HORSE The Band

Written By: Steve Sawyer

Horse The Band. Just the name itself conjures up images of a group of good for nothings slapping and banging at various instruments, in a manner that could only be described as manic. And in fact it’s not very far from the truth. Horse The Band started in that magical time known as 1999 in Lake Forest CA. And by 2002, not only had they self produced and recorded 2 EPs and a full length, but they also managed to book their own tour and carve out a comfortable niche in a number of musical scenes, yielding them a ravenous over caffeinated fan base.

Often credited with coining the phrase “Nintendocore” Horse The Bands defining feature of their sound is easily the inclusion of Nintendo and game boy sound effects due to their use of the LSDJ synthesizer kit. Blending these sound effects with a mixture of punk, grind, heavy metal, and electronica has definitely yielded one of the most interesting sounds in music in recent memory. And the familiar sound effects essentially all but guaranteed Horse The Band would maintain a special place in the hearts of every nerd that ever owned a Nintendo Entertainment System. But what solidified their place in music was their incredibly dedicated ability to promote themselves, and constantly push their own sound into new unexplored territory.

Their first major release “R. Borlax” did just that. It put on display a band that had discovered, and defined a sound, and was now fine tuning it into something deadly. One Part Locusts, two parts Super Mario Brothers, and a pint or two of crazy, it’s not very hard to pin down what makes the band special when listening to the album. Almost immediately you’re greeted by an audible assault on reason. It’s absurd, it’s loud, and it’s invariably unpredictable, but for all it’s excesses, it puts a great big smile on your face. That might have been the reason it was so easy for Horse The Band to translate all of that musical energy into increasingly complex tours, both in size and scope.

By 2004 the band had managed to book a world tour that included 85 shows in 90 days, spanning 7 countries throughout North America and Europe, and was in the process of recording their follow up to “R. Borlax”, which came in the form of “The Mechanical Hand”. And while “Mechanical Hand” wasn’t as avant garde as their previous efforts, it tightened up their sound, and came with a heavy coat of production polish. The added gloss helped to bring in even more fans than before, and enabled Horse to hit the road again. It was during one of these self promoted jaunts through our great nation that Horse stumbled upon Lou Malnati’s in Chicago, where they were served a deep dish pizza that would forever change their lives and career. It is at this point that it becomes necessary to quote the band, because to put it in my own words, would do it no justice…

“We left that tour because we ate really, really, really good pizza in Lou Malnati’s in Chicago with Dave’s grandparents. The pizza was such that we were inspired by God to write music of the kind not heard in this world since Mozart was fed his first currywurst. A copy of Nietzsche’s ‘The Gay Science’ was on hand and for 2 days we struggled with the question posed in ‘The Greatest Weight’ passage, which follows. In essence, it asks the reader to examine their every action if they had to repeat their lives exactly for all eternity, begging the question in each and every thing, ‘Do you desire this once more, and innumerable times more?’

We couldn’t decide if we should stay in Chicago and keep eating pizza for the rest of our lives. But after two days of rigorous theory, we realized we had to write divine music about the pizza. We decided to drive home immediately and write and record a 5-song EP called “Pizza” before Sounds of the Underground and Warped Tour started. God was there.”

The “Pizza” EP gave Horse a booster shot of creativity, and fan support, and provided them with a renewed sense of purpose, and a wellspring of energy. Their sound again sounding fresh, and with fans clamoring for another album, Horse The Band started an unprecedented cycle of self promoting, in anticipation of their album “A Natural Death”. And when the album finally hit. It landed with a loud resonating boom. The album showed a band that had not only pushed their sound again, but a band that had managed to mature in the short time between releases. Another concept album, “A Natural Death” was about the pursuit and futility of human life in the totality of existence. Heavy stuff, for sure, but it showed a very different side of a band that had previously been thought of as impossible to take seriously.

In 2009 after embarking on another self booked, and self promoted world tour that took them to over 45 countries, Horse settled back in to record their next full length “Desperate Living”. And life has never looked better for the band. While it’s still not right to call them accessible, they are closer to that word than they have ever been. With songs like “Shapeshift” and “Horse The Song” it’s an almost infectious pleasure, and much like a skin disease, soon you just can’t shake it. It doesn’t hurt that they’ve recruited the crooning Jamie Stewart from Xiu Xiu to produce, and guest on one of the tracks, as it adds a depth of humanity, and heart that may have been lacking from earlier releases. But more incredible than anything is Horse’s ability to again take a sound that they essentially created, and not only contribute to it, but redefine it, and put it in fresh new packaging for everyone to consume. Something tells me it tastes just a little like Pizza.

Horse The Band is:
* Nathan Winneke – vocals (1999-present)
* David Isen – guitar (1999-present)
* Erik Engstrom – synthesizer/LSDJ (1999-present)
* Daniel Pouliot – drums (2009-present)

Their New Album “Desperate Living” is available through Vagrant Records now.

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