Wunderhorse - Europe 2023
Wunderhorse - Europe 2023
In the world of music, opportunity rarely knocks twice.
On the face of it, Jacob Slater (AKA Wunderhorse) had everything hed ever dreamed of. His band, Dead Pretties, were being talked up as one of the most exciting new groups in the country. The handful of tracks the trio had put out were a riot of punk riffs and gobby attitude, and the sweaty bedlam of their shows had record labels lining up, salivating at the prospect of signing the latest great young hopes.
Yet for Slater, all wasnt well. Hed run away to join the rock and roll circus aged just seventeen and the tolls and temptations of being the frontman of Londons latest buzz band were starting to show. Slater found himself burned out. Something had to give.
Aside from the damage he was doing to himself, on an artistic level Slater knew that the more musically rich, nuanced songs he wanted to make wouldnt fit into Dead Pretties fuzz-toned constraints.
I was tired of having to get up on stage and pretend I wanted to throw myself around and smash things up every night and sing these intense songs, he says. They were good songs, but I didnt think wed be able to transition into doing the more introspective music that I wanted to make. I thought it would just alienate people.
It was the hardest call of his life, but Slater took the decision to call time on Dead Pretties just as their ship was coming in. Fate was there, waving its cheque book and promising to make his childhood dreams come true, but Slater knew that for himself and his music, he had to walk away.
I stopped taking drugs and I stopped the band. The two things seemed to go hand in hand. I thought if I carried on with the band, I wouldnt be able to not keep doing that to myself, he says. Theres the old myth that you need to take a load of drugs to be really creative, but I was much more creative when I wasnt taking drugs. I wanted to love that part of myself again and I wanted to fall back in love with music again.
Slater stepped away and took time out to lick his wounds, reflect and reevaluate what was important. Firstly, back to his parents in Hertford, then down to Cornwall, where he took up work as a surf instructor. The sea and the space gave him a new perspective and time to think.
Its hard to imagine listening back to Cub, but when these songs first started coming together, Slater was worried that hed blown his one shot at making it as a musician. Atlantis Beatles-meets-Pixies mix of melody and crunch was the first song which, when he played it with the rest of Wunderhorse in an early rehearsal, showed him that turning his back on the music industry might not have been the act of career Hari-kari many might have thought it was.
Butterflies comes to life in a swirl of delicate, spiraling guitars before turning into a gnarled wood of grungy psychedelia that recalls Mark Lanegans work with Screaming Trees.
True, Leader Of the Pack, might have its origins in the dying days of Slaters old group, but its frazzled, double-jointed groove is light years ahead of any punk rock thrash. I wrote that when I was 18, 19 but it never worked out the way we wanted, says Slater of the track, before adding with a laugh: I think basically we needed more members to actually play it.
Three musicians certainly couldnt have done Purples widescreen, Americana-lit sweep justice. A song that features a chorus so glorious that any stadium-filling act would sell their own grandmother to have in their arsenal.
17 is the oldest song here, its bittersweet melody reminiscent of Lemonheads. I wrote that when I was forming Dead Pretties but it never really went anywhere says Slater. The album is sort of documenting my adolescence, that bracket of time, so Ive got that as the earliest bookend to start that process off and Epilogue, the last track on the album was written the day before we went into the studio.
The life lived between those two points has been a storied one and its scars are there in many of the songs here. Teals Lou Reed-like street hussle, the dense psychedelic fug of Poppy or Morphines strung-out bliss. Yet songs such as The Girl Behind The Glasss tumbling melody show multiple perspectives and viewpoints are at work within Slaters songs, his lyrics are far more complex and layered than first meets the eye.
By the time we reach Epilogues meditation on lost innocence and the slow inevitable march towards eternity its clear that for whatever reasons he needed to do it, Jacob Slaters decision to step away from music and remerge afresh as Wunderhorse is a gamble that has paid off in dividends. Not only for him, but most of all for us, the listeners who get to immerse ourselves in Cub.