Whyte Horses is a project equal parts talented and mysterious.
Debut album 'Pop Or Not' arrived in 2016, a record praised by Noel Gallagher and lauded by 6Music for its baroque approach to grey-flecked psych pop.
Follow up record 'Empty Words' is carefully constructed but ultimately carefree, a potent return that expands on Whyte Horses' innovative universe while refining that essential songwriting voice.
Out on March 9th, the album manoeuvres through aural landscapes both lush and sparse, while making room for guest appearances from La Roux, The Go! Team's Ian Parton, and more.
An enchanting, enthralling record, we're delighted to be able to stream 'Empty Worlds' in full, alongside a full track by track guide from Whyte Horses...
1. Counting Down The Years
A story of everyday life that jumps to different viewpoints throughout. I wanted this song to set the tone of the album, taking anything and everything around us and moulding into something that could only really have been done today. It's an ‘all-seeing eye’ of a song and a statement of intent.
2. Never Took The Time
A fairly universal take on life? I always wanted to write a super-sweet pop song with a swear word in and this was my opportunity. A friend of mine told me it sounds like something Francis Lai would do. It could be classed as ‘retro’ but that would be too easy, we use nice gear that was used in the 60s and mostly vintage instruments but I think we have our own sound and sensibility. One thing I’m relieved about is that we’ve never been labelled as ‘contemporary’, that would keep me awake at night.
I threw away three verse melodies on this song til it had that perfect amount of melodic simplicity, the writing process can be torture sometimes especially the ones that sound so fluid. Its now a personal favourite of mine, Melanie Pain’s vocal was made for this song.
This is the sort of classic pop song I’d been dying to hear on the radio but no one was really putting out anything like this. I never seemed to get an emotional rush or feel when listening to new music so it was up to us to try and make the kind of records that were missing from our lives.
3. Greatest Love In Town
This is a cover version of an obscure Swiss singer-songwriter called Die Welttraumforscher. I heard him play in a record store in Basel a few years back, just him and a guitar playing all these soundtrack recordings he’d composed. It was a tiny record store and at the end of his set he had to go into the toilet and come back out for the encore.
That night someone gave me this song on a 7” and I stuck it on about six months later having totally forgotten about it and not recognising the name on the sleeve. It was one of those instantly familiar songs that you feel you’ve always known, I had been working on an intro for a song that fit perfectly in front of it so knew straight away we had to put them together and record it.
This song was mainly recorded in Stockholm with Jocke Ahlund and brought back to the UK where we finished at Love Buzz and Boe Weaver.
4. This Dream
A song about true love, dreams and happiness.
5. Empty Words
A song about the time we’re in, I think it’s pretty self explanatory. 'Empty Words' was co-written with Ian Parton from The Go! Team, it has the catchiest, sweetest melody with cutting lyrics, I’ve always loved that combination of hard and soft, like stone and roses. The title kept sticking in my mind throughout the making of the album just rose to the top.
6. Any Day Now
Colourful story about looking upon the world from above with feelings of depression and despair, I got the title from a David Bowie book. Audrey, who sings the track, thinks it sounds like an angel singing to the earth. I’d hate to divulge to much information about a particular song, I think it’s important that people can make their own meanings.
As a songwriter I think you should always keep something back, I hate artists who have to explain their work, it can cheapen what you do. I’d rather say nothing and let people work it out or attribute their own meanings. Someone like Dali would never have sat there writing out an explanation on each piece of work he did and if he did he’d have had fun with it and thrown in some red herrings for his own amusement.
7 . Prelude
Literally a prelude to 'Watching TV', using segues are important part of building an album to me, allowing the ears to switch off in the right place. This was designed to fit a certain space and set up the next song, it’s more like sound design than songwriting.
I see the Whyte Horses' albums as mini soundtracks that document points in time. Once the songs are written then the sequencing and completion of certain tracks can take a long time to finalise, I’m a sucker for detail and obsessing until something's as perfect as it can be, it lands me in trouble quite a bit but I’d rather that than be sat with something I don’t totally believe in.
8. Watching TV
This is basically fast-forwarding through life in four parts, I suppose it's our version of a song like 'Bohemian Rhapsody', 'Happiness Is A Warm Gun' or 'Paranoid Android'. Four songs joined together in a symphonic way. It was quite challenging to retain focus and merge each part together, building it in stages over a few months. Mostly composed on a guitar which is interesting because when I hear back there’s no guitars on it at all.
It started off when I was thinking about how Arthur Russell might tackle a song about childhood. I get those Sorcerers Apprentice / Fantasia images running through my head whenever I hear the outro of the song. Things like broomsticks coming to life, the psychedelic passage in Dumbo, crazy Russian animations, those sorts of things.
9. Ecstasy Song
’Til tomorrow its fun’ is a line that sums us up pretty well, we can be pretty cynical fuckers at times but only when there’s a bit of joy to be had too.
This is not just a song about Ecstasy, its about trying to recapture that feeling of freeness you experience as a youth, lazing around in the sun after the night before on holiday, remembering times before responsibility. Making a wish and watching it happen, scoring the winning goal in a cup final on a Harley Electroglide dressed as Spiderman, then crashing into a dustbin.
It's definitely a nod to an earlier me, I don’t go out anymore so this is almost like a shrine to past feelings. This was co-written in an earlier form with Jez Williams and has now evolved into something quite different from what we started out with. Like Watching TV I think this has a touch of musical cabaret that could make an interesting alternative soundtrack to some of Khrzanovskiy’s works or early Disney.
10. Best of It (feat La Roux)
I met Elly during the recording of the album and asked her to guest at our gig at the Barbican, this was the song we chose to cover, it meant something to both of us.
The original is by an obscure West Coast group from late 60s I used to listen to it and think it had a timeless quality which you couldn’t pin down. I kept hearing extra little hooks on it so when it came to recording I think we managed to add something to make it our own without taking away any of the feeling from the original.
The worst thing in a cover version is when people change the chords or try and stamp their identity all over it, there’s a reason why you want to cover a song.
11. The Return
During the recording process my initial idea was to make an album all about John and Yoko during their time at the Dakota, I’d been reading heavily about that particular time in their history thinking it had the potential to inform an amazing concept record but in the end using one subject became a bit restrictive. So I kept some of the ideas and started to bring in other observations and allowed things that came into my life to affect the writing.
In a fairly uninspired month I was looking for something to re-ignite my writing and as soon as Twin Peaks The Return aired its first episode I was hooked. It became an hour each week where I would look forward to watching something you just knew would have a moment in it that had never quite been done before.
The balls Lynch showed in putting together the episodes was mind blowing, terrestrial TV with five minute stargate-inspired sequences that dropped back into soap-opera, it was ridiculously brave. I started to take little lines from the show and the audacious nature of the narrative rubbed off on me in a profound way, it really helped to shape the last few months of recordings. This track serves as a segue between Best of It and Fake Protest Song but also as a short tribute to the best series on television in the last twenty years.
12. Fake Protest Song
Grabbing hold of the zeitgeist and shoving it headfirst into a song that I was desperate to make work. I wanted to hear a tune with some modern words and observations but present it with fuzz guitars, key changes and pseduo-eastern tendencies.
I think it really sums up where we are today, like 'Empty Words' and 'Counting Down The Years' its up-to-the-minute social commentary but told using classic songwriting structures. Essentially we’re just making songs we want to hear ourselves, we aren’t the best musicians or greatest ever performers but we’re real and have something to say. Sometimes the message is clear, sometimes its layered, sometimes we take the piss a bit.
13. Dawn Don’t You Cry
I’d call this a kitchen-sink fantasy song. A musical equivalent of the images of Northern England found in early Ken Loach films or Tony Richardson’s Saturday Night, Sunday Morning. It has quite a monochrome feeling, a modern day Cinderella story with nice guitar parts. I’m fond of the drum sound on this, the reverb fill is a great hook, that was the foundation for the song.
14. Nightmares Aren’t Real
I stumbled across a chord structure that seemed to work on a couple of the songs, it somehow let my melodies come really naturally. 'Nightmares Aren’t Real' almost didn’t make the record, I had forgotten it completely until it came on in my car one night unexpectedly from my voice memos, just a super rough hummed idea and I’d written down with 'Nightmare...' as the title.
I sat down for an hour after that it just came out really naturally, the images of the song come from two or three different ideas with a bit of Dale Cooper and Dougy thrown in there.
15. Fear Is Such A...
The evolution of this song came over time with lots of melodies being stitched together and an intro taken from fragments of synth and lead ideas. Possibly one of the most original songs we’ve done. I wouldn’t really know how to describe it, it feels alien and familiar all at once.
There was another song which didn’t make the album that was all about love, I was thinking about love and fear and all that’s between and how that would be a great narrative to follow for the album. Basically the album is about the dark and the light. Our songs might have melancholy and negativity within them but I’m always looking for hope to override any sense of dread.
It's a Manchester thing seeing the grey sky most of the time and looking for the chink of blue to poke through. Kicking fear down is a pretty positive message and a good mantra for modern adult life.
16. Ride Easy
An unashamed love song and perfect closing track to the album. Pure love, no pretence.
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'Empty Words' will be released on March 9th.
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