The standard narrative about The Horrors, who perform in Hong Kong this week, is that they burst on to the British music scene as glamorous garage-goth rockers with a lot of hype and hair but not much substance. Their 2007 debut, Strange House, was a frenetic shout-fest that drew flak from the press but got them to festivals such as Summer Sonic and Glastonbury, as well as a US tour. Their next album, 2009's Primary Colours, was a complete change in direction, veering off into shoegazing territory, a much more mature and contemplative effort that saw them nominated for the Mercury Prize. So by the time their third album, last year's Skying, emerged, the critics were primed to fall in love with them. And so it transpired. The neo-psychedelic rock of the self-produced Skying has seen the five-member band not only reach No 5 on the British charts - surprising for a textured record that is light on sing-along choruses - but has also helped them cement a reputation as music innovators. The Horrors, the media have been saying, are all grown up. Gone are the kitsch nicknames - Faris Rotter, Spider Webb, Tomethy Furse, Joshua Von Grimm, Coffin Joe - they arrived on the scene with. The goth aesthetic has been toned down, along with the hair. And they've taken a cue from 1980s synth-rockers Simple Minds. Rhys 'Spider' Webb, who is probably the most talkative bass player in rock, hates this narrative. They've got it all wrong, he says. 'The first line of every single review I've read is, 'They used to be this style-over-substance, big-hair, make-up-wearing garage-goth band with less interest in music and more interest in tight jeans. Now they've recorded this mind-blowing phantasmagoria of kaleidoscopic sight and sound',' says Webb, halfway through just one of his many breathless, uninterrupted torrents of oratory that he lets loose (during this particular interlocution he speaks for 16 minutes straight). 'And it's like, well, b*******. When we started, we were playing great music and it was exciting music and we looked great, and a lot of people really had a great time,' he says. 'Probably that [writer] never saw us, never experienced that bit, never felt it, never saw what it was like live, and doesn't have any real grounds to start their review like that. It really p***** me off.' And those comparisons with Simple Minds - and they are ubiquitous in reviews of Skying, probably because it does sound a lot like Simple Minds - don't go down too well with Webb either. 'It's so infuriating to read, 'Oh, they're listening to The Teardrop Explodes' and 'They're listening to Simple Minds and Psychedelic Furs', and honestly they're three bands that none of us ever listen to. Some people just get things just so wrong,' he says. Skying's lead single, the meditative and moody Still Life, is one that draws the most Simple Minds comparisons, but Webb says that for that track they were more inspired by The Beatles than by anything from the 1980s. 'No one's ever mentioned that, and maybe you can't even hear it, but we were really thinking, 'Don't you just love that big open drum beat that Ringo uses on things like Magical Mystery Tour', that classic sound that he used, especially on the psychedelic stuff.' He concedes that the song may sound like something Simple Minds would have produced (not a bad thing, by the way), but reckons that what's more interesting is that two bands might independently have had similar motivations and ways of working in pursuing a certain feeling, with comparable end results. 'It doesn't mean we have to listen to them for it to sound similar, or even to be reminiscent of a song. Maybe there were more ingredients to get to this end-result than simply, 'Oh yeah, someone gave me their album from 1983 and we thought let's make a song like that' ... We've never done that in our lives, and we never will,' he says. Webb might be starting to sound like a pretty angry chap, but he's not. He's lying on a bed in his Sydney hotel room, feeling a little hungover, putting into words for the first time a frustration with the music press that has been weighing on him for a while. 'Sometimes it's like you don't ever get a chance to say these things, it's so annoying,' he offers, by way of apology. Indeed, Webb is a passionate 28-year-old, especially when it comes to music. He's been DJing since he was 14 and reportedly has a record collection that could fill the London underground train system. The Horrors first got together through a shared love of music and similar tastes, which crossed over between new wave, post punk and garage rock. Yet when they played their first gig at a London club in 2005, they'd had only two rehearsals. Most of the five members had never been in a band before. 'It wasn't particularly a secret that we were a new band. We were punks who were just making noise ... We just got in there and we wanted to play loud, fast, fuzzy, noisy, exciting music and that's what we did.' Their evolution into a serious musical force happened quickly, however. 'Even two years later, and even when we started recording, and we suddenly came into contact with things like effects units we'd never seen before and things like synthesisers that we'd never had a chance to play with before, it was already pretty clear that our need or want as a band and as individuals was always to move forward. 'I think even if you'd asked us what we'd be doing in five years' time when we were recording Strange House, we wouldn't have been able to tell you, and we wouldn't imagine ourselves to be doing exactly what we were doing then. Literally, even as weeks or months went by, we were always wanting to try new things.' Their steady ascent up the charts - Strange House checked in at No 37, while Primary Colours got to No 25 - has been a result of their improving songwriting abilities. They've now struck a balance between the experimental and the accessible that is resonating with fans. 'We wanted to write clear, open songs that people could really get into and understand, but it was also really important for us to inject a heavy dose of weirdness in there.' The next record will be different again, promises Webb. 'If you do something and you are satisfied with it, you're going to want probably quite naturally to try something else next. 'It's almost like we had fun and we wanted to do this - we wanted to experiment with space and this kind of sound - and now it's like well, what do you want to do next? What's exciting now?' The Horrors' fans will have to wait a bit to find out. The band are working on a track for the athletics event at the London Olympics. Now there's a perfect example of something to please the masses that comes with its own little bit of weird. The Horrors, Thu, 7pm, Kitec Auditorium, 1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay, HK$450, HK Ticketing. Inquiries: 3128 8288 Scarily good The critics on The Horrors: NME on the single, Still Life: 'It was the sound of the band, hardened by periods oscillating between hype and ridicule, perceiving the expectation of others and mustering a derisory sigh.' The Guardian on last year's album, Skying: 'Music buffs might still want to play spot the influence with Skying - one reviewer detected seven in the opening song alone - but that would undersell this marvellous record, which should be every bit as exciting to a listener who knows none of those reference points.' The BBC on Skying: 'From the modular melodies and hypnotic hooks of Primary Colours, distinctly 1970s in design, they've landed in the 1980s with anthemic synth-powered pop-rock at the height of its commercial powers.' Los Angeles Times: 'When The Horrors released Primary Colours in 2009, it proved astonishing and unexpected - one of the year's best albums, from the band least poised for success.'