The first thing you notice at Jack Labbe’s Bandcamp page – before you even listen to the music – is the odd album description. It begins:
-Be aware that horses are mirrors. If you are angry, they will be difficult or scared.
-Some horses are difficult whether you have a good attitude or not. Sometimes this is genetics, how their mother raised them, or how a human has handled them in the past.
-Trust is everything. If you trust that you can take a wild, abused mustang from pasture and turn it into a well-mannered, happy, trusting show-horse in the next one or two years, then it will most likely happen.
Wait, what? We thought Bandcamp only sold music. They do, and the music at Labbe’s page is great, beautifully performed acoustic ruminations on love and loss. And we’ll get there. But first, what’s the deal with the horses?
“I used to be deathly afraid of horses,” Labbe explains. “The [album] name ‘How to Behave Around Horses’ didn’t come up until my friend Cameron Schiller agreed to shoot an album cover for me. Not knowing my fear of horses, she wanted to shoot the photo’s on a horse farm. I loved the idea for some reason and decided it was time I squashed my fear. The first thing I googled after hearing the plan was ‘How to Behave Around Horses.’ I soon realized that all of the tips on how to act around horses, were the same lessons you learn when you’re in a shitty relationship. All of the tips in the description of the album were pulled from a real article on how to behave around horses.”
The five songs on the How to Behave Around Horses EP exhibit a talent far beyond Labbe’s 20 years, tender and spare ballads flecked with touches of piano and cello. Tracks were inspired by everything from a long-distance relationship (“Like I Should”) to a college songwriting assignment to incorporate a secondary dominant chord (“Warm”). Standout track “Plastic Roses” came after Labbe threw a debutante ball-themed party, decorating the halls with fake flowers.
“After the party was over, I saved one of the red plastic roses and kept it in my room,” he says. “I got the hook for the song after seeing it up on my wall and realizing that it wasn’t going to wilt. The song is about how you can always be there for someone and still not be good enough. No one swoons over a plastic rose – real flowers are much more desirable – but the plastic ones stick around.”
Steam the EP below, then download it at Bandcamp.