Whyte Horses

Dom Thomas

Manchester psych-pop project Whyte Horses emphatically introduced themselves two years ago, when in April 2016 they released their masterful debut "Pop Or Not", which rightfully received rapturous acclaim. The long-awaited follow-up "Empty Words" came to our lives a few days ago (March 9) and is equally brilliant and inspired. A high quality solid release, an almost one hour finely-crafted precious piece of musical art, which instantly captures your attention from its very first minute and keeps your senses alert throughout the hearing of its 16 beautiful tracks. Definitely one of the best albums of 2018 so far.

It was love at the first sight for Basement and Whyte Horses. Will never forget the first time we came across the band's debut and it was a great honour and joy for us, when the founder and songwriter Dom Thomas granted us the wondrous opening and omonymous track "Pop Or Not" for our compilation "Music From The Basement Vol.II", which was released last year (check here). We feel equally honoured and happy to have him here in the Basement for an interview, and here's the cool and very illuminating chat we had with him.   




The Basement: Whyte Horses welcome to the Basement! Well, new album just released - congratulations and best wishes for your sophomore effort! How do you feel about the release? Relieved? Satisfied with the final outcome?
I think it’s the best second album we could have hoped for, there are so many potential pitfalls when making a follow up, especially if there’s an expectation to live up to. It genuinely didn’t phase me though, I believe in every single note that we’ve recorded for this album and the last. I think this is the best album you’ll hear this year by a mile, I believe in it 100% and the competition isn’t great at the moment so I’m even happier.

The Basement: Could you give us some extra information about “Empty Words”. The inspiration, the writing period and the recordings… 
As soon as Pop or Not was finished I immediately began putting down ideas and thinking about the type of album I wanted to make. I wanted to make a positive record, something that talked about the time we’re in but not in a typically political way. I love melodic songwriting so the tunes were building all the time as were the ideas. Initially it was going to be a concept record about John and Yoko but as time went on that idea became too restrictive. Scraps of that concept remained and I began to work a bit more freely, I just let everything that was coming into my life affect the songs. Stories about friends, people I know, little quotes from strangers, anything and everything. Watching Twin Peaks - The Return inspired me through the hard part of the writing sessions when I was feeling pretty uninspired but an hour of that each week really pushed me through. I’d not seen anything on TV that really got me excited over the last ten years. I’d take little ideas and references from it here and there, you can hear some lyrics directly taken from the series on the album. David Lynch is a hero, someone who can mix the popular with avant garde in a completely unique way.

The Basement: In what terms does the album resemble with your debut? And, conversely, how does it differentiate from its predecessor?
Empty Words is in some ways a step forward from Pop or Not in that the lyrics and arrangements have developed. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily always that important because naivety can play its part in songwriting. This collection of songs say more about how I really feel and my personality is coming through more and more with each song I write. The same basic rules are there, I have to get a certain feeling from each song otherwise they won’t make it onto the record.

The Basement: We can also sense some ideas taken from your awesome “St Barts Choir Perform Pop Or Not” release. The strings and the children’s choir of course. Whose idea was that project in the first place back in 2016 and how was it inspired?
There’s an album called The Langley Schools Project, the brainchild of a music teacher in a Canadian school in the 70s. He got his pupils to sing classics by Bowie, The Beatles etc. Some of the tunes ended up better than the originals particularly one song, Wildfire, which is an infinitely more touching version than the original. I thought our songs would work perfectly with the kid’s innocent take on our tunes seeing as the album was mainly about trying to recapture those feelings of being a child.

The Basement: Children singing your music and expressing themselves… What was the feedback through that experience?
The kids were totally immersed in the songs which made the whole process a joyous experience. We took them to RAK studios in London, it's more expensive than most of the studios I use. In my opinion, it’s impossible for anyone to dislike this version of the album, if you can’t feel the songs sung like this then there’s got to be part of you that’s dead.

The Basement: How did the collaboration with La Roux take place for “The Best Of It” song?
Elly was working in the same studios as me during the recordings so I got to know her then. I asked her to join us for the Barbican show last year and we decided to do a cover of The Best Of It. We’ve become mates since and I suggested making it into a single, in the end, it worked really nicely as part of the album so we put it on. 

The Basement: What about the co-writing of the omonymous track “Empty Words” with the Go Team? How did this hookup occur?
I’ve known Ian Parton for a few years now, we started doing some writing together when he had a brief stint living in Manchester. He’s got the best melodies, just a total natural at it and very underrated as a songwriter. Ian and Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy) are the most talented songwriters I know when it comes to melodic songs. I think we share a similarly cynical view of life but somehow our music always ends up being hopeful and pretty positive. Empty Words is a perfect song for me, I’m really proud of how together it is. To me, it says everything about the zeitgeist in less time than it takes to boil an egg.

The Basement: You often refer to Whyte Horses as a “project” instead of a “band”. Why do you make this differentiation?
It started off as an idea, a concept. So for me, it’s always been interesting to think of it in those terms, in a way it opens up other paths for the songwriting and live shows. There’s always been a core of myself, Ali, Owen and Shea. The lineup changes all the time and that’s no problem for us we enjoy allowing the live side to go wherever it needs to go to make it work.

The Basement: Going back in time, how did the whole start for Whyte Horses?
I had a vision of an imaginary girl group playing songs in a Mexican church, it was clear as day. Immediately I began thinking about how I could bring it to life and the Whyte Horses name came pretty much straight away. It was as if a lot of the things had been forming and fermenting in my mind into something solid and tangible, the idea of the perfect band. I wanted to make tunes like Os Mutantes letting the song dictate how it should sound, and never settling on one particular sound. I’d never written a song before so I began to try and figure out the dark art of songwriting. Obsessively I’d soak up as much information as I could from interviews and studying chord structures that appealed to me from other songs. It took a while to get a grip on it but I just persevered. I was sick of slagging off other bands and thinking I could do better. I knew I had to get off my arse and start trying to write my own tunes so I could have a voice and make some music that I wanted to hear myself. 

The Basement: And, then, in 2016 you gave us your stunning debut “Pop Or Not”. A year later you granted us with the masterful opening omonymous track for Basement’s second compilation. Thank you so much! Could you share with us a backstory of the track? How was it written and inspired?
The track Pop or Not is based on a feeling, I was watching some Paul Morrissey film when I got the rough idea. I can’t remember which one but it was black and white, the drone idea just came from that. It’s one of those one chord songs that builds with tension and release. It was done in lots of little pieces on piano and guitar then transposed back to guitar. It might sound like a jam, but it was considered and composed.


The Basement: Which bands or artists would you consider as your main influences?
There’s too many to list, I think I’m like a computer that takes in sounds from all over the place and processes them and they come back out a certain way. There’s tons of amazing music I’ve managed to track down but the main bands that have really had a profound effect are the obvious ones; The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, The Stone Roses, Serge Gainsbourg. There’s a reason they’re popular across the world. I want Whyte Horses to have that same sort of appeal, we’re a band that’s unafraid of putting pop with less obvious ideas and vice versa. Film and art is a big influence on me as much as other music. There’s an amazing Dali documentary with Orson Welles narrating called Soft Self Portrait which I watch on repeat. It was one of the main influences on the Pop or Not album. It’s full of incredible scenery, witty dialogue, supreme editing and dream-like colours. it’s a complete piece of work, that’s the sort of thing that fascinates me.

The Basement: How would you evaluate the music of nowadays in Britain and globally? Are there any new bands you admire and love listening to them?
Not really anyone I get excited about at the moment if I’m being honest, especially out of Manchester. 

The Basement: You are to play a one-off show with special guests in London this September for the Royal Festival. The show is named “Whyte Horses Experience”. What should the (lucky!) audience should expect? What is the “Whyte Horses Experience”?
It's something we take a lot of care and pay attention to. It should feel like you’re leaving your day behind and stepping into a world where the visuals and music can take you somewhere with or without the use of drugs.

The Basement: Will there be more live shows? Is there a European or/and international tour on your plans?
Yeah, but they must be worth doing for us. We can’t drag 15 musicians around to any old show, we only want to play in an environment that suits us so we can give our all.

The Basement: At which point would you regard Whyte Horses project as successful? How would you define success and glory?
Good question. I think the first 2 records are perfect, if I can make any others to match the quality of those I’ll be more than happy. I’d like the songs to travel as far as possible, that’s what I think is important at the end of the day, its all about the songs. They’re here forever now and they can take on a life of their own.

The Basement: Whyte Horses thank you very much! We wish you the best for you and your beautiful new album.

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