Riding the sonic tides of Dead Horse One

dead horse one

“Sounds are like a colour palette. Right now, I’m in my ‘grunge period’.”

Olivier Debard, Dead Horse One

Taking the clashing dynamics of grunge music and fusing them with the lyrical sways of shoegaze, Dead Horse One capture just how easily our moods change from ominous to mysterious; defiant to despairing.

Hailing from Valence, France, Dead Horse One have proved that they are not afraid to adapt their sound to suit a particular atmosphere. The band’s first full-length LP Without Love We Perish evokes the ’90s alt-rock sound of The Telescopes and Ride. Throughout Season of Mist (2016) and The West Is the Best (2019) Olivier Debard (vocals/guitar) and Ivan Tziboulsky (guitar) introduce shoegaze riffs to push their sound into psych-rock territory. Yet the band’s latest EP “When Love Runs Dry” released in March 2022 signals something of a sonic evolution in the Dead Horse One style.

Nevermore”, “Core” and “Static King” dip into quiet verses before cranking up to a crackling distortion. Olivier and Ludovic Naud (bass/vocals) ground the tracks with steadily doleful layered vocals.

Reminiscent of the noisy shoegaze of Nothing, Antoine Pinet’s (drums/ guitar) rhythm cements the sound of this EP as post-grunge. However, the melancholy “Mentally Homeless” and “Static King (Live Piano Version)” demonstrate that these new songs can be stripped back and hold their own. Despite the starker sound of “When Love Runs Dry”, Olivier still writes songs the same way he always has: ‘with his folk guitar’. It’s an approach which manages to avoid washing out a melody with a pedalboard before it has even formed. 

The prospect of a new album in light of “When Love Runs Dry” feels excitingly unpredictable. I, for one, am sure that listeners can expect a little more experimentation and a diverse tracklist on the next release. Deftly crossing genres without coming across as a novelty, the new Dead Horse One album is sure to appeal to many different members of the alt-rock community. I had a little chat with Olivier to learn more about the band’s influences, songwriting process, and of course, their intriguing name.

Hello Olivier, and welcome to IAMUR! Thank you for taking the time to talk with us today. Please could you introduce yourself and explain the formation of Dead Horse One?

Hello, my name is Olivier, I’m the singer and guitarist of Dead Horse One. I started to record songs at home in 2010. As for the formation of the band, many people came and left. Only Ludovic Naud (bass/vocals), Ivan Tziboulsky (guitar) and Antoine Pinet (drums/guitar) have been here since the beginning. Rèmi Moulin joined us two years ago to play the drums live.

I’d like to ask how you guys arrived at such a striking name?

The name of the band…I wanted to call the band TAME, like the Pixies song, but I wasn’t sure. About ten years ago, The Black Angels were very popular. I was hanging out with an Australian friend (I live in Hossegor) and he said “why not ‘Dead Horse One’? It sounds like a Vietnamese suicide mission”. Simple as that.

Who were some of the artists that inspired you when you were first starting out as Dead Horse One?

I was fascinated by Anton Newcombe of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and his ability to use the internet. Without the internet, I would never have tried anything. However, I was not directly influenced by his music because we are almost of the same generation. We share many of the same influences; The Velvet Underground, 80s bands like The Cure, The Smiths, Bauhaus, Joy Division — and the Creation Records bands.

You have previously aligned yourselves with some interesting subgenres: neo-psychedelic’, ‘post-gaze’, and the idea of ‘shoegaze on steroids’. I’m intrigued to know what these terms mean to you specifically as a band?

To be honest, bands that constantly play a copy of Loveless using a reverse reverb and vibrato annoy me — for me, they kill the music genre. Sounds are like a colour palette. Right now, I’m in my ‘grunge period’. I thought that the expression ‘shoegaze on steroids’ represented our mixture of heavy grunge and soaring music quite well.

From Without Love We Perish (2014) to your latest EP “When Love Runs Dry” (2022), have the meanings behind your songs changed much since your first LP?

I don’t think so. Our songs are always more or less about the same themes: thwarted love stories and disillusion in general. I know, when you say it like that…ah…

Your recent singles feel much heavier than some of the tracks on Season of Mist (2016), and even on The West Is the Best (2019). I’m wondering what — or who, perhaps — inspired this change in sound?

I have countless influences in all styles, from Townes Van Zandt, to Sparklehorse, Filter, Stone Temple Pilots and Deftones. But I think that nothing has really changed between Without Love We Perish and “When Love Runs Dry”. I still write the same way, with a folk guitar. I only changed the tuning; The West Is The Best is in Drop D, and “When Love Runs Dry” is lowered to Drop C. That’s what gives the heavier pressure to the sound.

On the subject of future releases — I suspect that “When Love Runs Dry” is teasing a full-length record which may be in the works?

Indeed, I am working on new material but it is laborious! Producing records is very expensive. We will try to sell this one, then we’ll see if there will be a follow-up.

Will we see Dead Horse One hit the road this year?

We’re looking for a booker, if you know someone!

Before we finish, who do you think are some under-appreciated, or perhaps unknown, shoegaze-adjacent bands that you guys are enjoying at the moment?

Soul Blind — we shared the same producer, Brendan Williams. Then there’s Clovis, Mondaze, Day Aches, and all our French compatriots: Colision, Mascara and You Said Strange.

Check out “When Love Runs Dry” by Dead Horse One:

Thanks very much for talking with us Olivier and good look in your search for a booking agent! Would love to see you out on tour! Readers can keep up to date with Dead Horse One via Bandcamp, and all major music streaming platforms.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, feel free to read more of our special features. You never know who you might discover – they could become your new favourite artist!

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