Cub

Wunderhorse

Cub

Jacob Slater started Wunderhorse as a solo project after the dissolution of his previous band, punk trio Dead Pretties, in 2017. In that time, the biggest thing that he’s learned is that he revels in the intensity of hard work. “I think maybe when I was younger, I was like, ‘Oh, if you want to be creative, you’ve gotta lay around looking at the sky or some shit,’ but I’ve realized I definitely function best when there’s something to do,” Slater tells Apple Music. It’s an approach he’s applied to his debut album, Cub, which mixes wide-screen classic rock with reflective, country-tinged ballads. These songs capture the singer-songwriter doing his best to pick up the pieces after Dead Pretties and plot his next step, make sense of what’s been, and move forward. “These songs come from quite a wide bracket of time,” says Slater. “Some of them are really old, and they’ve been bouncing around in my head for ages. I just wanted to get them out. It felt like the completion of an exorcism or something. A lot of it is analyzing things that happened in my youth, which, at the time, I didn’t have the right tools to process.” In closing one chapter of Slater’s life, Cub opens up an intriguing path forward. Slater talks us through it, track by track. “Butterflies” “It’s got a fairly long instrumental intro, and I wanted the opening track to ease you into the world of Wunderhorse, rather than it being a super-immediate thing of like, ‘OK, here’s the first song—it’s a hit!’ I wanted it to be a slower process, a slower build. It’s about some strange premature sexual experience, so maybe a bit of an odd one to start the album off with, but my reasons were sonic and musical rather than lyrical. There’s a live album by Jeff Buckley called Mystery White Boy, and he was experimenting with much darker, grungier ideas on it. I was listening to that at the time of writing this song.” “Leader of the Pack” “I wrote this towards the end of Dead Pretties, but it never quite found its feet there. I probably wouldn’t write a song like this now. It’s one of those angsty-teen sort of angry songs. It’s been such a long time since I wrote it, but I feel like if I didn’t put it on the album, I’d go crazy. I’d always be like, ‘Oh, there’s that song.’ It’s best to get them out in the world, get them out of you, give them to other people.” “Purple” “This was a song that I wrote for someone I was close to—although not anymore. She’d had a tough time growing up, and a lot of nasty things happened to her. I’d spent a lot of time with her and seen that there were things troubling her, and I wanted to write something to celebrate the good things about her because I thought, ‘That’s something you deserve.’” “Atlantis” “I had the verse for this for ages, and I could never find a chorus. Really late one night, at about 3 in the morning, I was playing around and listening to a lot of Elliott Smith stuff, and the chorus just came out of nowhere, and I thought, ‘Oh, shit, that actually really works for that idea that I’ve had for ages.’ There was a couple of years where I was pretty down in the dumps and exploring that place a bit. I definitely write songs differently now to how I approached a lot of the stuff on this record. I guess people’s way of writing changes as you get older. It just evolves.” “17” “This is the oldest song on the record. I wrote it when I was 17, hence the title. I think I’d just come back from a party, and it was that age where you feel like you really have to belong, but at the same time, you really feel like you don’t. I have no idea what the words mean in this particular song. It just fell out of me, the way songs do when you’re that age. I really deliberated over whether to put it on the record, but people seem to like it. Sometimes you can be too close to songs to have a fair opinion on them. Sometimes you’ve got to listen to other people.” “Teal” “This is about a dear friend of mine who, unfortunately, got very ill for quite a long time. It was pretty scary, but she’s fine now. I wrote it during that period because it just really mattered to me. I think it was when I started finding I liked writing about other people because they had more interesting things to explore than I did. Sometimes other people can show you more about the world than you can yourself. I learned a great deal from her, and I’m very, very grateful for that person.” “Poppy” “I’m a massive Stone Roses fan, and I really wanted there to be a song where we could all have some fun musically. I think, nowadays, people seem to shy away from jamming and playing music the way people used to, with loud guitars and guitar solos. I think if you’re a band that likes kind of doing that style of playing together, you should totally do it. It’s a really wonderful thing when it’s done well. It’s kind of two worlds because the first half is quite ethereal and grunge-y, and then the second half is more of a British, Stone Roses-y, Manchester vibe.” “Mantis” “I’d had this idea and developed it with the rest of the band. I wrote it about a year before we recorded the album, but it didn’t really have a specific form to it. Then, a couple of days before we made the record, we went to task on it and sorted it out. Wunderhorse started off as a solo thing because it was during COVID, but it has become a band and, on this song, the other guys in the group really make it what it is.” “Girl Behind the Glass” “Again, this was a last-minute thing that came together pretty much the day before we went to record. I’d had the riff but didn’t have any words. When we played it together, it sounded really heavy, and we thought, ‘Yeah, this is a good one.’ It was one of the few that wasn’t fully formed. You don’t have an end goal that you’re trying to achieve; you just see where it takes you, which is really exciting. I wrote it about an old friend of mine who had a few problems with addiction. I don’t like sitting down and going, ‘Oh, I want to write about me.’ I find other people more interesting.” “Morphine” “This is about my experiences with stuff—I think it’s fairly obvious, given the title. Having delved into that world a bit when I was in my late teens, I wanted to try and make a song that sounded like what it felt like to be in that place, under the influence in that way. It’s hard, if you’re discussing subjects like drugs in the song—it’s so easy for it to become a bit cringey. I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to make a song that felt that way. I really love the way it’s slow and hypnotic, and it never goes anywhere, never quite takes off. I like the song because of its subtlety.” “Epilogue” “For a while, I wasn’t sure about this one because it’s just one chord, pretty much, over and over again. But I liked the idea of that carrying out the album—again, the hypnotic thing and having this big, explosive ending. The album is called Cub, and this is about that coming-of-age thing. It seemed to lyrically sum up that period, almost saying goodbye, the end-of-the-innocence period. It seemed like a good bookend to finish that bit and start the next chapter.”

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