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Music |

Interview: The Amazons

Tuesday 24 January 2017
Words Spindle

The Amazons are one of the most hotly-tipped bands for 2017, having received numerous nominations including BBC Sound Poll 2017, Q’s Best Breakthrough Act, and Apple Music’s New Artists 2017, as well as countless support from press and radio stations. All the hype is well deserved, for The Amazons make swaggering, visceral, and raw rock, with their most recent singles ‘In My Mind’ and ‘Little Something’ showcasing a heavier, darker and more brooding sound from the band, and offering a taste of what we might expect from their highly anticipated debut album, which is set to drop this summer. We caught up with vocalist and guitarist Matt Thompson to discuss the album, their upcoming tour, and naturally, which iconic band he wishes he could join.

How does it feel to be such a talking point for 2017? Do you feel any pressure?

The biggest pressure we really feel is the pressure we put on ourselves. That’s absolutely real, it really is. Maybe the pressure you put on yourself increases the more you know people are going to listen to your music. I’m glad we’re not writing and recording the album now, I think it would maybe be a different experience. We recorded the album back in April and we were well under the radar then, no one was really talking about the band. We had a good core following when we played live, but other than that, there was no big media platforms talking about us in the same way they are now. So maybe, but it’s kind of like, if you want to be successful, you’re going to have to work with that attention and roll with it, so that’s what we’re trying to do.

How did you get started with The Amazons?

It was quite a long process. We didn’t all meet in one go and that was it. Me and our guitarist Chris, and our bassist Elliott have been playing together for nearly a decade. We kicked around the Reading scene in various bands. We lost our drummer in a previous band when he went and did his own thing, so we were looking for a new drummer. We must have auditioned about eight drummers over an eighteen-month to two-year period, and then we finally settled on Joe, who we met in a dead end bar at the edge of town where we were doing an acoustic session. He was playing bass in the band after us, and he just asked if we wanted to jam, and we were like yeah, why not! And that was it, really, that was when The Amazons were born.

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What’s your songwriting process as a band?

Judging by what we’ve done so far, usually I start a lot of ideas at home on my acoustic guitar. My theory is if it doesn’t sound good at home in my bedroom on an acoustic guitar or on a piano, then it’s never going to sound good anywhere. So I usually take whatever skeleton of a song I have to the band and we’ll kind of flesh it out in the rehearsal studio. It’s a trial and error process. I’ll teach the boys what I’ve got so far and then it’s intuitive, you go with your gut and just see where we end up. But it’s not a glorified solo project by any means, we wouldn’t be able to sound like we do without everyone’s input, that’s for sure. But in terms of the songs and lyrics and melodies, that’s probably my big role. Some of the tracks on the album took four years to write, on and off, we’d go back to it again and again  until we’d recorded it. But sometimes we get the finished version in a couple of hours. You’ve just got to roll with it. We’re not really one to rush the process; songs will reveal themselves when they want to.

As you start to play new songs live, do you find they develop?

That is totally part of the process, and I kind of don’t know what we’re going to do when we record the second album, because we’ve been writing songs for the fun of it, and then you play them live, see the reaction, and really learn what they’re about when they’re in front of a hundred people. Then we go back and record them in our little bedroom studio that our guitarist Chris made up, and the look back and change some things. Playing live is such an important process and part of the writing process. Especially for bands, the whole point is putting it out and sharing it with people, so if people are crying with boredom during a song you know not to put that on the album.

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You’ve got a big tour coming up – where are you most looking forward to playing?

We’re revisiting a lot of places that we’ve enjoyed in the past. Last time we were in Newcastle we had a really good time. Reading, of course, is going to be a good one for us, it’s going to be the biggest headline show, capacity-wise that we’ve ever played, so there’s a mixture of apprehension and nerves and excitement all mushed together for that. We’re hitting Europe next month for the first time on our own headline tour, so really excited about that. Then there’s places we’ve not really visited before like Leamington Spa and crazy places that I would never go to if I wasn’t in a band. That’s one of my favourite things about being in a band, you get to just go to places that we would never go to otherwise. I was thinking the other day, I’m going to be the first person in my family to visit all the towns and cities in the UK, cause we really try to hit them all. Cause if I was a kid somewhere where you don’t really get many bands, I would bite someone’s hand off to see some touring bands, so that’s why we go out there. It’s about all those people, not just the people in Manchester and London who are spoilt for fucking choice. So those kind of places, that’s where we’re really excited to go.

What can we expect from your debut album?

The last couple of singles we’ve put out, like ‘Little Something’ and ‘In My Mind’ are probably the heaviest we’ve gone, so I think people can expect more of that rather than our earlier stuff. It’s a raw album, man, we made a point of recording everything live. Our producer Catherine Marks really cracked the whip, and we worked really hard, there’s a lot of sweat and blood on this record. I think people will be surprised at the other avenue that we go down – we’ve got some more acoustic moments, and we’ve got a ballad in there at the end. I think you can expect a lot of surprises.

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Would you say there’s a reoccurring theme in the album, or something it’s about?

I think with a debut album it’s difficult to create that cohesive theme. Over the last five years we’ve just been writing songs, we never thought they were for an album. Maybe that’s the best way of doing it, because you’re free to just to do what you want. But looking back on the album and the lyrics and seeing the themes that come out, I think it’s an album of questions. When you’re eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two – those are the years I was writing it – it was always about not knowing who you are and wondering what’s round the corner. It’s not an album of answers. I certainly don’t know the answers and anyone who says they know the answers between eighteen and twenty-two is a total liar. Maybe these questions that we ask on the album aren’t supposed to be answered. It’s an album of looking to the future, sometimes positively, and sometimes a bit fearfully.

Is there a song that you’re most proud of so far?

There’s a song called ‘Black Magic’ on the album that took about three years to write. I kept on revisiting this song; it had a riff and a verse but it didn’t have a chorus. It didn’t have a purpose. I really thought it would never happen, I honestly didn’t think we’d ever really finish it. I came up with a chorus and a line and the title of the song and that was it, it just all made sense. It was like I was making sense of what I started two years previously. So I’m really proud of that one. There’s a song called ‘In My Mind’ that I’m really proud of as well, that we released as a single last year. I picked myself apart lyrically for that one, they’re so honest and it’s quite cathartic to play live. It’s kind of justifying my terrible behaviour.

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Where do you hope to be as a band in a few years time?

With the current way that the industry’s going I think we’d be happy to still be going if I’m honest. That’s a bit doom and gloom! The way we think about things is that you’ve just got to follow the buzz, the buzz of playing live and the buzz of creating music, and you’ve got to put faith in your own taste. We’ve just got to have fun and keep creating and keep making things exciting when we’re making music, and then you put it out and you play some good shows and give people value for your money. You’ve gotta just see where it takes you, otherwise you’ll go crazy, you’ll be obsessed with fame and stuff, when really it all boils down to the music. You do all these things, you get all these accolades, like a year ago I would have thought “BBC Sound of 2017, that’s fucking amazing, what the fuck?!” And then you get it and it’s great, but it’s almost like a temporary pleasure, it’s like eating a burger, that’s cool but it doesn’t nourish you the next day. But the constant thing is our passion and love for music. The absolute goal is to carry on doing what we’re doing, creating music and trying to get the buzz from playing live and being in the studio.

If you could have been in any iconic band, which would it have been?

The thing is, all my favourite bands I’m probably not good enough to be in. Do I have to take anyone’s place or can I just slot in? I think I’d join the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, that would be cool, just slot in on guitar. But they can turn me down if they want. Or maybe Arcade Fire, they’ve got a lot of musicians. If I went on stage with Nirvana, people would be like “What the fuck? Who the fuck is this guy?” So I’d like to just sneak in on an ensemble like Arcade Fire. Circa ‘The Suburbs’ in 2010.

Watch the video for ‘Little Something’ below:

The Amazons are touring Europe in February, and the UK from March. Click here for tickets.