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    Interview with Sugar Horse Singer Ashley Tubb

    "Technicality and Precision Often Get in the Way of Raw Emotion"

    Interview von Anne
    30.05.2024 — Lesezeit: 10 min
    Deutsche Version lesen
    Interview with Sugar Horse Singer Ashley Tubb

    "The Grand Scheme Of Things" is the name of the upcoming new Sugar Horse album. With two already pre-released singles and a couple more to come, I decided to ask Vocalist and Guitarist Ashley "Ash" Tubb some questions about the record and their plans for the release. Thanks to Ash for answering them and sharing all those insights with me! It was a pleasure talking to you!

    "The Grand Scheme Of Things" will be on the Pelagic Records catalogue from October 4th. You can already place your pre-orders on Bandcamp1 and listen to the first song—I've added them to this interview.

    Anne: Hi! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview! How are you doing today? How is everything going with the plans for your release of "The Grand Scheme Of Things" in October?

    Ash: Hello! Yeah, I'm well, thanks! Things are going pretty good, although I am an impatient man, and I just want it to be out already, to be honest (laughs).

    Anne: This sounds like you're satisfied with the outcome of your work. Are you?

    Ash: Yeah, I think it's our most cohesive release yet. The whole thing really flows as one piece, even though all the songs are so different from each other. Which really took some thinking about.

    Anne: You've already revealed two songs from the record: Track 2 –"The Shape Of ASMR To Come" and Track 6 – "New Dead Elvis". When listening to all nine songs on the album, I thought both tracks felt like introductions to the story you're telling with "The Grand Scheme Of Things". At the same time, these two songs can also be listened to separately. They stand on their own—which is nice! So, good choice! It feels like a very well-considered decision to pick these two tracks. Will there be more pre-releases? Is there a reason for the order in which you unveil them?

    "This record is more than riffs and screaming!"

    Sugar Horse – "The Grand Scheme Of Things"
    "Sugar Horse – "The Grand Scheme Of Things"

    Ash: Thanks so much! Well, I guess I always think of singles as like big pop tunes on a record, ya know. Stuff folks can hook onto easily, and these two seemed like the two most obvious choices in that respect. Big bombastic choruses and stuff. I like the way they kinda show both the light and the dark from the album, too. This record really is not just riffs and screaming the whole way through. In fact, we actually hold back on that.

    There will be a couple more singles coming, and they focus on the heavier side of the record. One of them is probably the heaviest thing we've ever recorded.

    Anne: Let's stay with this topic for a moment. I plan to add both songs to this interview, so my readers can listen to them while reading it. Do you want to share some insights about them? Their titles really stimulate the imagination!

    Ash, you commented, "The Shape Of ASMR To Come" with the following words:

    "After my dad's passing, in the time before his funeral, I learned a tonne about his life that I previously hadn't a clue about. He's been through a fair bit in his life and this song is kind of about that. It's a kind of "through adversity, there is redemption" type of song. No pain, no gain, etc."

    Would you like to tell me a little more about it?

    Ash: So "New Dead Elvis" is based on music fans' obsession with the "tortured artist". The idea that you're more real if you fucking hate your life, and you're miserable all the time. The zenith of that is the worship of dead rock stars. I don't think depression or self-destruction should be something to aim for or celebrate. Sure, some of the most outstanding music/art ever dreamt up is formed around those topics, but the public's worship of that as a kind of authenticity has resulted in us losing some of the greatest artists of the 20th and 21st centuries.

    "ASMR" is one of the many songs on this record I wrote about my father. In fact, this whole record is a kind of rumination on his illness and subsequent death in 2022. He was a very private and reserved man, especially when it came to talking about the hardships he faced in his life. I didn't find out about a lot of it until after his passing. I went through his belongings, talked to long-forgotten family members, and pieced together this life that was very uplifting. He was incredibly ill as a child and underwent slightly experimental surgery at the time. It resulted in him being hospital-bound for long periods of time and, as a result, missing out on a lot of school. Because of this, he was nearly entirely illiterate for his entire life and lived with the physical results of his surgery. Despite this and a bunch of other ongoing illnesses, he was acutely intelligent and lived a life that was full and took him to places someone from his background rarely had the chance to visit and see. The song is a kind of "through adversity, there is redemption" piece dedicated to him and his life.

    Anne: You started Sugar Horse a while back, and you're already looking back at a few releases. Which one of them is your favourite so far and why?

    "I still love 'Phil Spector In Hell' from our previous album"

    Ash: I'm a sucker for a big singy chorus, so I still really enjoy "Phil Spector In Hell" and "Dadcore World Cup" from the first album. I just think we did those super well. Saying that, our last 20-minute-long single thing, "Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico", is still something I'm super proud of and is always a blast to close sets with, mainly because that song is about the real-world magic that is creating art and how profoundly beautiful that is. I always think that's such a joyous, full-circle moment when we get to play a song about that in front of people. It fills your heart with something resembling happiness, ya know.

    Anne: Your music sounds a lot like true naturals make it. It's so versatile and powerful and full of sidenotes and humour. Were you born into making music, or was it something you learned when you noticed it fascinated you?

    Ash: Ha! No, I absolutely was not born into a musical or artistic family at all. Very much the opposite, but saying that, my parents were always incredibly supportive of the mad shit I was up to and for that, I will always be eternally grateful.

    The little in-jokes and metatextual bits of our songs just come from us being big music heads. Music is basically all we talk about, and it obsesses us.

    I can't speak for the other guys, but I know that kind of obsession with music history and its stupid minutiae that no one else cares about just comes from being quite a solitary guy. I'm an only child, so I grew up not seeing people that often, and now that I'm an adult, I'm most comfortable on my own reading about who engineered which Cure B side and what rack reverb preset was on the snare.

    Anne: I wanted to talk about another quote of yours about the album:

    "This album was intended to be a sideways step. A move away from the kind of thing that is expected of us—if anything is at all. What I mean by that is the songs are more direct. They take a much shorter amount of time to "get to the point". We also wanted to make this one noticeably "less Metal". While we love being a bit boneheaded and confrontational, we definitely wanted to explore the more melodic, song-based side of the band's sound. Normally, you'd see shortened song structures and more singing and think, 'Oh, these guys are going for gold….they wanna get on the radio and make millions of bloodstained pounds.' Well… you're very much entitled to think that if you wish, but it felt like more of a songwriting challenge than anything else to be honest. We've done the whole drawn-out, endless Space Rock thing a good few times now, and it would've been easy to rest on those laurels. Do something we're comfortable with. Alas, that is not really the point of this band. We'd much prefer to make it difficult and take the long route."

    With that, let's return to "The Grand Scheme Of Things". When listening to your discography, I mentioned it's really like you've recorded the songs in another timeline, with a different horizon but not too far away from your musical home base. I mean, you can still hear it's you with all your skill, creativity and ideas but stricter and head-on. I don't want my question to sound like I'm trying to explain to you what you said about it. So, you know what I mean. What I want to know is: At what point did you decide to go in that direction, and are you planning on carrying on with it with your next releases?

    "We decided to make our songs more concise this time"

    Ash: It was definitely a very conscious decision to move to shorter, more concise songs on this album. Mainly because we enjoy challenging ourselves and shaking stuff up, our songs have always been quite long, primarily due to them just being so slow. Like, if you're playing at 70 bpm, you do a verse and a chorus, and you're already at four minutes. With that in mind, we thought the challenge of trying to cram a whole song's worth of action into a smaller amount of time would be difficult—and difficult can be kinda fun when you're making art—sometimes.

    I'm unsure whether we'll keep to the short lengths for the next records, but we are in the process of switching things up again. As I said, we've mainly written in relatively slow tempos so that we might look to speed things up for a while. I mean, I'm not saying we're going to write a Discordance Axis record—we're nowhere near good enough at our instruments to do something like that.

    Anne: Which of the nine songs is your favourite and why?

    Ash: I'm a big fan of the song "Corpsing". I think the vocals are really strong, and the lyrics are some of my favourite ones I've ever written. I know Jake is really into the opener, Sav likes "Spit Beach", and Chris is a fan of "Office Job Simulator".

    Anne: You've all been making music for quite a while now. You toured with and met tons of brilliant artists. What would you say was the most formative moment in your life for your musical output? What was unique about it, and what inspired you to make this great music today?

    Ash: That's a big question, honestly. I think rather than one particular moment, there are a few that coalesce together over time—the first time reading something like Patrick Hamilton's "Hangover Square" or watching Andrei Tarkovsky's "Stalker". The first time you head into an art gallery, you see old masters and groundbreaking modern art up close. When my first guitar teacher told me I shouldn't listen to—And Justice For All because it was "too extreme", and I held off from fear until finally playing it and being blown away by how austere it was. It was the first time I realised that technicality and precision very often get in the way of raw emotion, or perfection is, in fact, just boring.

    It just clicks into place and forms an aesthetic over time.

    Apologies, that is probably an unhelpful, pretentious answer, but in reality, it's very much the truth. These things build up over time and very rarely fall into place all at once.

    Anne: Thank you very much for your detailed answer! That definitely makes a lot of sense! Where do you draw your inspiration from when it comes to writing songs?

    Ash: This can vary. There's the old Picasso quote,

    "Great artists steal",

    and he's right in a way. Most of the time, you listen to something, watch a film, or read a book, and you see what I would call a "move" in that piece of art, and it gives you the idea to translate that "move" into your own music.

    That's normally where new ideas come from for me. I just wholesale rob them from folks that were actually brilliant and hope no one notices.

    Anne: The Bristol music scene is highly vivid and multifaceted with all those bands, ArcTanGent and other great events. As the founder of a Bristol-based band, would you say it's this big creative melting pot it seems it is? How would you describe the Bristol scene over the years?

    "Bristol is a wonderful city!"

    Sugar Horse
    Sugar Horse

    Ash: We've lived here for just over a decade, at this point, and it's always been this multifaceted and eclectic. In fact, I'd say that's the most exciting thing about it. No one wants to repeat anything anyone else is doing. It's viewed as a black mark against your band if you do. Everyone wants to do something new and exciting, and that just flourishes exponentially as more and more artists strive for it.

    It's a wonderful city to live in, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made to move here.

    Anne: Is there any possibility of meeting you at one of the festivals this summer? Do you have any other tour dates planned?

    Ash: We aren't doing a huge amount of festivals this summer, although we have just finished Desertfest in London and Colossal Weekend in Copenhagen, both of which were dreamlike experiences, honestly. Great crowds and amazing folks.

    We have some more stuff planned for the end of the year, but I'm not sure if I can talk about that just yet—you'll see, though—it's good!

    Anne: What are your plans for after your release?

    Ash: There are a couple of tours in the pipeline—that much I can say. Proper info on them will be released soon, and I think folks will be pretty excited about them—I know we are. We also have a hometown release show in Bristol the week after the album comes out. Playing at home is always nice, and I'm very excited about that one!

    Anne: If you could change one thing in the world. What would it be and why?

    "We should have a worldwide Basic Income"

    Ash: It would be pretty nice to have some kind of worldwide Universal Basic Income, wouldn't it? Ya know, so people didn't have to live in poverty or sleep on the streets or starve to death. I'm not sure how many rampant supporters of unrestrained market capitalism read Sounds Vegan—I suspect not many—but I'd implore anyone who does to maybe think about giving Universal Basic Income a chance. It would be nice if everyone could afford to live somewhat comfortable lives regardless of their background. I don't think that's a lot to ask.

    Anne: That's a beautiful thought. I'd love that. Thank you so much for answering my questions. It was a pleasure meeting you. All the best with your plans!

    Ash: Thanks so much for taking an interest in our obtuse little band! Sorry if I waffled on. I hope to see anyone still reading at a show in the near future. I promise I try not to be this pretentious and insufferable in real life.

    Sugar Horse – "New Dead Elvis"

    Sugar Horse – "The Shape of ASMR to Come"

    1. Sugarhorse, Bandcamp

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