Feeble Little Horse: “I think we’re from a generation that doesn’t follow their dreams”

The Pittsburgh noise-indie group exploring abstract existentialism and taking shots at ex-boyfriends on new album Girl With Fish

“It’s kinda dingy, but in a really charming way,” says Feeble Little Horse’s vocalist Lydia Slocum. She’s describing Pittsburgh, her hometown; the humble rust belt city once the epicentre of America’s steel industry. In doing so she also summarises the irreverent noise she creates with her bandmates: guitarists Ryan Walchonski and Sebastian Kinsler, and drummer Jacob Kelley.

The foursome’s approach is a collision of modest ambition and diffidence bordering on indifference. “I think we’re from a generation that doesn’t follow their dreams like the last one did,” says Kinsler. The comment is so disarmingly sober that it’s funny, but he’s serious. “If we were born in the ’90s, we could be like, ‘Let’s make it happen! This is all I care about!’ But now it’s like, well that’s a pipe dream.”

The consolation is making art in a city that gets them. Pittsburgh is similarly averse to the ostentation of LA and the urgency of New York, its glory days also in the rearview. “I wasn’t scared to share anything,” says Slocum. “I feel like people just want to be creative and have a good time. I think Pittsburgh is an easy place to be creative and embrace weird, grimy stuff.”

The latest slab of weird, grimy stuff is Girl With Fish. Written, recorded, and produced without outside help – though Walchonski jokes that Kinsler’s surname is Sony – the band’s second album consolidates their USP of delicious disorder. Glitchy, guitar-led songs explore abstract existentialism and take shots at ex-boyfriends (“You fuck like you’re eating / Your smile’s like lines in the concrete”). 

Like the majority of GWF, ‘Pocket’ began as one member’s solo recording – in this case, Slocum’s – before the rest of the band convinced her to ‘Horse-ify’ it. “If the album was a painting,” she says, “‘Pocket’ is the palette where we were mixing everything together and then it dried and we were like” – she offers her hand, sheepishly – “well there’s also this.” A microcosm of the album, the track progresses from coy singsong to hellish shrieking; stroked acoustic to fuzz tornado. “It has everything; it’s all over the place,” Slocum admits. “Sometimes the issue is that things are too chaotic. Like, we need something to carry you through.” 

Enter Sebastian Kinsler. In addition to contorting his guitar through effects pedals, Kinsler is the production wizard carefully curating the tumult. He’s the kinda guy who lights up when asked about guitar tones (“The Blues Driver clips the Rat in the most awesome way!”) or layering vocal takes (“Elliott Smith was the dude behind that sound; he’d do two takes and hard pan them left and right!”). His only hope for GWF? “I want people to be like, ‘Oh you don’t need to go to a studio to make music that sounds good and is fun to listen to. You can do it for zero dollars.’”

Each member’s contribution is unique and integral. Walchonski effuses Band Dad energy. The oldest, and only member with a 9-5, he admits: “I just crave a middle-class existence. I’d like to own a house someday.” He’s similarly pragmatic about the band’s future, explaining, “If we make money, then that’s cool, but if we strictly rely on it to make money and to pay our bills, then it may not be as fun.” If that sounds too sensible, don’t worry: he admits he’d like to own the chilli suit from Nathan For You (“for personal purposes”). 

Walchonski reflects on the fuel propelling the band from college-dorm goofing to noise-pop stardom: “I think it’s kind of right place at the right time with the right sound. We take a lot of sounds that are popular in their own right and kind of combine them.” Maybe the pedal-gazing racket is akin to that which catapulted Wednesday to junkyard royalty; maybe Slocum’s deadpan horsin’ around shares certain characteristics with the delivery of Dry Cleaning’s Florence Shaw. But the combined result is all them. 

Of the album’s closing track, Kinsler notes, “I think it’s a funny closer because it’s so crushingly sad. It’s such a sour note to end on.” As the distortion subsides, however, there’s a final sound: the metronome’s faint ticking, some indistinct chatter. It’s a reminder: Feeble Little Horse made this themselves, on their time. It’s anything but sour. This is anything but the end.

Photography by Micah E. Wood