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The Stands - The horse fabulous was a performing horse from when lots of circuses would travel around


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 of them.

"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 good."

Horse Fabulous: Read the review

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