In Conversation With Amber Run
Almost one year ago to the day, Amber Run were at rock bottom. After being dropped from their label and having their drummer walk out, the success of hit single ‘I Found’ seemed a million miles away. Now just twelve months later the resilient four are back once again with sophomore album, For A Moment, I Was Lost. I meet with Joe Keogh, Tom Sperring, Henry Wyeth and Will Jones before their Leeds Stylus show to find out first hand about the emotional rollercoaster that has lead to their dark, gritty new release.
Keogh jumps straight in. “It’s been a strange transitional period,” he begins to tell me; “there was a lot of frustration. Often a lot of great music seems to come from places of struggle, and I’m not saying that the world was ending or anything, no one had died. I don’t know how to explain it other than it was just really shit.” It appears this strange period in the bands development is best summed up by the title of the new release, For A Moment, I Was Lost.
Although on the surface the loss of their drummer and fall from the record label was one of the lowest points in the band’s career, it resulted in becoming a catalyst for the Nottingham indie rockers to create their second album as well as an incentive to do more than they’d ever done before. Sperring tells me, “If there ever was a get out clause, this was it; you know how it goes, the drummer leaves, ‘we’ve had a good run and now we can call it a day’ that kind of thing, but actually it had the opposite effect.” Keogh adds, “it became exciting, rather than being a drag, an opportunity for success rather than possibility for a failure.” Wyeth – in charge of the bands keys – adds, “We all had a little bit of time to ourselves, then met up in a pub, looked at each other and said ‘we wanna do this.’” The lust to succeed, determination prove the doubters wrong and get back to what they love best, is deeply ingrained in what has driven Amber Run to push through the hard times and get to where they are now, and it’s truly inspiring.
Amber Run’s debut 5AM made it onto Circulation’s ‘Favourite Albums of 2015’, yet lead guitarist Will Jones explains to me why they see it as a million miles away from a success story of four 20-year-olds making music. “We don’t see it [5AM] as much of a success as ‘A’- they [the label] initially built it up, like, ‘we’re going for number one’. And ‘B’- because the whole process of writing the album became so difficult that by the time it came out it was like ‘thank god it’s finally out’. It got pushed back nine months, then brought forward a week, they weren’t going to spend money on it and it just became quite a bitter period. It’s where a lot of the bitterness in this album comes from.” This becomes strikingly apparent when you delve into the lyrics of FAMIWL, ‘Fickle Game’, for example, making direct reference to the fickle nature of the music industry.
Jones then develops this idea of bitterness to me. “You’re expected to be the best band in the world and it’s just not a rational thing to expect from a band writing its first album.” Rather than be frustrated at individuals there’s more of a despair from the band at how the industry has developed over the past ten years. Jones references an interview he recently came across where Dave Rowntree, the drummer of Blur, explains how in the 90s there was so much more cash flowing through the industry. Labels could allow a band to have a poor first or second album and essentially allow the band to develop over the course of a few years.
I feel as though the evolution of music streaming and online media has something to do with this change to the industry. It’s no-ones fault and there’s not a lot we can do about it, but it has caused the backbone of the music industry to be worth significantly less, and has resulted in record labels having to become more tight on bands. It’s a great shame, and I believe current labels should treat musicians with more respect and transparency, but as Keogh says, it has simply become a “fickle game”.
Amber Run end our brief chat on a refreshingly honest note. They tell me of how in the early days they attended media training where they’re told to talk of how great tour is and how everything is fantastic, unicorns exist, pigs can fly, blah blah blah… but instead of being like that, they explain that when things can change at the drop of a hat, it’s more important to be transparent and true to yourself. “We’re in the best form of Amber Run there’s ever been and we love it, but it’s all come out of a dark place.” Take a moment to listen to any one of their latest tracks and you’ll find yourself faced with some truly deep personal experiences. However, it’s that honesty that I believe bodes well for the four-piece and I can only look forward to hearing what’s in store for the future.