Jacob Slater, frontman of powerful new indie-rock band Wunderhorse, has form. A few years ago, as the vocalist in garage rock band The Dead Pretties, Slater was briefly the talk of the London indie scene, his band releasing just a handful of singles but garnering a massive cult following over the course of a few months. That band burnt out and called it a day before true fame hit.
Slater’s return as Wunderhorse has been helped no little by Dublin legends Fontaines DC, who have been bringing the laid back, Cornwall-based surfer dude and his band around with them on their sell out tours. As Wunderhorse, Slater is still building a series of guitar-heavy but emotionally-led tracks, in between a life which he spends heavily on his other passion, riding waves.
In fact, when we catch up with him, he’s sat in a cafe in Cornwall, as his own home is a surf hang out without a reliable internet connection. “There’s crossover between surf culture and music,” he says. “A lot of people down here play music, either professionally or for fun. I guess both are considered more left field pursuits, so it makes sense.”
As for those early days with Dead Pretties: “I was playing music for very different reasons, Slater explains. “It was all about making it big, going as crazy on stage as possible, big songs. By the time I turned 20 I was quite burnt out, to be honest. As well as the punky kind of stuff I’d always listened to softer stuff, too. More varied classics. When that band finished, I wanted my next band to be more varied, not to make me feel so trapped in a style.”
“I guess it’s a common problem for lots of artists that they establish themselves with an album with a specific style and get trapped in that style. I hope if I avoid that from the beginning, I won’t lose too many listeners when I keep producing varied stuff.”
“When I got signed, during covid, the group I was playing with was a loose line up,” he continues. “The label wanted to sign me as a solo artist, but I’ve been playing with a much more solidified kind of group of people, so it’s more like a band. That’s how it is now.”
“The record was recorded ages ago but Covid has screwed everyone up.”
The debut album from Wunderhorse is called ‘Cub’, and seems to draw influences from sounds as diverse as Neil Young and The Libertines. Slater, though, has an unlikely side gig, too – he played Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook in the Disney movie about the band, entitled ‘Pistol’ – a sbow of divertsity, given he usually performs on guitar and vocals.
“It was definitely a bit of a change of scene to be behind the kit, but I loved it,” Slater says. “I like to get out of my comfort zone. If something came up I’d definitely carry on with it.”
“It’s nice to be back talking about the album though,” he says. “I’m not getting my hopes up about it, the reward for me is actually doing an album. Obviously like any artist I hope as many people hear it as possible, but I’m not going to be brokenhearted if it’s not a big, successful thing.”
“What was great about the Fontaines DC support slots was that Grian Chattan had heard of us through friends, and he just gave us a call,” he continues. “It was done through a mutual respect, one musician to another, rather than a clinical industry thing. That meant something to us.”