Feature: Jack Foley
THE Stands hate the idea of being labelled.
Following the release of the Liverpool four-piece's debut album,
All Years Leaving, in 2004, there were some who merely
wrote them off as retro rockers that were trying to follow in
the footsteps of the cosmic scouse onslaught led by The Coral
and The Zutons.
Yet they are far more than imitators. All Years Leaving
was an expression of lead singer, Howie Payne's desire to make
a grass roots record that involved 'a band in a room playing songs'.
It may have reverted to the sound of the Sixties and Seventies
for inspiration, but it added to and embellished that sound for
contemporary listeners, while paying quiet respect.
As a result, Mojo stated that the album was 'exquisitely seasoned
with phlegmy harmonies', while Noel Gallagher readily praised
their effortless amalgam of everyone from The Byrds to Bob Dylan
and The Band.
Yet still Howie feels a little frustrated when people try and
pigeon-hole what he creates.
"It was irritating that some people could only see that
far into it," he explained.
"It's lazy man, everything's gotta have a label like retro
rockers, The Stands, zombie rockers, The Zutons, or rock 'n' roll
rockers, Jet. It's nonsense but it's gonna happen, so you can't
let it get you down.
"I don't care to put a name to what I do," he continued.
"I've never been part of any scene, though I've passed through
plenty. Us and The Zutons were friends and my brother, Sean, plays
drums with them.
"Same with Jet or Oasis or whoever, we get along good so
were friends, but it happens that people read into that stuff...
"When we made All Years
Leaving, I didn't want it to sound like a Byrds or Dylan
record, the only records that I was listening to were Dusty Springfield
and Burt Janch ones.
"I just wanted to record some songs I'd written in a studio,
with a band, which is what I did. When I listen to it, that's
what I hear, and I'm very happy about that."
For the second album, however, Howie decided to recruit a producer
in a bid to get 'better sounds, strings, brass, girl singers and
stuff', especially since he felt he had exhausted his knowledge
of the studio on the debut.
The band settled on Tom Rothrock, who had previously worked with
Beck and Foo Fighters (among others) and travelled to LA's legendary
Sunset Sound Studios to put it together in a little over six weeks.
Recalls Howie: "I went to LA to meet Tom, I'm sitting there
saying all these contradictory things that I wanted to get in
the record, and he just sat listening.
"When I got done, there was a pause, then he hmm'd and said
'cool', then started talking about how it might be done and reasons
it would or wouldn't work. I knew he was one of the best anyway,
but for me that did it."
The result is an album that has to rate among the best of 2005
and which capably reflects the band's love of music and recording.
As for the name, Horse Fabulous, that was another thing
that came from the past.
"I got it from an old circus poster, in a book of posters
someone had left in a hotel room," explained Howie.
"I was flicking through it as I was falling asleep. The
horse fabulous was a performing horse from when lots of circuses
would travel around.
"I fell asleep, it was a restless kind of night, and I had
some crazy dreams and this horse found its way into one or two
"Next day on the train I was trying to think of what to
call the record and I just remembered it and, well, it sounded
Horse Fabulous: Read