An Interview with Amber Run
On an (early) morning in late August I had a lovely phone call with Amber Run’s Joe about the band’s upcoming UK tour along with some of the other things they have lined up later this year. Is there any better way to spend a Friday morning? I think not.
Jess: Well you released your second record, For A Moment, I Was Lost, back in February. How did you find the writing process and recording differed from that of your debut?
Joe: There was a lot of different feelings to that of the first one. We recorded the first one when we were like 19-20 and we just had this overriding feeling of innocence that we didn’t really know what we were doing. Beyond that as well, there was just loads of excitement flying around. We were riding a wave that was bigger than we ever thought it would be. And then the 2nd one, it was just very different. It was a lot more personal, a more difficult route to the finished article. I think because of that it we got a better body of work out of it at the end.
Jess: When you think about it, with your first record, these are the songs that you’ve been writing for years and you’ve polished them so much. Whereas the second album, you’re starting from scratch.
Joe: They’re more of a moment in time (the 2nd record). I don’t know, it’s difficult not to be overly romantic about it because it is sort of true. We wrote that second album in the space of like 6-7 months and in that 6-7 months Henry and I were both on antidepressants, and that’s what [the album] was about. So there is no stop gap in between those negative thoughts because that’s how we were feeling at the time.
Jess: It’s a lot more personal and raw.
Joe: Yeah, there were dark personal songs on the first record as well, but to have a full body of work it’s a lot more concise.
Jess: More recently you announced that you’re releasing an acoustic EP, what inspired you to do this?
Joe: We don’t really enjoy doing things acoustically, when we started the band we were getting compared to twee folk artists that are talented in their own right but were nothing like what we were attempting to do. So we ran away from doing acoustic stuff for years- acoustic sessions were a chore, apart from that London Contemporary Voices thing we did, which felt different, we felt like acoustic wasn’t something we wanted to do. But then after the second record and after spending some time enjoying music again, me and the guys thought it would be a really interesting challenge, to take something we don’t enjoy doing and create something that we really like. So again, with some covers we picked Alaska (by Maggie Rogers), that’s a really beautiful song, but it’s not how I would write syllabically, it’s not how I would write lyrically, it’s not how I would write melodically. We wanted to challenge ourselves because that’s half the fun of making music, trying some new stuff. I know for a lot of bands they just do things acoustically which is the easiest thing for them, but for us we’ve ran away from it for so long that it was actually a little bit of a challenge to take it back to just one guitar.
Jess: I listened to the EP and I was really surprised by the other cover you did, it took me a while to realise what it was because you’ve done a completely different take on the song. It’s a really good EP.
Joe: Thanks! I love that song, Higher and Higher is such a banger. It’s a beautiful song and you can just reimagine it in whatever way you can.
Jess: You actually listen a lot more to the lyrics when its slowed down.
Joe: Its super dark! Like the verses are well dark. I think it suits being slowed down a little bit- you’re talking about your love which is taking me higher and higher. A love song can always be played slowly, make it proper cheesy.
Jess: Would you say you’ve got a preference for the writing/recording or the touring/playing shows?
Joe: Oh the touring and playing shows definitely. Writing is enjoyable to do it but takes a lot of the time. I find you have to be writing about things, that have actually made an impression on you at that time. Sometimes you’re sitting there writing, you’re going over it and trying to craft the perfect song and it just feels like you’re ripping up a scab, so I don’t always find the writing super enjoyable. I find it super rewarding, to be able to get the end result, but the actual process is kind of like ‘Okay I could be outside swinging around in the sun having a beer with some friends but I’m just sort of whinging to myself in a dark room’. Playing live is the most fun, there’s nothing like it, the instant gratification of it, just the feeling in the room and especially now after all this terrorism happening. Also the fact that there’s so many shows happening and that people come to your one. I think there is so much power in a group of people in a room all together. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of, I get such a buzz out of it.
Jess: From an audience point of view I agree with that because the fact that everyone in that room has got the shared love of that band and the music and how it effects everyone in different ways, it’s a very special space.
Joe: I can’t think of anything like it, I’m a big football fan as well, but we’re all busy trying to prove why we’re bigger or better than someone else or prove why we deserve something more. When you go to shows plays, everyone’s there for enjoying and appreciating a single thing on the stage, it’s just so powerful. I can’t think of many other places that it happens- a group of people all with a shared appreciation.
Jess: You’re playing one of Sofar Sounds special Amnesty Show- Give A Home in London on the 20th September. What made you decide to get involved with this project?
Joe: Well it’s one of the hugest issues of our time, especially here in Europe. Its actively in front of us and we can actively make a difference and help make a change in people’s lives. So you get asked to do it and you should be doing it. I think if any band turned it down then you shouldn’t be buying their record. I think what their [Sofar Sounds] doing is really great. I think it’s a great thing we can help to do, and if we can raise any more money or any more awareness then that’s great, and if people enjoy the show as well it’s even better.
Jess: Would you say you prefer the small intimate shows or the larger venues or even festivals really?
Joe: Every show has things that are really great about it, I like them all- I know it’s a bit of a cop out. There’s something beautiful about being able to see everyone in the room and for them to feel like they’re on level with you and everyone can see the white of your eyes, But then again, the buzz of being able to walk out in front of thousands and thousands of people, I can’t pretend to you that it’s not something awesome. It’s well fun, and for a band like ours we get such a buzz from playing live. We’ve played to no one before and had a great time, we played to the sound guy’s dog because even the sound guy left. But it’s just fun to do! What else would you do on whatever night, go play a show! It’s much better than sitting on your arse.
Jess: You have your tour coming up later this year, what can we expect? Is there going to be any new songs? Or anything different?
Joe: You can safely assume that we will be playing songs.
Jess: I hope so!
Joe: I could start my comedy act but I think it would go f*cking awfully. Yeah, it’ll be great, we’ve been consciously going around the UK and to cities we haven’t been to for a long time or smaller cities in general as we did our major city tour earlier in the year. It’s important, because when I was a kid I lived just outside of London and to go into London to watch a show it would be about an hour and a half journey, and an hour and a half back. So we wanted to go to some places where people like that would be able to come to a show without 3 hour journeys.
Jess: Some people do have it pretty hard when you think about location. Most bands always play London, Manchester, and a few others big cities.
Joe: I’m always a little bit more disappointed with us because I have a real love affair with Liverpool. My family are from Billing near Wigan, and I’ve been a Liverpool FC fan my entire life. We just haven’t played Liverpool enough; it actually really pisses me off.
Jess: Well you’re coming back in October so that’s good!
Joe: Exactly! It’s the only show my nan will come to!
Jess: It’s with Liverpool especially because most bands normally play Manchester or Manchester and Liverpool. Never just Liverpool.
Joe: Its interesting because in Manchester the last time we played we solid out a 1200 capacity venue, but if you come to Liverpool we’re playing smaller places because we haven’t worked as hard there. We haven’t come to play to you guys in Liverpool enough and that’s a real shame because Liverpool has just as much musical heritage as Manchester and the people in all these cities love music just as much!
Jess: I find that with a lot of people in Liverpool, if a band is playing Manchester they’ll just get on the train and go because if not you’re not going to see that band so you might as well.
Joe: It’s a two-way street you know, how many times have people from Liverpool gone to Manchester for us, this time we’ll come to Liverpool and people from Manchester can come to Liverpool to see us! Just this once.
Jess: Who are you currently listening to at the moment, or are there any albums that you’re excited for later in the year?
Joe: I’ve literally just through the door this morning, got my Flyte album!
Jess: That’s good! It came out today didn’t it? I still need to listen to it!
Joe: It did, it’s so good. I heard it, the lads and me, a couple of months ago and its unbelievable, but I just got the vinyl through today. I’m looking forward to that new National album, the new Everything Everything album is sick I’m really enjoying that. Yeah there’s three good albums we’ll leave it there.
Amber Run play Liverpool’s Hanger34 on Sunday 8th October. Tickets are still available
You can donate to the Give a Home here: https://www.amnesty.org/en/give-a-home-donate/
Amber Run’s Acoustic EP will be available later this year. Stream their cover of Maggie Rogers’ Alaska now on Youtube, iTunes and Spotify