Lisa Lindley-Jones – Dark Horses – Interview – 2014

Resplendent in a 70s denim-style onesie, and sporting over-sized sunglasses that match her orange-hued hair and very white skin, Lisa Lindley-Jones (aka Elle J) is fighting a bad lurgie, battling to get match fit for the up coming European tour. No touching is allowed, just an air kiss or two, as she insists she is contagious… So is the music of Dark Horses, the band she fronts, and which is steadily making a name for itself here and abroad, for its intoxicating and complimentary marriage of music and imagery, as the band strive to hark back to the punk and post-punk days where aesthetics and meaning were totally wrapped up in the music making. They are in fact like a proper gang of friends, albeit one that has welcomed new members over time.
"Dark Horses has been born out of a curiosity and defiance. There are a fluid number of members and this makes for continuous growth and experimentation," says Lisa. "We never really know how the next recordings will sound like; perhaps this is why we like to work with the same producer, Richard Fearless. He keeps the 'Horses' sonic focus and identity clear." Fearless was the founder of Death in Vegas, a band who merged psychedelic rock with techno, krautrock and big beat, and seems the perfect choice to help give Dark Horses that slightly dark and gothic edge their music and personas demand. "We recorded Hail Lucid State in a converted barn in Ovingdean, with views of the tumultuous sea, thunder and rain storms in the background. Fearless brings with him a wealth of musical knowledge but most of all an ability to draw out the best performances in us all. There is a trust there which allows for this fast and furious way of working. And a lot of weed…"
Hail Lucid State is the follow up to their debut album, Black Music, an excellent album from start to finish. While Black Music was darker and more foreboding, Hail Lucid State is more complete, a little poppier and classicist; it's full of retro influences but sounds fresh and contemporary. Inspirations range from Hawkwind's space rock aesthetics to Krautrock's hypnotic and driving rhythms, and from Joy Division's ominously dark foreboding, to early 80s American and UK post-punk/new wave. Add a sprinkle of old school glam, and a little bit of artsy eroticism and grunge, and together it adds up to a potent sound, good enough for Brighton resident Nick Cave to give his seal of approval, by remarking he thought they were the 'best band outta Brighton. "We worked in the same studio when recording our first album Black Music, and he heard some of recordings there. I look forward to his coming solo tour. The man just can't do no wrong artistically. It's an ambition of mine to work in the way he does one day," says Lisa. But, for the moment, it's very much a band effort; Lisa's charismatic, dark and dreamy vocals fronting the inventive, sound sculpted guitar work of Andy Bang (who met Lisa while he was working with Unkle – she sang on a number of songs that found their way onto the Where Did The Night Fall album), the distorted and unfussy bass playing of Anastasia Zio, the effects laden, keyboard sounds of Bobby Waterson and the thoughtfully crafted drumming of Steve Ingham. What does the title refer to? "We made this last album very quickly, it requires a brave confidence, A lucid clarity of instinctive ideas," says Lisa. "There was no room for much self-criticism or analysis. Hail the Lucid State!"
And so the lyrics, and much of the musicianship – special mention must go to Andy Bang's beautifully dark guitar work throughout – on Hail Lucid State point to a belief in going with your heart, rather than your head. "When you're judgements are challenged it's hard to know where to turn and who to trust. Even trusting yourself can be hard. One is left with instinct…" says Lisa.
As for the image and visual aesthetic of the band, mainly in black and white, and all done by Ali Tollervey who is even listed as a band member, Lisa is quick to point out that it isn't so much the band cultivating this image of themselves, as Tollervey creating an image around the band. "Being in a band is a visual as well as a sonic endeavour, and we are equally inspired by stories told in image form as with music. You can live in whichever reality you want to, and we just create one that we enjoy; it's just natural to explore and express ourselves. It's really not that considered, just great to be able to work with friends."
Almost immediately upon forming in 2010 they were invited by Kasabian to play a few shows with them. "They are friends and it was an invitation we could not turn down. It was bit surprising as we don't sound that alike, but their fans were good to us. It was a powerful baptism." Kasabian's lead singer, Tom Meighan, even sang on their 'Count Me In' track which featured on Black Music. More recently they have been on the road for much of the year with American indie heroes The Dandy Warhols, including a recent date with them here in Brighton, a sell out Concorde 2 gig, helping to expose the band to potential future fans. "They are veterans of touring, having been together for 20 years," says Lisa of The Dandy Warhols, a band with a similarly strong and independent 'gang' spirit to Dark Horses. "It's been interesting to witness how they function as a band of individuals. It's not easy to work together for so long, especially on the road but they make space for each others quirks. it's much like any family. They are a fantastic live band, it was a joy to watch them repeatedly and get to understand the details on their songs and performances."
They've just come back from a European tour and Lisa subsequently tells me that they go down particularly well in Germany and Switzerland, and after a show in London they'll be rounding the year off with a headlining Brighton show, a city where Lisa was based for many years before moving to London last year. "Brighton is so easy on the eye. It is a city built largely on pleasure (as Julie Burchill once famously quipped, '… even shimmering in the rain Brighton looks like a town recovering from a multiple orgasm'.) on the appreciation of fresh sea air, and good living. It attracts such souls as to make it rich in creativity and individualism. Brighton will always be home to me no matter where I live," before revealing she is a rather reluctant, and temporary Londoner at the moment, she would much rather be here…
Dark Horses, The Hope, 12 Oct. Ali Tollervey's exhibition of photos is currently at The Hope until 2 November.
Jeff Hemmings