The Four Horsemen of the instrumental math rock apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the instrumental math rock apocalypse

A short hop from Liverpool and a stone’s throw from Manchester, nestling the right side of the border, lays Wrexham, a large-ish North Walean town. Boasting a struggling non-league football club, a half decent venue (Central Station) and an ever burgeoning indie music scene, Gallops! emergence is more pleasing than surprising. Born in late 2007, they’re the antidote – not reaction – to the spate of indie copyists consistently emerging from the North West.

“We’re definitely not a reaction to it but, I suppose we are a product of it,” explains Mark Huckridge, Gallops! guitarist and keyboardist. “There aren’t any bands in Wrexham who influence us artistically, but in terms of encouraging each other to get out there and play, there’s definitely a motivation to just get out there and do it.”

Initially starting out as an experiment between Mark and tech wizard Paul Maurice, their ‘Crutches’ demo soon found its way to Bethan Elfyn’s Radio 1 show playlist and the rest, as they say, is history.
“I think it was probably about mid-2008 that we started getting real interest because it was pretty soon after we did ‘Crutches’,” continues Mark. “We basically did it in two days with a dodgy electric drum track for a laugh, really. It definitely took us by surprise but we’re really happy to have a song people are into. We did our first session for Bethan [Elfyn] last year and we did a session this year in a great studio and recorded some tracks we were really happy with.”

With decent noise being generated, Mark and Paul took the swift decision to recruit Dave Morait on drums and Brad Whyte on guitar to beef up Gallops!’s sound, and it’s a move that quickly paid dividends. “When we started it off, it wasn’t a serious thing, it was just me and Paul messing about and then we thought we should get a drummer because we wanted a live drum sound, and get a guitarist to fill out the rest a bit,” says Mark. Ploughing a similarly mute furrow to that of Errors, what the tracks of Gallops! may lack in vocals (oh yes, they’re completely instrumental) is more than made up for with angular guitar stabs, pummelling programmed breakdowns and relentlessly dark rhythms. Not that their lack of vocal prowess is going to keep them up at night‚”

“We weren’t really thinking about vocals in the first place because none of us can really sing. We haven’t got much choice to be honest but it’s working as it is. A lot of people ask us why we don’t use vocals but, personally, I don’t think our music would suit them. It might sound a bit clich√© but I like to let the music speak.”

Merging together disparate influences, Gallops!, according to Mark, don’t look to define themselves, musically speaking. Not strictly math rock by numbers, tracks like ‘Lasers’ don’t dare attack with the climactic bombast of Mogwai, instead injecting songs with a snarling, vibrant tension that owes as much to metronomic stickmanship and rapier guitar as it does to spectral keys and invading electronica. This band make tracks that worm their way into your head, peppering your temples with abstract bleeps, simple, bludgeoned percussion and incessantly immediate electro.

“Our influences come from further a field than a lot of the bands around at the moment,” explains Mark. “We all have completely different tastes and preferences in the band and we all bring different strands of music: Dave and Brad are more rock-based, Paul’s into his electronic stuff and I’m into a lot of older music. There isn’t a lot around at the moment that stands out for me. We’re just quite experimental. We started out as an experiment so I don’t think you can get more experimental than that.”

Working outside of a conventional four piece, each member has a personal responsibility to bring something to the party and it’s a blueprint that’s serving the band well. “We all do our separate bits and we tend to our songs in their own parts. We very rarely all sit down together and work on a track,” says Mark.

With an appearance at the recent Radio 1 Big Weekend under their belts, and festival dates strewn across the summer, the bigger stages certainly beckon, as does an EP. “It was a tough crowd [at the Radio 1 weekend]. We were playing at the same time as people like Franz Ferdinand and The Gossip so it was quite difficult to compete. It was a great weekend though and we got a good feeling for playing to crowds that big. It was good to have that kind of warm up, if you like, for being on bigger stages.”

Sounds like there’s little to stop ’em galloping away.


Originally published in issue 7 (vol 3) of Loud And Quiet. June 2009

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