A chat with English band, 'my grey horse'
English band, my grey horse, is simply put: a breath of fresh air.
Originating from Stratford-upon-Avon in south Warwickshire, England, the band’s pensive lyrics, harmonious vocals and vintage sound leave them uncategorized by any one particular genre in the best way possible, especially with a small indie music scene in the United Kingdom.
Members of the band include 22-year-old drummer Joe Nicklin, 22-year-old bassist Tom Mott and the Butler brothers: 31-year-old vocalist/guitarist Peter, 27-year-old vocalist/keyboardist John and 22-year-old vocalist/guitarist Oobah.
Apart from a refreshingly honest sound, the group is also hands-on with every artistic facet of production, a filmmaker, an animator, a writer, and an illustrator being members of the band.
“I find the whole thing important,” says John Butler. “The fact that we make our videos and artwork and things like that.”
“I think everyone got started in music before we went off and did everything,” explains Peter Butler. “Me, personally, and John as well, started off playing music at age nine, maybe earlier than that, actually.”
“We were choir boys, that is where we originally started out,” points out John Butler.
Chuckling, the band begins to explain the meaning behind the name, my grey horse.
“It was one of the first ever short-films I made,” explains Peter Butler. “We used a track on it from a Mongolian throat singer which was just this really strange, interesting track. It translated as ‘my grey horse’, so I called the film “my grey horse “and I think we were just looking for a name at the time and that came up,” he says.
The band has done two EPs, “The Marley Banks” and “Stop Before the Dry River,” with CRC Music Group, an independent record label and music publisher based in London.
“Charlie, who is one of the heads of CRC heard us on a radio show and then contacted us through that,” explains Mott. “We all met up and got on, went on a few dates all together and then it worked out alright.”
However, their debut album, “I Still Don’t Understand”, set for release on June 9, 2014, is self-produced.
“We really concentrated on the sound of the record,” says Peter Butler. “We wanted it to be honest. We recorded a lot of it on tape and did loads of it live, as much as we could, and with not many takes as well. Some of them were first and second takes. That was really important to us, getting the honest sound where we actually sound like we do live.”
The tracks on the album originate from a wide span of time, with about three years’ worth of writing for the band members to choose from. However, the overarching theme of the album, self-improvement, was only evident upon the album’s completion.
“It was only in hindsight that we started realizing what all the songs picked were actually about,” explains Peter Butler. “It’s about trying to better yourself but knowing that you constantly have the question, ‘Do I ever better myself or am I just the same person making the same mistake over and over again?’ It sounds depressing, but it’s not! It’s fundamentally optimistic.”
The band’s commitment to sound and message requires much work, which they are happy to dedicate time to. In the spring of 2013, the band gathered at a cabin in the Forest of Dean, in order to write new material. “We’re spread out really far, where we live most of the time,” says Mott. “We all have to arrange a place to meet up to write and that just seemed like a great place to set up.”
The manner in which the band writes new material also reflects their dedication. Individual band members have an idea—from lyrics to a riff—which they then bring to the group. “All of us write like that,” says Peter Butler. “The band will get together and try to put some vocals on it, and then we’ll go for a marathon lyrics-writing week. We take that really seriously, lyrics writing, maybe more seriously than any other part,” he says.
When asked what the band draws inspiration from, there is a moment’s pause. “Errm…heartbreak,” says John Butler before chuckling in unison with band-mates.
Agreeing with his younger brother, Peter Butler elaborates, saying, “It’s always easier to write coming from sort-of heartbreak because you can’t take yourself away from those moments of emotion that just engulf you.”
Acknowledging that each member draws upon different sources of inspirations, the band’s good-natured humor comes forth. “Aye, we’re about the maths, me and Tom,” jokes John Butler.
“Yes, lots of maths,” laughs Mott in response. “Diagrams all over the place, charts…it’s really heartfelt!”
A sense of fun is evident amongst my grey horse band members, as throughout the interview they joke with one another. When asked if anyone had a memorable gig experience, the young men banter with one another before John Butler insists his brother begins a story, saying, “Go on, Pete! Full steam ahead!”
Peter Butler proceeds to shift between voices, narrating a time when a man approached him at the end of a gig insisting he knew American record producer, Meat Loaf. “He just walked up and said, ‘You’re really good, you guys. I’m going to get you on tour with Meat Loaf. I know him personally,’ which left me sort of going ‘oh yeah! Meat Loaf, cool,” he says to the laughter of his band-mates, adding quickly that the group never did hear from the musician/record producer.
When discussing the band’s greatest accomplishment to date, everyone has a slightly different response. From finally getting the desired sound for the record to having the record release in June, the members’ answers ultimately depict their growth as a band.
“I’m quite excited and optimistic to see and hear people’s reaction to the album,” says Nicklin. “Especially with the instrumentation and the overall sound of it,
“And the maths!” interjects Mott, continuing the joke.
“Oh, the maths, whoa!” says Nicklin, whistling without missing a beat. “The equations in there! But, seriously, just how it sounds. I think people on the inside who have already heard it have commented specifically on the instruments and been like, ‘Wow!’ It’s sort of brave, in a way to be that honest. I think it’s easy these days, particularly for British bands, to hide behind production and big production. So, I’m glad that we’ve pretty much gone the other way with it.”