Amber Run

by
Amber Run
Camilo Oswald had a chat with Felix and Joe of upcoming indie band, Amber Run, who are currently touring the UK.

Let’s break the ice: if you were a serial killer, what would be your weapon of choice?
F: Toothpick!
J: Mace.
F: Just straight in with the bludgeon.
J: I just think, if I’m gonna do it, I might as well do it in a way where people are gonna talk about it.
F: Mind you, they wouldn’t talk about a toothpick. Like, it took a year to kill this guy… What about a cheese grater?
J: [winces] I think I’ll stick with the mace. I’m talking real, handmade, with wood, broken glass, and nails kinda shit.

If you were on death row, what would be your last meal (gourmet meals included)?
F: Something with Marmite.
J: I love food. But you know, you can’t beat the stuff your Mum makes. I’ll bring my Mum in and she can cook me a steak and ale pie with gravy and chips.
F: You’d get your Mum into death row?
M: To say goodbye too. It’s killing two birds with one stone. Wrong choice of words…

In a desert island scenario, which album would you bring with you?
J: Parachutes by Coldplay.
F: It’s an obscure indie one for you, innit. For me, maybe Radiohead’s OK Computer.

In terms of indie credibility, that’ll get you far.
J: I mean let’s put things in perspective: credibility – who really gives a shit? If you enjoy it, you enjoy it.

Those two albums were recorded at a similar time (1997 and 2000). Do you think there is any commonality in what your band has picked up as influences?
J: When people ask you that, it’s hard to pick just one out. I mean, stuff like Coldplay is the sound of my youth. My Dad would play it every single day. I could have just as easily said something like Muse or Sonic Youth but… I’m just really bored of there being a culture, which seems especially prevalent in Britain, where you have to like the coolest, hippest sound all the time. I’m sick of that.

How is this tour going for you so far?
F: It’s been amazing. I mean, we’ve really worked hard as a band. When we did our first tour about a year ago, we did it on our own, and we just went to different cities. There were shows where we were shocked at how many people there were and then there were shows where we played for the sound guy. Like in Leeds, where there was literally no one there.
J: And Derby. To put it in perspective, quite a lot of people have said that we’ve come from nowhere really quickly. We’ve been writing songs for five years and we’ve been playing shows for the last two years. And we’ve played to no one.
F: And that’s why it’s so much more gratifying that we’ve sold out 90% of this tour. So when we turn up to a venue, we feel like we’ve earned it.
J: And we’ve done it off our own backs. We haven’t had people like NME. We haven’t had the radio going mad about us and that makes it even sweeter when we can shove it in people’s faces and say “Fucking hell, we did this by ourselves. No thanks to you.”
F: We have such a thing for word of mouth and online. And that’s amazing.
J: It just means the world to us, because you get on these things and you don’t think about it, but that’s how you make it. But then you realise that it’s not the people in London that are buying your album a hundred thousand times to make you go “I’m doing however well”. It’s genuine people elsewhere; it’s people in Exeter, people in Aberdeen. Those are the people that you want listening to your music. So I don’t really care if someone with a trendy coat and velvet jeans thinks I’m cool because that’s just irrelevant. That’s totally irrelevant. That’s style over substance and that’s exactly 100% not what we are.
F: People think that we’re a certain band and they think that we all listen to Bastille and shit. None of us in this band have ever listened to Bastille. I listen to the weirdest stuff and then I listen to the Grease soundtrack because if you like the fucking melody, you like it. You shouldn’t think, should I be liking this? You should think “Who gives a fuck who likes this? I like it.”

I agree. I think there’s no such thing as a cliché sound: if it’s really genuine, it should not matter how common it is or who else is playing it.
F: If it’s a really good pop song, it’s a really good pop song.
J: The songs that we write are really, really personal. Songs like I Found are literally a little glimpse into what’s gone on in our lives.

Speaking of I Found, do you think that your newer music is shifting away from the sound of your earlier stuff?
F: I think the Pilot EP with I Found was the first glimpse into what our album is going to sound like, because it goes from I Found to stuff like Spark – from traditional, straight-up rocky songs to much more electronic samples.
J: For us, if we like a song and it takes us in a direction, we’ll just run with that direction. I’m not saying we’re going to come out with a rap album, nor am I saying that we’re gonna pave the way for a new philosophy. It just comes naturally.
F: A lot of the transition occurred when we went in with Mike Crossey – he was effectively another member of the band and he enhanced all the songs. He took them all and guided us in different directions, where maybe we didn’t realise the songs could go. At first we were a little reluctant, but then we ran with it.
J: He gave us a vote of confidence – standing up, sticking his neck out and saying “I think you’re a wicked band and we could do some really cool stuff”. We’ve never really had that before. We’ve never really run into a musical crowd. You know when you think of bands, you think of other bands, like Peace and Swim Deep.
F: Don’t get me wrong, we have loads of friends that are doing the same thing, like Nothing But Thieves and Laura Doggett, but we’re not in the same genre.

Would you say you have any contemporaries?
J: There are people that we respect and there are people that make really great music. But there’s no one I know that makes music for the same reason that we make music. And that’s because we’ve known each other since we were twelve years old, minus Henry in fairness, and we just love making music. It’s absolutely incredible that we’re starting to sell out shows, but that was never the intention.

What’s the best, most interesting advice you’ve been given regarding the music industry or perhaps songwriting?
J: Henry said something today that a good friend of his told him; he was a production manager in a band. He was like, “Keep remembering that you love music, because the industry will cripple you.” You get into music because you love music. Everyone in the industry gets into music because they love music. And it’s so easy to forget. And it’s so easy to watch people forget. I heard this quote from Chris Martin as well, that he heard from Bono from U2, and he said something along the lines of “Respect the chemistry” and I didn’t quite understand it to begin with. In our band, yes, I write the songs – but they wouldn’t be anywhere near as good without my mates here with me. Every single one of these songs would be completely different if it was just me. I mean, these guys are unbelievable musicians; I’m by far the worst musician in our band.

Do you have a live favourite?
F: Obviously, I love playing Pilot live because I’m like “Yay! It’s my turn!”. But I think we all fucking love playing I Found because it hits so close to home.
J: I think it was the first song for me, lyrically, where I was able to write exactly what I meant. It’s the first time it’s ever happened and hopefully I can find that again. I didn’t feel the pressure – it was more catharsis. But catharsis can be dangerous sometimes as well.

Do you feel as though writing for catharsis might be quite self-indulgent?
J: Yeah – you forget why you’re doing it as well. You can write for yourself but as soon as you start getting fans or people that just enjoy your music, you have an obligation to let them enjoy themselves or understand what’s going on. Because otherwise, what’s the point really?

What about the album. Is it already recorded? Tell us what to expect.
J: Yeah, since last January.
F: It’s fucking great… like, it’s a really, really good album. We fucking worked our arses off and we’ve pushed ourselves beyond any limit we ever imagined in the time we recorded it. I’m convinced people are going to have preconceptions over it and they will be destroyed because people will hear it and they’ll think “You know what, this is really good”. We all believe in it and as long as we believe in it, I don’t really think we care about what other people think.
J: It’s that moment… you dream of releasing your own album and then you get to that point where you’ve done it. We’ve done so much more than I thought we could, and now that we’re here I want to record a second and a third and I wanna fucking play Glastonbury. I wanna do what we’re doing right now for the rest of our lives. That would be ridiculous! Look at the Stones, they had a great time.

What kind of person would you recommend your music to?
J: I would genuinely say, to people that have feelings and a soul. People that actually have empathy.

Who would you like to collaborate with?
F: Obviously we would love to do something with Chris Martin, and there are such obvious ones – like Joe would love to work with Thom Yorke, Rick Rubin, and Jon Hopkins.
J: And these aren’t throwaway comments. The thought of being able to work with these people would be nuts. We’d want to collaborate with people that would push us in a different direction. Especially Jon Hopkins, we’d love to work with him. That would be ridiculous.
F: He did the latest Coldplay album.
J: He’s doing things that you wouldn’t even think of starting.

Is there anyone you’d want to cover?
F: We’re going into the studio in the next two weeks to do some covers, so maybe… we won’t say.
J: We enjoy making music and if you like a song, the culture of covers is a wonderful thing. If you look at Elvis Presley, The Beatles, and the Stones, they all started as cover bands. It doesn’t even matter if it’s any good because you’re doing it for music’s sake and that’s the most important thing.

Is there anyone you’re currently listening to? Or any hype-up song you listen to before a gig?
J: We’ve been listening to a lot of Radiohead and The War On Drugs.
F: Then we got into Alvvays.
J: We listened to that Superfood album quite a lot.
F: They should be bigger.
J: That album should have sold so many more copies.
F: It kinda got pigeon-holed in that whole B-town “Oh it sounds like Blur” thing.

Any tips on any up and coming artists?
J: I mean, we have plenty of friends that are fucking talented. Definitely Pixel Fix, who are playing with us tonight.
F: Elderbrook. He’s a good friend and a talented producer. The stuff like Jack Garrat is unbelievable.
J: He’s the musician’s musician.