Sorry to bang on about the new Horrors record for the second month in a row but 1. it’s really good and 2. it’s fast becoming a shorthand reference for the unfolding story of 2009: out once and for all with plug-in-and-play guitars and inconsequential rambles about what happened in the pub last night; in with big, mythic themes, gliding riffs and soaring electronic sequences. The ambiguous gloomy, gaze-y tags aside, the current appetite is for challenging, danceable rock and roll. Milo Cordell [sat on the left] signed the Universal-dumped garage rockers to XL for that huge follow up, and if ‘Primary Colours’ is the zeitgeist’s flagship album, he and singer/guitarist Robbie Furze [the one on the right, obviously] are sure to be its pin-ups.
Their past forays into the music industry – Milo founded Merok Records in 2006, Robbie played with Alec Empire, they both ran an industrial label called Hate Channel – make them a very well connected band and this has been linked, not altogether wrongly, with The Big Pink’s quick climb into the public’s conscious. Blogs have been ranting about them for ages and, after two singles (the latest for the consistently super 4AD), the mainstream media has started to follow suit. Talking about signing Faris and Co., Milo could be describing a trip, albeit an exciting one, to the supermarket – “I went to their second show at Brixton Windmill and I can remember not liking them,” he says. “Then I saw them again somewhere else and thought they were amazing. I knew them from out and about and realised from talking to them that they had so much more to offer and that it was going to be something really different.”
Business seems to come second nature to them, but The Big Pink are a band in their own right, and this project has entirely taken over their schedule.
“There’s no fucking rest for us,” says Milo. “We’re shooting the video for ‘Stop the World’ tomorrow, then we’re off to Europe for four shows. After the ICA we partied all night so we didn’t sleep on the Saturday, the Friday…”
“We didn’t sleep ‘til last night,” Robbie chimes in, looking as though he’d sink through the floor if he closed his eyes for longer than a blink. As for Merok, Milo confesses, “I just can’t do it anymore, I mean, I do it from afar. I’ve got one guy who pretty much runs it all now, looks after everything.”
Robbie: “We don’t have any time to do anything else, it’s just this.”
In a Brick Lane bar, I’d been trying to get them to talk about their blistering set at the Electric Ballroom on the first day of the Camden Crawl. Clearly the whole weekend has been something of a blur for them but for those of us in the audience who can remember, the gig was a great half hour that deserved more singing along and fewer media eyebrows. Intense Throbbing Gristle-meets-Psychocandy beatscapes held hands with a rush of noise, floating vocals and huge choruses, seamlessly sewn together and accompanied with smoke, acid-test strobes and lights. The consensus in the Loud And Quiet camp was that they needed a few more big tunes in the set (like the brilliant ‘Dominoes’), hopefully in time for the summer’s festival circuit, but they made up the deficit with a choreographic confidence – found elsewhere in their song structures and press shots – that comes in part from their music biz know-how.
“Oh yeah, that was good.” A fragment of the night comes back to Milo. “It’s because we control it, if you don’t control it you lose the translation. This is what I learnt from having a record label, I learnt that music isn’t just music, it is about what you look like, it is about what shoes you wear, not as in you’ve got to be this brand, but it’s about how you’ve created yourself. It’s the same with the artwork, same with the photos. All the best bands keep an ear and an eye out for that kind of thing. Like the light show, we do it all ourselves on-stage with pedals. If we didn’t control it ourselves it would be some tosser making us look like a Christmas tree, know what I mean? Even if it’s like, ‘I want a spinning white thing, put it by the drum kit’, some guy gets a spinning white thing and puts it by the drum kit. It’s really easy. We do enjoy it when we see pictures of the show and we’ve got our lights and smoke and stuff, it looks good, it’s part of the whole thing. We’re creating every angle of what we’re trying to do and people notice it – like ‘hold on, they’ve got cool press shots.’ Everyone could have cool press shots if they just have a little bit of imagination or enough balls to be like, ‘I don’t want to do it like that, I want to do it like this.”’
It’s experience and artistic drive speaking, rather than cynicism, and as the conversation hops between their previous and current endeavours it’s obvious that the beliefs they now hold as a band have grown organically from their time spent playing a backstage role in the careers of other acts; acts such as Alec Empire, who Robbie remembers fondly: “I played with him for the ‘Intelligent Sacrifice’ tour, which went on for about 18 months. That was 2004 I think, then I did my own band on his label. We did a few one-off shows with him a couple of years ago. Panic DHH it was called. Industrial band, yeah.”
The first signing of note for Milo – and indeed the beginning of Merok – was Klaxons.
“I’d always wanted to do it and Robbie was away for quite a long time, we’d done our own label before that and I guess I just wanted to start a label. I saw Klaxons play and I was like okay they’re a brilliant band to kick it all off with. We all got on really well and ended up living together, doing all these really fun parties and throwing all these raves. Then we did a couple of releases, they got signed to Polydor and it just kind of carried on.”