Das Shelbot of Buddyhead asks Night Horse’s Sam and Justin about the band, music, checkers, animals and more…
Interview with: Sam James Velde- Vocals, Justin Maranga- Lead Guitars
How and when did Night Horse form?
Sam James- Night Horse formed in January 2008. The guys had been jamming together prior to my joining the band, under the name “The Motherfucking Razorbacks.” A name Lemmy from Motorhead had given them in a chance meeting outside of the Hustler Store on Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles. They hadn’t played any shows, but had been jamming, writing, etc for a while before I met them. They hadn’t found the right singer that really fit what they were doing, and called me based on multiple recommendations from different people. I dug the influences they expressed and the fact they really wanted to do something blatantly rock and roll and fairly traditional to the genre.
Justin – Once Sam joined the whole thing took off pretty quickly. I think we were tired of sitting around jamming in the practice space and he was eager to get back on stage after a tumultuous couple of years.
I can hear some serious rock n’ roll influences in the tunes, what are your influences and the influences of your band-mates?
Sam James- Geez, that’s a tough one personally cuz it changes day to day. Ill hear something or someone play a song and it will inspire me to write a song myself or make me super excited about playing music in general. Since I decided to start singing, I will always be indebted to Frank Daly as one of the 1st singers I was wholeheartedly inspired and influenced by—still to this day actually. I really related and looked up to him considering he lived in my hometown and I got to see him play in M.I.A, and sing in Big Drill Car. His melodies and the strength of his voice still have a strong impact on me today.
Aside from Frank, others that come to mind right off the top of my head are John Brannon, Bobby Sullivan, Paul Rogers, Greg Allman, Richard Ashcroft, Liam Gallagher, Rod Stewart, Milo Auckerman, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio…..the list could go on and on really.
In regards to Night Horse, while we were writing and recording our current record “Perdition Hymns” I was listening to a lot of the Free box set “Songs of Yesterday“, Blind Melon’s 1st record, all of CSNY’s records and their respective solo records including Manassas, Soundgarden’s Down on the Upside, The Black Crowes “Before The Frost“, and a ton of power pop & pub rock including Nick Lowe, Rockpile, The Real Kids, The Boys and a bit of rockabilly stuff like Jason and The Scorchers and early Stray Cats.
Night Horse as a whole are crazy obsessed fans of music, the bands that continue to run through our veins for inspirationa and influence on the daily are Thin Lizzy, The Allman Brothers, Aerosmith, Derek and The Dominoes, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters.
Justin – Sound-wise, the stuff Sam listed pretty much covers it. Personally, I’ve been heavily influenced by a number of guitarists; namely Dickey Betts, Freddie King, Duane Allman, Alex Lifeson, Link Wray, Mississippi John Hurt, Blind Boy Fuller, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Django Reinhardt, David Gilmour, Robert Fripp, Herb Ellis and Peter Green, among others. Musically, I wouldn’t even know where to start. Everything I’ve ever listened to has shaped me musically in some way or another.
What do you all enjoy to listen to in the van on tour? Any guilty pleasures?
Sam James– Man, it’s all over the place. We just did some dates up the west coast and from what I can remember it was something like a mix of this:
Grateful Dead / Earth / Sugar / Handsome / Muddy Waters / Aloe Blacc / Trash Talk / A Tribe Called Quest / J. Cole / Temple of the Dog / The Exploding Hearts / Guns and Roses / Trap Them / Carlos Santana & John Maclaughlin / Doomriders / Fela Kuti…???
We don’t really believe in guilty pleasures, but I could see some people giving us shit for jammin’ on the 2nd and 3rd Goo Goo Dolls records on that trip, but most people have never heard those records, and wouldn’t know Paul Westerberg from The Replacements wrote “We Are The Normal” on the 3rd record “Super Star Car Wash.” Just make sure you only listen to the Johnny Rezeznik songs.
Justin – There’s usually some Jamiroquai and Elton John rocking in the van too. We like an eclectic mix and try to keep it moving.
I have played you in checkers and you are unbeatable. Have you played any other people in checkers that have challenged your skills? How about gaming with band-mates or other rockers, does this happen?
Sam James– I’m gonna sound like a dick here, but I really haven’t found too many challenging opponents when it comes to checkers. I consider my uncle (my mom’s brother) to be one of the most intelligent and competitive people in my life. I challenged him to a few games years ago and beat him. Since then I have for the most part given up the game due to boredom with winning. I don’t say that egotistically. Its just the truth. I guess I should find a new game to play. I have yet to game with Night Horse or other rockers than yourself Shelby, and If I remember correctly you never won a game of checkers against me.
ed. note: I remember distinctly I did beat Sam once when I had a bizarre strategy of illogically sacrificing pieces. After that he was onto my strategy and I still couldn’t beat him.
How did you come up with the name Night Horse?
Sam James- We sat around and tried to think of names that fit our personalities and the type of music we were creating. I think we have achieved that, cuz at this point we play Night Horse music. I’ll leave any further interpretation of the name to fans of our music.
What is in store next for Night Horse?
Sam James- Aside from playing live shows, we’re in the middle of conceptualizing our next record. It’s going to be something different for us. It’s going to be something different really in the landscape of how modern records are made these days. I’ll put it this way, it’s going to have more to do with hip hop than how the last 2 records of ours have been made, but without sounding anything like hip hop.
Justin – Hahahaha I’ll just accept Sam’s answer on that one.
Do you have an affinity with shamanic principles?
Sam James- Most definitely. I believe in the positive spirit of things. That spirit is a limitless power.
Justin – Fucking hippie.
Sam James– Ha! It’s funny cuz I keep thinking of the legacy of Black Flag in relation to the spirit of things. They really paved the way for american independent music and bands. They released their own records, booked their own shows, brought the own PA system with them, wrote Side 2 of My War!!, etc etc. The legacy they have left has such a strong and remaining spirit to it. They were the band that was like ‘oh, they dont have shows in bumfuck Eygypt, then lets bring the show to bum fuck Eygypt.”….. “Oh, theyre gonna pull the plug on the show and shut us down, lets bring our own PA system so the show goes on” They were shamans! They embodied the spirit, and left us with that spirit. Thank you Black Flag.
What animal do you relate to?
Sam James– In Native American culture my birth animal is the beaver? Not sure what that all about. I won’t even go into the joke that’s waiting to happen with that as well. Aside from that, I haven’t found my personal spirit animal yet. I might have to head to the desert and get all Mr. Mojo Risin with some peyote to find it? I’ll tell you though, I have two cats and I work on relating with them on the daily. I believe you are a cat owner as well?, so you must know that, that relationship is as complex as any relationship between humans. I guess all relationships no matter with what sort of entity takes work and nurturing right?
Has anyone other than me said that sometimes you dress like the epic anime hero Vampire Hunter-D and would you ever play an anime or sci-fi convention if the opportunity arose?
Sam James- You are the only person, and no I wouldn’t play a sci fi convention. I’m not really into playing events that aren’t centered around music. You get a bunch of people walking by and looking confused.
What is your favorite bar/restaurant/nature-hang in the Los Angeles area?
Sam James- I rarely hang in bars but I like grabbin’ a beer at “El Prado” once in awhile. It’s pretty close to my pad. They only serve beer and wine, and they change the menu weekly. They serve organic craft beers from all over, and a good amount of organic wines. Sounds yuppie yes, but its super chill and never gets too duche-bagged out. The bartenders only play vinyl and the last time I was in there they were playing Louder Than Love by Soundgarden. My fave restaurant is called Cru. They serve raw gourmet food that is absolutely incredible and makes you feel like you can move mountains. My nature hang is northern Malibu right about where Kanan Road and Pacific Coast Highway meet (Leo Carrillo, El Matador, Point Dume and everything north of there is incredible).
Justin – I think my favorite bar is probably the 3 Clubs. It’s dark, has a great jukebox, awesome staff who pour a solid drink, decent whiskey selection at good prices relative to other Hollywood bars…can’t really ask for more than that. Restaurant is a tough one. There’s a pretty killer Italian spot on Melrose & La Cienega called Ago that’s never done me wrong. I’m vegan, so Native Foods is always a good one too. My favorite nature hang is this small lake off Dekker Canyon. You climb some rocks and there’s an incredible view down through a valley down to the ocean.
Thanks for the interview!
Watch their video for “Rollin’ On”:
See them in So Cal:
FRI. 11/5 Ventura, CA @Billy O’s:
Night Horse, Nails, Lecherous Gaze & The Fucking Wrath (Free Show)
SAT. 11/6 San Diego, CA @The Soda Bar:
Night Horse, Lecherous Gaze & Ghetto Blaster
SUN. 11/7 Long Beach, CA @Alex’s Bar
Night Horse, Nails, Lecherous Gaze (Free Show)