One of the reoccurring phrases used regarding ethereal indie duo Dark Dark Horse’s new EP ‘Luna II’ is ‘electronica with a human heart’. The second release from the Leicester based act compounds multi-instrumentalist Jamie Ward’s glacial soundscapes with an emotional warmth, courtesy of vocalist James Stafford.
“With Dark Dark Horse I’m trying to create music with slightly experimental or unusual electronic timbres and a taste of the unknown,” Ward says.
With this expansive 5-track effort, he has done exactly that. As the foremost influence in the sonic progression since the 2013 album ‘Centuries’, Ward has created a rich EP that occasionally crosses genre borders expertly, while never straying thematically.
“Centuries was my first foray into writing my own music, so it sounds a little more explorative, whereas Luna II is more refined in terms of direction,” he explains. “It’s also a little more driven in terms of tempo and takes a few more risks, branching out from the more introverted electronica of Centuries.”
Lyrically, the EP is tied together by an ambiguous narrative of social and political dubiety – an immediately relatable subject during the ‘post-truth’ era. Stafford’s approach to songwriting is to hint at an idea, while leaving it open to perception.
“The theme of Luna II is uncertainty in where we are heading, but also the desire to escape into the unknown,” says Stafford. “The majority of the lyrics on the EP were written some years ago in anticipation that we may be heading down an uncertainly dark route, but to be honest the writing has been on the wall for some time. I do think it’s important that there is some kind of message in a song, but I also think it’s equally important that a listener can take out a meaning that suits themselves personally.”
The significant period of time between the release of Centuries and Luna II is mainly due to Ward’s touring schedule as a member of post-rock outfit Maybeshewill, among other reasons. Although balancing time between several musical outfits has been a challenge for him, his drive to create new music has never diminished.
“I actually wrote a few of the instrumentals for the EP while on the road with Maybeshewill,” Ward remembers. “A great deal of opener ‘All in Spirals’ was written while nursing a hangover in the back of the van crawling through central Spain.”
“My desire to be involved with making music hasn’t really deviated across playing in a number of bands over the years. I’ve been very fortunate to do as much traveling with bands as I have but I’m always just happy to be working on or performing music I’m passionate about, whether that be in Birmingham or Belarus.”
For Dark Dark Horse, trips to the aforementioned cities are yet to be planned, but fans can catch a live show in Leicester at the end of April, as they join the likes of Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic and British Sea Power on the line up for this year’s Handmade Festival.
After an instrumental reshuffle, along with the introduction of new band members Mike Manger and Matt Daly, the band are excited to bring their new material to audiences once again.
“I’m actually pretty happy just to rehearse again regularly let alone play shows,” Ward expresses. “After Maybeshewill bowed out there was a period where I wasn’t playing at all and doing a perhaps unhealthy amount of hours per week engineering. I kind of forgot how therapeutic I find playing with other musicians when things are clicking.”
Returning to play a show in Leicester is particularly important to Dark Dark Horse. A community of local musicians has formed throughout the years and Stafford is pleased to have been a part of it.
“Leicester is a pretty special place, in every sense. The music scene has always supported great acts, that were in a sense perhaps a little unfortunate not to go further nationally,” he says. “Handmade and other festivals like it show what you can do with an idea and a lot of hard work. It’s refreshing in the current climate as innovative, independent acts can sometimes get lost amongst the line-up of larger established festivals.”
“It has been a while since we had a run of shows and it can be quite difficult to get into the proper gigging mentality. However, as soon as everything locks in it’s as if we’ve never left the stage.”
‘Luna II’ is released 7 April via Little Fanfare. Dark Dark Horse will appear at Handmade Festival on Sunday 30th April