'We live in an age where raw, naked honesty has become quite a rare thing'
Maeve Hannigan
12:12 29th July 2021

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Wunderhorse has arrived after an ageless, gig-less gap of staring at forgotten sweat-stained clothes and gate-crashing on memories that were so fleeting they almost don’t seem real. The Dead Pretties were a brutal yet truthful reminder of last night’s jargon; an all-encompassing siren with post-punk nudges that rubbed people up the right way until the band pulled the plug before you even had time to take that first berroca. For frontman Jacob Slater, the time had come to trade in the pummelling sound of sweaty London for the pummelling spirit of the Cornish sea and offer up an entirely raw slither of himself with his new debut single ‘Teal.’ Are you ready? 

“I don’t really know how people feel about it or if anyone knows or cares. I mean I don’t really mind, I just kind of have to get it going. I moved to Cornwall a little while ago and so I’ve been out of the London loop a little bit. I don’t know what the flavour of the day is in London, but it doesn’t worry me too much. If people like it, they like it, if they don’t, they don’t…” 

It’s clear that Slater isn’t dismissing the ‘flavour of the day’: his detachment from being put in a genre painted box seems to come from a modest, unassuming nature that claims to be nothing, but equally wouldn’t mind being someone’s cup of tea, even if it’s got a bit of ash from the night before in it… “I think it’s gonna be a bit more light and shaded. I mean Dead Pretties was just kind of one thing - loud, aggressive, punky, quite bombastic and live energy. This has a bit more variation.” With slower and more solo pieces to follow, Wunderhorse both rides in the vein of Dead Pretties and offers Slater’s overdue ode to classic old-school songwriters such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. “I was listening to those guys all the way through my Dead Pretties time too and I always kind of just thought, 'ah this isn’t the right vehicle to be playing that kind of stuff'. Hence one of the reasons for the old split.” 

But what about his infamous live energy? Swallowing eyes and contagious electric frustration is not something that surely ever really leaves you... “I think that’s something that I can hopefully carry through no matter what I’m doing. Which is if you’re playing live you gotta give it everything, otherwise you’re kind of conning the people that have just turned up to buy a ticket. I know you see some bands play live now and some of them look a bit bored, and maybe that’s the kind of music they’re playing, but I think being on stage is better than pushing paper in some ways, so you may as well give it some, you know?” It all comes down to being believable then? “I think that’s the basis of any good band or song is do you believe the person that’s fucking doing it and if you do then it ticks all the other boxes really.” 

And what about re-creating this intensity and authenticity in the studio? There’s something about having an audience that you can’t fake. You know, when you’re in the studio, you can play live and you can give it everything but if there’s not that kind of electricity, intensity and tension in the air then it is hard to create that. I think if you’re the kind of artist where it’s a different thing on the record to what it is live, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing because then there’s more as a fan to get your teeth into.” 

His debut statement as Wunderhorse, ‘Teal’ unravels itself as a mind-consuming loop that builds into moments of chaotic release, far more real and beautiful than replaying a conversation with yourself in the shower over all the things you wished you’d said. But it seems to mirror the tricks of the mind that start with inklings and tumble into frustrations. “It was just about someone who was a big part of my life and was very close to me and who went through some really nasty shit but luckily came out the other side. I mean all I’ve wanted to say I’ve kind of said in the song. I didn’t plan on writing it, it just kind of came out. I guess it was something I was a bit angry about.”

Slater projects a change in Wunderhorse that moves away from unreachable objections to delicate observations. But does it feel vulnerable stripping the bandage off? If you’re writing really honest songs, which hopefully some of them are, then I guess it is kind of vulnerable in a way but that’s a good thing. I think we live in an age where authenticity and raw, naked honesty has become quite a rare thing. So I think it’s good if there’s a small corner of music that can still represent that otherwise, we might lose it altogether.” 

From a mini Jacob Slater enthusing over Keith Moon, to Dead Pretties frontman; from a garden landscaper in South London, to a surfing instructor in Cornwall patiently sitting on the project of Wunderhorse, most recently, Slater has landed the part of Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook in Danny Boyle’s forthcoming series Pistol. Slater’s taste for variety is pretty evident. But he assures, “I’m not suddenly going to be one of those people who are like, ‘haha now I can do everything.’” Thank god - we don’t need anymore. But what’s it like being a part of Danny Boyle’s vision? “He’s a master. It’s been a real steep learning curve, a bit of a baptism of fire but in the best possible way. It’s one of those ones where you can tell he can see everything in his mind’s eye and you’re part of it somewhere. You’re one of the cogs in the machine, which is great because you’re part of something that’s a lot bigger than you are and it’s all held in his brain.” 

Does Wunderhorse have a vision? “I just want to write songs and fucking play them live. I guess that’s up to the listeners as when you put a song out it stops being totally yours and it becomes theirs as well, it’s like a shared thing. If they want to find some sort of message in there then great, and if not that’s okay too. I just think it would be a bit strange to be like, ‘this is the message!’ [laughing]... so I like the idea of them being in the driver’s seat on that one.”

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