You shouldn’t really ever pay that much attention to a band’s name, because whatever they’re called it’s the music that’s most important. But in the case of this Southampton four-piece, who formed in September 2014, the name Hercules Morse is a little too intriguing to just ignore.
“It’s pretty highbrow,” chuckles vocalist/guitarist Steve George, “in that it’s a literature reference. But it’s a character in a children’s book called Hairy Maclary, so it’s juxtaposed between being quite highbrow being a literature reference, but also being pretty puerile being a children’s book. Which we felt matched our ethos pretty well. And aside from that, it’s also awesome that you can break it down to being a character from Greek mythology and an inspector from Oxford. So it really just struck a chord with us. But we came up with it and we stuck with it and it seems to draw attention more than we thought that it would.”
And there was us thinking it was a nod to Hercule Poirot and Inspector Morse. But no, according to the book, Hercules Morse is as big as a horse. But it’s such a powerful name and is actually incredibly well-suited to the band – completed by lead guitarist Harry Gardner, bassist Paul Shott and drummer Guillaume ‘Gizmo’ Redonnet-Brown – and their heavy-hitting, hard-riffing, stoner-friendly brand of rock. New EP Equine Size Comparison offers up five slices of the band’s distinctive yet diverse sound, and follows up last year’s Edge Of Life EP, which garnered a whole lot of critical praise and attention.
“It’s quite a nice snapshot of us,” says George. “We’ve never been ones to entirely pin ourselves down to a genre. Obviously, I don’t want to be pretentious and say ‘We don’t fit into pigeonholes’, but we do like to mix things up a bit. We write as we feel and I feel ruddy marvellous that people seem to like it. I’m clearly quite narcissistic and it’s lovely to be doing something we enjoy doing and are passionate about doing and being able to get it out to other people who are equally enthusiastic about what we’re doing. And that’s really the beauty of the whole beast. Because the reason why we’re doing this is not an end goal. It’s not a means to an end. What we’re doing is the end goal – we’re making it because it’s what we want to make and we believe in it.”
In case it doesn’t come across in print, it’s probably worth pointing out that while George is certainly serious when he talks and when it comes to the band’s music, at times his tongue is also firmly in his cheek. Because while the band aren’t by any means overtly comedic in the same way as, say, Tenacious D or Steel Panther, humour (and often self-deprecating humour) is nonetheless a big part of George’s life.
“I’ve come to the conclusion,” explains George, who in addition to Hercules Morse also has a comedic alter-ego called Smeghead Steve, “that I probably use humour as a defence mechanism. So this is me delving into my own psyche here, but my default setting is almost to be stupid and silly, and sometimes I have to draw that back in. But my moods also fluctuate dramatically, so usually when I sit down with a guitar I’ll either write something really stupid and inane or something a bit more serious, depending on how I’m feeling. And so I decided to channel these off into the two different, distinct paths, because otherwise it gets even more confusing.”
Yet while these songs are written by someone who has a very funny, humorous side, George is entirely devoted to and emotionally invested in the music that Hercules Morse make – while both sides are undeniably part of him, this is the one that’s closest to his heart. As such, it’s the outlet that’s most true to himself, and also the one that makes him feel more vulnerable.
“As I become probably more wise and/or experienced,” he says, “I’m a bit more comfortable with actually putting it out there on the line. And I’m slowly feeling more confident in portraying the actual emotion rather than the façade of humour.” He pauses for a split second. “Not that it’s a total façade, because I am a ridiculous man, and I quite enjoy that.”
Hercules Morse will be on tour throughout the summer. Their EP Equine Size Comparison will be released in September. For more information, visit their Facebook page.