feeble little horse makes thrilling and wildly unpredictable songs that are a reflection of the joys that come with making music with your best friends. The Pittsburgh quartet’s sophomore album, Girl with Fish, which is out June 9 via Saddle Creek, was made focusing on intuition over intention: letting the magic of collaboration come first. “Anything that makes us laugh or puts a smile on our faces, we usually end up keeping in the songs,” explains drummer Jake Kelley. Across 11 self-recorded and self-produced tracks, the band careens from blissed-out pop to harsh noise, glitchy programmed drum beats, and off-kilter indie rock—sometimes all in one song. As a follow-up to their critically acclaimed 2021 debut Hayday, this LP, with its overwhelmingly inviting and emotionally resonant tracklist, is a document of four people trusting their instincts and most importantly each other.
For the members of feeble little horse, Hayday was originally going to be their first and last album. Guitarist Ryan Walchonski was moving to Washington D.C. for work while the rest of the band, including Kelley, guitarist-producer Sebastian Kinsler, and singer-bassist Lydia Slocum were all still in college. “When we made Hayday, we wrote really quickly to get it done before he moved away and we couldn’t make songs anymore,” says Kinsler. “But we realized making music with each other was too fun to walk away from. For this album, we got to take our time with every decision that went into it.” Despite the distance with Walchonski out-of-state and Slocum attending school a few hours away in central Pennsylvania, the band immediately started work on a new batch of songs, trading voice memos, new mixes, and song ideas remotely.
“Every track on this album had a super unique writing process,” says Kinsler. “No two songs were written the same way from start to finish.” Some, like the shoegaze-indebted single “Steamroller,” which evokes Hotline TNT and My Bloody Valentine, came about from a jam session with each band member in the room adding their own ideas while others started as ideas for solo material from Walchonski, Kinsler, and Slocum. “How we’ve historically written is that Sebastian and I will just play guitar together to start a song,” says Walchonski. “But we’ll forbid each other from bringing any riffs we’ve already made up to a writing session. It’s technically a limitation but it’s actually the opposite: It’s pushing us to be more creative.” This freewheeling and open mindset brings Girl with Fish to life throughout. A song like “Paces” is anchored by a chopped and screwed alien-like guitar riff while lead single “Tin Man” soars in its chorus with Slocum singing over blistering fuzz, “I gotta go cause you flash sadness / I found you / all rusted and leaky.” Elsewhere, “Sweet” has the most memorable riff of the bunch. “I think Ryan’s broken the “no old riffs” rule a couple of times, but he just doesn’t tell me,” jokes Kinsler.
While Girl with Fish is a radically democratic and collaborative LP, it marks a clear breakthrough for Slocum as a songwriter. “I just felt more comfortable with the guys saying vulnerable things, and not feeling like I have to explain it to them,” says Slocum. “It was easier to open up because then I had just met everybody when we wrote Hayday. Now we’re buddies and I can say what I want.” The album highlight “Pocket” started as a GarageBand pop song from Slocum: the first time she introduced a song idea for her feeble little horse bandmates to develop. It’s an obvious earworm with expertly written hooks that unexpectedly morph into something sinister and abrasive, with her screaming over a bed of distorted guitars midway through the track. “Lydia just fits in perfectly,” says Kinsler. “From the moment she joined, it felt like she was always meant to be part of our songwriting process. She makes everything better and more fun.”
feeble little horse are fiercely independent and scrappy. They credit the formation of the band and their inspiration to a vibrant mid-Atlantic DIY scene in Pittsburgh (Crafted Sounds label, Gaadge, Barlow, and Sleeping Witch & Saturn) and Philadelphia (label Julia’s War, They Are Gutting A Body of Water, and A Country Western). “When we made both Modern Tourism and Hayday, we wanted to join this community of musicians that we so admired,” says Walchonski. “We are still a part of this scene and it’s important for us to continue supporting the bands and friends that got us to this point.” While their latest LP is their most finely crafted collection of songs yet, the band’s process was remarkably accessible and transparent. “I want a kid to hear this album and buy an audio interface and a microphone,” says Kelley. “I want them to think, ‘If they can record in their bedrooms, I can do it myself too.'”
Like the album name, which came from an inside joke the band shared about imagined painting titles at a museum, there’s a sense of humor that’s welcoming and light. The bruising opener “Freak,” for all its pummeling drums and guitar blasts, is a breezy track about an unrequited crush on a college star athlete (Slocum sings, “how can you be satisfied / she’s 5’1 and you’re 6’5”). “I think we just felt more confident on this album,” says Slocum. “We could have felt more pressure and more unsure of ourselves. But we just wanted to try new things, and learn from what people liked about Hayday but not make the same song again.” Girl with Fish is a testament to the power of self-recording, doing it yourself, and taking a leap with the people you are closest with. “Besides our friendship getting stronger and our songs becoming more interesting to us, nothing’s really changed,” says Kinsler. “It’s still us just hanging out: This is what we do instead of playing video games.”
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