We talk to Whyte Horses’ Dom Thomas about the creation of the alluringly unusual Manchester psych outfit – and enjoy an exclusive listen to Volume 2 of the Frosinone mixtape, put together whilst recording the debut album Pop or Not in the Frosinone mountains.
‘Whyte Horses began as a daydream. I had a recurring vision of a female vocal group playing music in a Mexican church. As it was a fantasy band, it was natural that it would sound like the best of everything I had heard before… making what I would consider to be a perfect record.’
Masses of studio time, sweat and tears went into fleshing out this fantasy band – an unsurprising amount of effort, given Thomas’s musical ardour and exacting attention to detail. The acclaimed 2016 debut album Pop Or Not is a melodic reverie laced with sweetly cool vocals, funky, strung-out guitars, vintage cult themes, and plenty of unpredictable twists.
‘We believe in every note we record…’
Whyte Horses’s real-life line-up has also shape-shifted since Thomas’s original vision; he recorded early demos with Jez Williams (Doves), before teaming up with singer/guitarist Julie Margat, and a core of close players, including Thomas’s brother-in-law Ali on bass. ‘We believe in every note we record,’ says Thomas. ‘The songs are laboured over, and there will never be a Whyte Horses song released that I don’t think is up to scratch, because I care too much.’
Psych music comes in countless different shades, and Whyte Horses spirit listeners to far-reaching places. Pop Or Not was recorded in the Italian countryside, and it takes in French songs, Brazilian Tropicalia, Turkish grooves, and Japanese influences; Thomas admits that there is something of their Manchester heritage at heart, too:
‘I think the best Manchester music brings a certain melancholy out of bands; having to spend a lot of time indoors forces you to get on with practicing, if you’re in a band,’ he says. ‘I lived in North Manchester for a while, and went to school in Whalley Range. Those places leave a lasting impression on you; when the sun comes out, it’s like a glimpse of heaven. I’m always looking for a chink of blue in the grey skies, and that is something I think our music evokes.’
Thomas describes the aim of Whyte Horses as creating ‘classic albums that can live forever.’ Pop Or Not has already transformed into different incarnations; notably, a full album re-recording by St Barts Choir: a school ensemble aged 6-11, who bring fresh wonder to the band’s tunes, including ‘She Owns The World’. For Thomas, this was ‘a euphoric moment; to hear their arrangements and purity of their voices belting out our songs was magical.’
‘Our live arrangement has fallen into place over time… it’s become a healthy ensemble raggle-taggle of people from all over the place,’ explains Thomas, happily. ‘We’re playing the album in its entirety, plus some covers, and the kids from St Barts Choir are also joining us on stage throughout the night, which will be my personal highlight. There’s nothing more psychedelic than kids, is there?’
‘I want the show to feel like somewhere to hide away from the world for the evening’
‘To make a vivid live experience can be as much work as writing the songs,’ he says. ‘One of the main thoughts I have is how can darkness and colour affect the experience. I’ve always thought of music in a visual way; I suppose we all do from childhood, as we’re exposed to music and visuals working on TV and film together. When it’s done right, the two media can make something greater than the sum of their parts. I want the show to feel like somewhere to hide away from the world for the evening.’
Interview by Arwa Haider
Whyte Horse Experience featuring La Roux, The Go! Team, Mélanie Pain (Nouvelle Vague), Badly Drawn Boy, Josefin Öhrn,Stealing Sheep and St Bartholomews Choir takes place on Thursday 11 May
Listen to our Whyte Horses Guest Picks playlist on Spotify to hear more from their special guests.