A chat with The City & Horses

An Ever Expanding Sonic Universe

By: Olivia Sisinni

May 12, 2017

"I've never been able to stick with one sound for this band. And it's probably to our detriment. I just like so many different styles of music and get inspired by so many different songwriters that I want to do it all!"

Brooklyn indie-pop band The City and Horses makes music that's both sensitive and urgent. Their records sound like a proverbial melting pot of influences, ranging from '60s Britpop and disco to contemporary alt-rock. On "Shades," the opening track from their newest album, Ruins, verses comprised of ethereal, swelling synthesizers seamlessly merge into romping, major-key disco-esque choruses. On "Drag," the influence of Modest Mouse and Silver Jews can be heard in the song's aura of twangy melancholy. The Deli recently spoke with lead songwriter Marc Cantone about the new album. You can catch TCAH on July 19th at the Gateway in Brooklyn. Listen to "Shades" here, and check out the Q&A below! - Ethan Ames

The tagline for the latest album “Ruins” is that it’s about a girl, a boy and his OCD. Can you elaborate on that a bit, and talk about the headspace that this album was written in?

I've had OCD most of my life. Over the last 8 years it's gotten increasingly debilitating. It effects every aspect of my life, including relationships. So when this girl got involved with me, she also got involved with the OCD. And OCD has a tendency to ruin everything, especially relationships. When it ruined things with this girl, I got Ruins out of it. It's definitely the most personal collection of songs I've ever recorded (outside of my high school era, Sebadoh influenced 4-track laments).

The tracks on “Ruins” are incredibly dynamic, and the album really doesn’t spend too much time lingering in one particular sound. Was there anything specific that you were hoping to achieve musically on the album, or was the music-writing process more organic

Thank you so much! I've never been able to stick with one sound for this band. And it's probably to our detriment. I just like so many different styles of music and get inspired by so many different songwriters that I want to do it all! I don't know how well I do it but I try my hand at everything. This album has some wannabe disco funk, 90s indie rock, Belle and Sebastian laments, mopey synth pop, Mag Fields ballads, Mojave 3 strumming, Elvis Costello power pop and other shaky attempts at reinventing my influences. That said, I think this is our most cohesive record so far. And it might have to do with the theme of OCD ruining things. It's really in every song. Hopefully it doesn't get boring or redundant. Maybe the genre jumping helps keep it fresh.

Such a complex sound probably takes a certain amount of gear. Can you talk to us a bit about your latest set up?

We've recorded all of our albums with Aaron Nevezie at The Bunker Studio in Williamsburg. We did the first two at their old space, and the last two at the new one. Aaron and his partner John Davis are always acquiring insane vintage equipment and crazy electronic gizmos that we get to use. They have a real Mellotron that we put to good use and a super warm old Neve console (I just wrote "that puts the 'soul' in 'console' and deleted it because of how lame that sounds but decided to put it here because why not).

Are there any recent gear pickups that you’re excited about?

I'm not a gear head at all. But I really want to be! I only have one guitar (an Epiphone Casino) and three pedals (a tuner, Boss Fuzz and an insane boost pedal made by our bass player's company Rootbeer Audio). But I want a big pedal board. I see rigs other people have and they look so cool. I recently got a power supply for my three pedals and that was a big deal. No more 9 volts!

What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve been able to draw sonic inspiration from?

Awesome question. I don't know if it's weird but I do a lot of writing on my iPhone. Apps like Garageband, DM1 and iMPC are insanely robust. Ten years ago these would've been $500 programs. Now they're like $5 or something. Wherever I am, on the subway, at work, in a sitz bath, I can dabble with little melodies or build an entire song. As much as I loved my old 4-track, the iPhone might have it beat.

Who in the local scene are you most stoked about these days?

Hey Anna are really great. Erin from the band sang lead on My Friends Don't Know off Ruins. There's a band called Personal Space that remind me a lot of Pavement--really weird lyrics with prominent vocals, which isn't very common these days. I hate not being able to hear what the singers are singing about. Maybe I'm just getting old but I enjoy hearing a clever lyric every once in a while. Makes me giggle. And isn't that why we all do this? For the giggles?