While the UK’s Sugar Horse are self-described as ‘decidedly average,’ their recently released debut full length, The Live Long After is anything but average. It’s an excellent amalgamation of post-metal, doom, noise rock, sludge, and beautiful melodies that took me by surprise on first listen as something that, on paper shouldn’t work but in actuality works amazingly well. Just when a track settles into rambunctiously loud noise rock, they hit you with an ethereal pop melody then flip the script with heavy as hell doom or sludge, then back again. It’s one hell of a multifaceted debut that needs your ears on it asap. On the heels of the album’s release, we had a chance to pose our set of Profile questions to vocalist and guitarist Ashley Tubb to get some insight into the band and their sound. Read on to see how it went down and be sure to grab a copy from the links contained within.
How did you first get into playing music, and have you achieved the level of success that you hoped for?
I literally have no idea why I decided to start playing music. I didn’t even like it that much when I’d gotten my first guitar. I guess I just thought it looked like fun. I legitimately couldn’t really tell the difference between any of the instruments in a song until I’d been playing for about six months. Absolutely zero natural talent whatsoever. Some would argue I have zero talent now and they’d be very close to the truth. In regards to success, I think I realised that it was nigh-on impossible to be a rockstar or whatever when I was in my mid-teens. Just not at all attainable. I just have a completely unhealthy compulsion to write music and play it (badly) in front of people. As long as I can keep doing that, I’ll be happy.
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, and praised? (If you don’t have a story, please tell us any funny/embarrassing story.)
I dunno about anything debasing. I’ve done enough breathtakingly cringey shit in my life, but none to get onto a show or ought. I find it incredibly funny that thousands of people, all over the world in little bands like ours are willing to plough a tonne of their hard earned money into writing/recording/gigging/promotion/pressing/releasing music and they all know full well that they’ll never get that money back. It’s pretty insane when you think about it. Sometimes when I chat to non-music types about this kinda stuff they just shake their head and look at me like I’m mentally ill. Just wanking money into the wind aren’t we.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
I’ve always loved the intensity of metal. Like the energy that jumps out of your speakers when you stick it on. I also love how earnest it is. That may sound a little off, as when you think about metal you think about a bunch of moody looking blokes in denim jackets trying to look as brutal as possible. I think there are very few other genres that are willing to be as up front and intense in full view of the world as metal is though. Like Judas Priest literally dressed in S&M gear…onstage…in the 70s. That’s a level of emotional honesty you’re just not gonna find when you go and watch Radiohead, is it? Inhibitions are just completely discarded when you’re at a metal show. It’s completely OK to become a caricature…and that’s awesome. As far as things I dislike…I’m really not a fan of the insane levels of overproduction I hear on heavy records now. It just completely saps all the energy out of a record for me. I love being able to hear the room a record was recorded in. That sound of all the mics bleeding into each other, or a room farting out from a really loud guitar amp. It all adds to that immersive experience listening to a record should be. Heavy music is intrinsically jagged and unpleasant. I just don’t understand the attraction of rounding off those edges.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music?
Typically I don’t have a pre-conceived agenda for a song when I approach the writing of the lyrics/vocals. Trying to crowbar in particular words or phrases tends to turn out pretty badly, so I like to let the music guide me quite a bit. Usually sing a bunch of gibberish over it, then a couple phrases will subconsciously fall out and once that happens, there’s usually some kind of subject matter to hang the lyrics on. Saying that, I tend to feel quite uncomfortable directly stating what I think is right and wrong. Most people who listen to weirder kinds of music tend to be of a particular political bent and there’s a bit of a danger of preaching to the choir. Also, what the fuck do I know? I’m not gonna claim I have any of the answers, as that would be hilariously inaccurate. Most of our more “politically-charged” songs tend to be from the point of view of the bad guy. I like to kind of inhabit their thought process as a kind of parody or whatever. For example, “Shouting Judas At Bob Dylan” is a purposefully over exaggerated version of what I think “St George’s Flag shagging,” “GOOD OLD ENGLAND” types sound like. I’m not gonna claim it’s at all accurate, it’s just what they sound like to me. So extreme and contradictory it’s kind of funny in a way.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
My first guitar teacher was a massive metalhead. Proper Marshall stack and a Flying V type of guy. Mad bastard. I remember in our first lesson he essentially ordered me to go out and buy The Black Album and Master Of Puppets, so I did. For that, I am eternally grateful to him. Properly changed my life and I fell into a full-on obsessive Metallica phase for the rest of my teens. I think my family were just generally confused by it all. My dad is hugely supportive and always has been, but he seems to have literally no clue how anyone could enjoy listening to it in any way. I think he views it as a form of torture, rather than any kind of art or entertainment. Like I’d gotten into some avant-garde type of sadomasochism. Bless both my parents though. They had to put up with me ‘practicing’ by playing “Smoke On The Water,” in single notes, on each string, completely out of tune for about a month straight. Must have been absolute hell. Probably a big contributory factor to my dad’s views on music in general.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
Oh man…you’re gonna make me give music critics advise on a public forum? It’s like you want us getting awful reviews… It’s tough saying what any particular critic should or shouldn’t do, as everyone has different tastes and a different ear. If there’s ever general consensus around a record or artist, I tend to view it with deep suspicion rather than a sign of quality. I guess I’d say that you shouldn’t be afraid of having a wildly different opinion on something to someone, or even everyone else. A review saying something is great when everyone else is saying it’s rubbish is gonna be way more interesting to read than just another 2/10. I guess you need some kind of sense of bravery. I don’t mean bravery like a firefighter (although we all know music critics are much more brave than anyone in the emergency services), I mean if you dislike something, but everyone’s telling you it’s great, maybe think about giving it 1/10 instead of the completely meaningless 6/10. I cannot wait to look at my Twitter DMs after this. Every journo in the land threatening me with violence.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one?
At the moment, we’d just like to go out and play some shows. The gigging world has been closed for far too long and we’d really like to take full advantage of it being wide open again. Apart from that, we’re all pretty obsessed with writing, so we just wanna write and release something else. The album is done and out in the world now. Although it’s only been a couple weeks, I’ve already got some serious itchy feet thinking about our next studio visit. More songs, more often please.
Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
I’m alright for a cult I reckon. Not a big fan of people and having to boss the silly twats around all day, every day would drive me up the wall. We all have day jobs, yes. A couple of us have just transferred out of hospitality (hopefully for good), one of us works in tech support and another is a teacher. I won’t tell you who’s who because I don’t want them informed of my highly Satanic extra-curricular activities. I have a very small person’s mouth to feed after all. We all collect vinyl, as well as weird electronic music gear and mountains of effects pedals. Sav (drums) is into exercise and stuff (ew) and Jake is obsessed with finding and cataloguing diggers and dump trucks.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
As I write this, I’m currently getting ready to see Arab Strap. Properly amazing 90s band that recently reformed and put out a new record. Usually reunion records are well shite, but this one is amazing. I’m also fully in love with the newest Low album HEY WHAT. It’s really unlike any guitar record I’ve ever heard. Properly stops time whenever I hear it. I adore an ambient project called Time Binding Ensemble. She put out a record called Nothing New Under The Sun earlier in the year that cycles through every key over its 24 tracks. Proper curl up in the foetal position and long to be held type music. Other than that, the newest Beabadoobee EP is awesome noisy pop and I guess I should mention a metal record…you can’t go wrong with Maiden can you.
What is the 12-month outlook for you or your band? Any specific events on the horizon that the masses should be aware of?
We have a tour coming up next month (October). Gonna be great to get back out and play to people. We’ve also got a couple festival things for next summer falling into place, which I can’t wait for. Apart from that, it’s just releasing new stuff. We wanna put out a tonne more stuff next year. Gotta keep it moving.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Ashley and Sugar Horse for their time!