. Webb met Badwan and the keyboardist Tom Cowan, who were friends at Rugby School, at a nightclub in London, and they bonded over a shared love of psychedelic music. Webb invited Badwan's band, The Rotters, to play at his club night. "We instantly became friends because of our shared love of music," says Webb. "That's why we found the only place in London that was playing that music."

If The Horrors' new album hints at 1960s and 1970s psychedelia and experimental music, while strongly recalling 1980s bands such as The Psychedelic Furs and Echo & The Bunnymen, that is because you won't find them listening to contemporary bands. They are known for their obsessive collecting of old 45s.

"Most music we listen to is old because we want to hear the best stuff," says Webb. "I very rarely find an album that comes out that I will want to listen to in the same way that I will go back into my record collection, but that's just quality, really."

Badwan says: "You never know what's good until the band are over and done with anyway. You need to have had a record 10 or 15 years before you can tell how good it is.I'd say there are about five contemporary records that I feel are classics, brilliant records."

He suggests the new HTRK album. And the other four? He gets stuck. "I'm sorry."

The Horrors' early image, which prompted so many to dismiss them, now feels almost as if it belongs to another band. Webb says: "Funnily enough, that happened when Primary Colours was released and they decided that the press angle would be that the first record [Strange House] was rubbish and the second was good, but actually" – he tells me he has all the cuttings for proof – "we got pretty much across the board positive reviews for that record. It was really exciting and sounded like nothing else that was happening. Strange House was released six months after the band played their first note in the rehearsal room and we did our cover of The Sonics' 'Witch' for the first time. We played a gig two weeks later and we were recording the album a few months later, so it was great."

With their first top-five album looking likely and their largest UK gig to come, and with praise coming faster and thicker than ever, The Horrors' time is now. "It is really exciting – and I don't get excited very often," says Badwan. "Being passionate about things is what ties the group together. I love the way that we've come out with a record that is exactly what I want to be involved in."

'Skying' is out now on XL Recordings. The Horrors play Field Day on 6 August

Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

    The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
    Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

    Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

    A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
    Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

    Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

    Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
    Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

    Nick Clegg the movie

    Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
    Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

    Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

    Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
    Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

    Revealed (to the minute)

    The precise time when impressionism was born
    10 best men's skincare products

    Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

    Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed