We Are Space Horses is a psychedelic rock band hailing from the musical hub of Somerville, MA. Formed in 2017 in Stroudsburg, PA, the band comprises the talents of singer/guitarist Kevin Vanderhoof, bassist Gabbi Vanderhoof, and drummer Eric Hochwald.
The genesis of We Are Space Horses finds its roots in Kevin’s desire to channel his passion for 60s/70s psychedelic and progressive rock. Previously entrenched in the Stroudsburg music scene as the bassist for the stoner/doom metal band King Dead, Kevin sought to embark on a sonic journey that would meld the influences of psychedelic, progressive, stoner, and alternative rock. Enter Gabbi, a skilled bass player with a penchant for indie and alternative rock, and together, they formed the Equestranauts, a band with a distinctive sound that prompted the inevitable question from fans: “What’s an Equestranaut?” The answer to that question became their new moniker – We Are Space Horses.
The cosmic alignment continued when, in late 2018, the duo met Eric Hochwald of Moon Machine in Boston. Captivated by We Are Space Horses‘ unique blend of styles, Eric joined the ranks as their drummer. With their lineup solidified, the band delved into the local alternative and psychedelic rock scenes, leaving an indelible mark with their genre-bending sound.
The journey to completing their debut album, “Apologia,” was fraught with the twists and turns of life itself – recording challenges, weddings, a global pandemic, a new addition to the family, and relocations. Eventually, in 2023, the stars aligned, and Apologia emerged, seamlessly blending original recordings from Rock Hard Studios in Stroudsburg with self-produced drum recordings at Sum Studios in Malden, MA. Mixed by Eric, the album was unleashed upon the world on December 29th, 2023.
Describing their music as “if Pink Floyd was influenced by Tool and not the other way around” or “indie doom,” We Are Space Horses brings a dynamic and brooding edge to the psychedelic rock scene. Influenced by experimental rock bands like Swans and Sigur Ros, Kevin’s lyrical exploration on “Apologia” delves into personal realms – life after addiction, loss, religion, and childhood trauma. In contrast to the sunny disposition often associated with psych rock, “Apologia” emerges as the perfect companion for the cold winter months.
For fans of Pink Floyd, Tool, The Black Angels, All Them Witches, Elder, King Buffalo, and Porcupine Tree, We Are Space Horses invites you to embark on a sonic odyssey where the boundaries of genre blur, and the soul-stirring narratives of “Apologia” resonate with the depth of emotion. Get ready to be transported to a celestial realm as we unravel the enigmatic journey of We Are Space Horses!
Let’s dive into the featured track on the compilation. Can you share the inspiration or story behind “Stale Skies”?
This started with our bass player experimenting with a triplet delay pattern (similar to the Pink Floyd song “One of These Days” although she hadn’t heard the song at the time). Then a song was collaboratively written around that.
It’s a bit of a dark and brooding song for us, including the lyrics. “Stale Skies” is the first song Gabbi wrote where she was encouraged to contribute lyrics, and she did a fantastic job writing deeply personal but poetic words. The lyrics are inspired by cycles of abuse, and how traumatic things we experience as children tend to repeat themselves throughout our adult lives and in our interpersonal relationships. The increasing tension throughout the song and dynamic jump the song symbolizes this coming to a head.
Walk us through your creative process. How do you typically approach writing and composing music? What was your creative process like for your recent album “Apologia”?
‘Apologia’ came together through collaboration between Kevin and Gabbi. Some songs started with a lot of jamming. Either together, or separately with friends and they would bring the best ideas forward and hash them out as a band. Other more fleshed out songs (Ketoacidosis, God is a Ghost, To Let Go) came directly from Kevin and were more ready to go and tweaked as a group to accommodate the 3-piece band arrangement. Other songs started with finding fun sounds and writing little riffs and parts until they turned into something more substantial. Lyrics came from multiple sources. The final song arrangements were laid out by Kevin, but the process was very collaborative.
How do your influences impact your own musical style?
Prog is only one of many genres that we are influenced by. We don’t intentionally strive to use prog tropes like creating mind bending technical musical passages with everyone taking a solo. We don’t want to sound like our influences but to instead try to borrow their overarching ideas and philosophies. What we like about prog music is this willingness to incorporate influences from different genres that may not seem to belong together, and to use more extended atypical song structures.
What challenges have you faced as an artist in the scene, and how have you overcome them?
We’ve faced many challenges. The biggest challenge for Gabbi and Kevin was moving to a city where they didn’t know anybody. They actually wrote and recorded Apologia back in their hometown of Stroudsburg. They had the album completed with a different drummer. They shortly after moved to Boston and met me (Eric) and I re-recorded the drum parts. But moving to a new city where you know no one and trying to integrate into a music scene is pretty challenging. Completing Apologia was road blocked by many things, including by not limited to recording problems, an intra-band wedding, a global pandemic, a baby born, and out of state moves.
How do you see the scene evolving, and what role do you believe your music plays in that evolution?
Well it seems like the prog rock scene is mostly online now. I can’t think of any regional pockets of prog rock music that exist anymore, but I may be wrong. In terms of the Boston rock music scene, it’s still going but I am afraid it is slowly dwindling. One of the biggest practice spaces in Allston, the music hub of Boston, got bought up by a tech company, and a lot of musicians got kicked out of their practice space. Also with rent prices soaring, a lot of musicians are moving to cheaper cities like Providence RI.
We’d like to think our album adds to the prog cannon, especially the more psychedelic or fuzz side of things. I tend to like progressive rock that feels really emotional and personal, rather than something that feels more third person and conceptual, like someone writing a sci-fi novel. I personally think that we did a good job of them. We use the grandiosity of the music to express deep emotions rather than to be theatrical for the sake of it. Again, we are influenced by many genres, so we strove to be truly progressive rather than sound like our favorite prog bands.
Share with us some of the most memorable moments in your musical journey so far.
For me personally (Eric the drummer) it was the disastrous way that we recorded the drums on this album. The drums were recorded four times! They were originally recorded by our old drummer, and the other instruments were recorded to his performance. However, we weren’t happy with the drum sound and performance, and we wanted our current drummer on the record after we moved to Boston. The second recording was with our current drummer in the Pennsylvania studio where we recorded the other instruments, but there were production issues and the tracks weren’t usable. Third time we tried to record it ourselves in our practice space, but the sound of the small practice room didn’t mesh sonically with the guitar and bass recordings. The fourth time we rented a big room and mics from Guitar Center, and our drummer banged out the album in a day (he was very practiced at this point since it was his 3rd attempt). Recording drums to other instruments that were recorded to a different drummer with a different feel is very difficult, and not a recommended way to record an album! But having had multiple tries, we’re very happy with the final drum performance. I learned a lot from each recording session both on the engineering and performance side.
Do you have a personal favorite among your own compositions? If so, which one and why?
I love all the songs on the album, but the song that made me want to join the band was the song God is a Ghost. I loved how dark and powerful that song was, it would give me goosebumps every time we’d play it live. However after mixing the album and hearing every song a million times, I think my new favorites are the last two songs on the album Stale Skies and Justification to Build a Monument. They don’t have the immediacy of God is a Ghost, but they’re slow burner songs with so much emotion and really meaningful lyrics that hit hard. Both are beautiful compositions.
Kevin’s favorites are Haunt and Stale Skies, and Gabbi’s favorites are God is a Ghost and Stale Skies. So Stale Skies wins for the band favorite! We’re happy it’s making it onto the compilation.
Can you give us a sneak peek into any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re working on?
I currently play guitar in a psych punk band called Sly Fang, that Kevin formerly played guitar in and I formerly played drums in. We should have an EP out later this year that Kevin and I both play on. It should be some fun rocking music, so look out for that.
We Are Space Horses has a couple unrecorded songs kicking around that we may release as singles. No definitive plans yet though.
What does it mean to you to be a part of our compilation? How has the experience been for you?
We’re excited to reach a new audience. I’ve actually been part of a Prog Sphere compilation before with my prog metal product Moon Machine. We Are Space Horses is less directly prog than Moon Machine, but we were told Stale Skies was too progressive for psych / stoner playlists that we submitted to, so here we are!
Is there a message you’d like to convey to your fans who will be discovering your music through this compilation?
It means a lot that you’ve listened to this unknown progressive psych band from Boston. We put a lot of emotion into our music (some would call the album a trauma dump). I hope that hearing it can help you like it helped us while we were writing it to process those difficult to deal with complications of life. Thank you all so much for listening and reviewing and sharing Apologia
If you could collaborate with any artist, living or not, who would it be?
We never had any real desire to collaborate with any of the old legendary bands, we’re not sure how much we’d have to contribute. I’d much rather have a drink or a smoke with the guys in Pink Floyd than play with them. We’d rather collaborate with someone present day, ideally that we’re already friends with. Maybe King Buffalo, since Kevin is friendly with the front man Sean, and we have a lot of genre crossover. Or maybe Matt Berry playing acid jazz. Gabbi says that she’d kill a man for a weekend with Matt Berry. She’s a huge fan of everything he’s done from The Might Boosh to his acid jazz and everything in between. Hilarious dude who she thinks we could all learn a lot from where creativity is concerned.
If you had to pick one instrument (besides your primary one) to master, what would it be?
Kevin picks organ (very prog of him), Gabbi picks drums. I have a knack for picking up string and percussion instruments, so I’d go with a wind instrument like sax.
What’s your all-time favorite progressive rock album, and why? One album that you always return to.
Kevin’s favorite prog album is Lark’s Tongue in Aspic by King Crimson. It’s amazingly experimental for the time, but is still a super enjoyable listening experience from front to back.
My (Eric’s) favorite vintage prog album is Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, and a favorite more modern choice would be Ocean Machine by Devin Townsend. Both albums are dripping with emotion and have such palpable escapism that sends me to another planet.
Are there non-musical influences that find their way into your music? (e.g., literature, art, science)
We’re influenced by current events, as well as the general state of the world. Also the ups and downs of daily life really play a huge part in our writing. Apologia means a justification of one’s conduct, and this album really ran the gamut. It’s all deeply personal. For us, it’s harder to write when things are going well compared to when we’re going through a depressive episode or there is something going on in life that’s difficult to process.
Any final thoughts or reflections you’d like to share with our audience?
Thanks for listening. We’d love to hear from you if you enjoy the music. This album was really long in the making, had a ton of hurdles, and we’re happy that it got to see the light of day. We’d love to hear from you, feel free to message us on instagram or facebook. Also, we’re looking into pressing vinyl and playing live so fingers crossed for that.
Where can our audience find more about you and your music?
Everything can be found at https://linktr.ee/wearespacehorses