Return of the Horse: Making Musical Memories

There isn’t a lot that I can remember about my childhood.  I can remember enigmatic events with no starting point or sense of sequence, just muddy memories.  I can remember that if everyone in our class got a 100 % on their Spelling test my 1st grade teacher would tap dance on her desk.  I remember once I had a Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers birthday cake.  I remember playing Monopoly with my mother and good times with my grandparents and catching crawfish.  Always, it seemed, we were trying to catch crabs.  Mostly, though, I remember music.

Return of the Horse sounds like the music that made me love music.  Shane Lundy – Guitar / Vocals, Izzy Stetar – Guitar /  Vocals,  Ian Varlas – Bass, and Nate Robinson – Drums, make memorable music.  This Weirton/Pittsburgh based band jams like Jimi, are musically liberal like Led Zeppelin, dactylic like The Doors, and believe in rhythm and roots like The Rolling Stones.  They have a defect-less dichotomy, a brilliant balance that both shines and is submerged in their songs.

Return of The Horse has a sound that is filthy yet clean and crisp, polluted yet pure, murky yet effortlessly effulgent.  They embody everything essential  to be rock and roll royalty. They’re solid in songwriting and  merit-able musicians.  They’ve earned every ray of respect they’ve received and learned lessons the hard way.  They’ve thoroughly ascended to the musical throne.  I hear something in them that I haven’t heard since I was seven, sitting in the sun atop my mom’s car being carried away by Creedence:  a sense of significance, a meaningful memory that relevantly reminds me I’ll remember the moment I first heard this band.

Sara Fincham:  First of all, wow! I must start off by saying I love your music!  It comes through pretty clear who your influences are, but who is somebody who has influenced you that may be surprising?

Return of the Horse:  That’s a really tough question to answer. We all have different influences that we grew up with that may be shocking, but we all really get into any type of music that can be felt…anything from Tom Waits to Trombone Shorty. People like Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, Elvis Presley…these people have all brought out some kind of emotion that has either indirectly or directly influenced our writing in one way or another.

SF:  You obviously know a lot about overcoming obstacles.  How do you pick up the pieces after something so tragic as a death of a band member?

Nate Robinson:  Dustin (previous drummer for Return of the Horse) got me into playing the drums when I was just a kid in High School. He was a little older than me, but we lived in the same neighborhood and hung around the same group of people. I’d go see him play shows, we’d hang out and party, and there was something about his style of playing that really inspired me to pick up the drumsticks and try it out. So, basically, if it wasn’t for Dustin, we wouldn’t be here today. We all have a very deep understanding of how he not only affected the band previously, but how he continues to play a part somehow in this band. Knowing that makes it a little easier to keep doing what we are doing.

SF:  The frustrating process to find a new member that fit sent you all separate ways.  What were some of the things you pursued individually – did any fruition come out of that frustration?

Shane Lundy:  After Dustin died we went through hell trying to find someone to not only play the drums, but to find a sense of camaraderie in another human being…which can be tough to do. As a result, I ended up starting a project a year later out of my bedroom called Dangerlove where I recorded each track (guitar, drums, bass, vocals, organ, etc.) separately into a 4 track mixer and into my computer. It started as just a musical outlet. I think we all needed that kind of release in one way or another that we just couldn’t find. I eventually put out an album on iTunes just for the hell of it and then got with Ian and Nate to see if we could try and do some shows with this new project. We had fun and played a few shows, but then it hit us all of a sudden after I had played with Izzy at an acoustic blues jam one night that we should get Izzy in the band and start over with Return of the Horse and have Nate on the drums. It was a perfect fit. I couldn’t believe it took us that long to realize it.

Izzy Stetar:  I have always been a traveling musician. I have played all over the country playing on the corner of streets, in bars, house shows…just everywhere trying to get by. I toured India on a blues festival circuit and found a lot of solace in my life when I returned home. Shane and I got together as usual and jammed a couple acoustic shows. He called me up one morning and said “How do you feel about getting the band back together with Nate on drums?”? I was instantly in.

SF:  Does the band name have a story behind it?

Shane Lundy:  It’s kind of a long story, but yes…it does have meaning. We like to think of it as sort of an apocalyptic metaphor towards music. Most of the stuff you hear today on the radio is just shit. Fabricated, auto- tuned, soul-less shit. But…it wasn’t always that way. The radio was once for actual musicians. The idea behind Return of the Horse was to completely destroy people’s preconceived notion of what they hear on the radio as rock. Just erase it completely by playing music that made people remember what rock n roll was all about. Kind of like the 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse that return to eradicate all the shit that once was good, and make it shine again.

SF:  You loved music enough to make a second go of it.  Besides the obvious, what’s different the second time around?  What other lessons have you learned and can benefit from?

Ian Varlas:  We don’t take anything for granted. We know how easily something could be here one minute, and then the next, it’s gone. We all work together as a family. We play music together, we party together, we help each other out in any way we can. We have all been friends since we were young. Shane and I have been playing in a band together since we first started playing instruments in the 6th grade just doing old NOFX and Nirvana cover songs. We have stuck it out through the good times and the bad, but we feel like this is our turn to finally make a statement. We haven’t looked back since the first time we picked up a guitar or a set of drumsticks…and we never will.

SF:  You have conquered many things, musically, personally.  What future goals have you set for yourself to accomplish?

Shane Lundy:  We want to get on a summer festival circuit and just tour the country meeting new people and playing with new bands that have so much to offer. We want to go to towns we haven’t been to before and play all night long and experience their culture and where they came from. Right now we are just booking EVERYWHERE within a 200 mile radius playing small clubs and pushing our name to everyone we meet hoping to get some recognition.

SF:  Do you have any upcoming shows, plans for a studio release, anything you’d like to promote?

Izzy Stetar:  There are a bunch of shows coming up all over from Pittsburgh, PA, to Morgantown, WV, and up to Akron, OH. We have been consistently going in and out of the studio just recording everything we write until eventually we put out a our first album independently. It seems like any time we write a new song, we HAVE to go record it and just put it online for everyone to hear. We love sharing our music with our fans and keeping them in touch with the details of our band. If you are ever at a Return of the Horse show, please feel free to come up to us and say hi, have a drink, dance, laugh, and have a great time. We’d love to meet you.

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