Interview: The Amazons @ The Albert Hall
Ahead of their massive sold out show at the Albert Hall on Saturday, we got the chance to sit down and have a chat with Matt (vocals/ guitar) and Joe (drums) from The Amazons.
So you’re in Manchester tonight for night three of the tour, how’s it been so far?
Matt: It’s been the best tour we’ve ever done.
Joe: Lit. If you’re a millennial, you might say.
Which a lot of your fans are.
Matt: We’re millennials apparently.
Joe: Does that include me? I’m edging towards thirty so maybe I’ll be out of it soon.
You’re known really well for your live shows, but what is it about them that makes them so special?
Matt: We practice quite a lot. I think every time people see us we try to top our last performance.
Joe: We try and keep people surprised, as well. One thing we’ve worked quite hard on, especially on this tour, is to bring some kind of production value to the shows a bit more now. Which not a lot of bands, I don’t think, necessarily do at this level, it’s kind of just a recital of songs so we’re trying to move it in that direction.
Matt: We fuck around with the songs a lot. It’s definitely not like hearing The Amazons songs on record. They’re two different things and I think it’s more exciting when bands can chop and change their songs and spread things out and bend them into lots of different shapes. So it’s unpredictable. Anyone who’s seen us before won’t have seen this show before. But you can say the same for a lot of other bands, sometimes a band’s show from the beginning of a campaign to the end of a campaign is exactly the same but we’re always growing and always changing and stuff so that kind of makes it more exciting.
Do you have a favourite song to play live?
Matt: I like ‘Black Magic’.
Joe: ‘Holy Roller’, at the moment I’m enjoying that.
Do you have a favourite venue?
Matt: This [Albert Hall] is pretty good.
Joe: Yeah, we haven’t played here before.
Matt: Yet. But sound check was good and it’s just awesome to go from playing boxes and rooms that don’t have any character. The Institute in Birmingham, we started out there and that was really cool. Olympia in Dublin is amazing, we supported Jimmy Eat World there. Just places with history and character. This was done in the beginning of the 1900’s or something so I’ve been to loads, I think I’ve been to all the Albert’s. I’ve been to The Royal Albert Hall, this one’s The Albert Hall and then I’ve been to The Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter and it’s amazing.
Joe: And the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Matt: Oh fuck yeah, the V and A. I always say the V and A.
So any place with ‘Albert’ in the title?
Joe: Yeah, that’s a winner for us.
Matt: That’s our pilgrimage. We’re big fans of Albert. As was Victoria, because she commissioned so many bloody buildings named after him. It’s quite sad, really.
Joe: But nice.
Matt: Yeah it’s nice, because now we’re talking about it long after their love has gone. But it’s funny how she had the power to turn her love for this guy Albert into amazing buildings that people can enjoy hundreds of years afterwards. That’s fucking cool.
Joe: Relationship goals, as the millennials would say.
So you guys are from Reading, which isn’t exactly known for its music scene. Do you think that had an impact on you as you were starting out?
Matt: Yeah, definitely. I think it had an impact in that we wanted that to change and we wanted to make a name and we wanted to make a scene in Reading and I think for a little while we achieved it and there were bands like us and Sundara Karma putting on our own nights and stuff and I think there’s bands who have kind of carried that on a little bit. There’s a band called Valeras who opened for us in Reading who put on their own nights there as well.
Joe: It’s good that. I think it’s nice that bands have kind of taken heed of us doing that and think ‘well if we do that hopefully it gets us to the stage The Amazons are at now.’ And your fan base starts at home anyway, when it’s just your mates and your mum and dad and they’ll bring a few mates who haven’t been before and it just grows from there.
Matt: I think it’s not specifically us coming from Reading that’s important, and I don’t think we’ve been championing Reading just because Reading’s just so great or anything like that and I don’t think we put Reading on the album cover for that reason. We put Reading on the album cover and we identify ourselves as coming from Reading because that actually helps us relate to most of the young people in this country who aren’t from Manchester or London or any big cultural hubs. It’s not really about Reading, Reading just kind of represents any old dead end town. That’s the whole point of us talking about Reading. We’re not especially proud of Reading, there’s nothing to be proud of that much really. There’s a cool little scene but the whole point is that you connect with people in a similar position and the whole idea is for people to not be worried about not being from London or Manchester and to celebrate where you’re from because it’s different.
When you go back home, how do you think the shows you play there compare to the rest of the UK?
Joe: They’re the most nerve-wracking shows.
Matt: They are.
Joe: Every single one we’ve ever done has been shitting your pants scary. Your parents and grandparents are there and all of your mates come to that one.
Matt: You come off stage and you just don’t know what to think. Especially this one coming up, it feels like everyone we’ve ever known is coming to this one.
Joe: Because we’ve always, by tradition, done the Reading show as the last show of the tour, it gets to a point where you build it up so much in your mind about what you think it’s going to be like and then it’s not that it’s disappointing every time because it’s not like that but, it’s just. I don’t even know how to describe it, there’s this kind of quizzical-
Matt: There’s a weight on your shoulders a little bit. But I reckon we’re gonna kill that and I think we know that we build it up ourselves so we’ve got to stop ourselves from doing that. I think it’ll be pretty hard though with this venue because The Hexagon in Reading isn’t exactly world-renowned like The Albert Hall is, but we’ve had so many experiences there like watching The Chuckle Brothers or pantomimes and it’s that place. It’s a real small town theatre where everyone goes to see a bit of theatre or am-dram or whatever it is.
You guys did loads of festivals over the summer, do you have a favourite?
Matt: Fuji Rock in Japan. I think the location is just breath-taking.
Joe: Going that far out of our comfort zone to a completely different country and culture we just didn’t expect the reaction we got over there. And even when we were looking at album sales data and stuff like that it was the second biggest market after the UK for us, but still none of us really thought it would turn out the way it did. It was just amazing, and we’re going back in March so we’re doing Tokyo, Osaka and then back to Seoul in South Korea.
How does the vibe and the crowd differ at festivals, compared to your own shows?
Matt: I was going to say a lot more crazy and unhinged but these last two shows have been pretty crazy. I think there’s always an element of proving yourself at festivals because plenty of people don’t know who you are and there’s always an edge to that experience, but it’s just a completely different feel to headline shows. Tonight is our gig so we can kind of almost relax a little bit and kind of just enjoy the shared experience. But at festivals, you’re going to war.
Joe: It is like a massive battle of the bands.
Have you got any festivals lined up for this summer?
Matt: Yeah, we do. We’ve just announced All Points East, in Victoria Park.
Joe: Boardmasters. Catfish and the Bottlemen are headlining that.
Matt: Yeah, we played Boardmasters last year and it was a wicked location.
Joe: Standon Calling, we’ve just announced.
Matt: Yeah, playing there with Paloma Faith, my favourite, and George Ezra.
Joe: So there’s quite a few but there’ll be more though, to be announced.
So you put together a playlist for MCR Live, which varied a lot. Do you ever find that when you’re trying to write a song, or when you were putting the album together, that your influences clashed at all?
Matt: Nah, I think everyone’s pretty – that’s an interesting question actually – but I think the way we’re set up is kind of like, I had loads of folk and stuff like that but I know going into The Amazons that that’s not necessarily what we want to do. And that’s ok.
Joe: Yeah, we all have similar influences when it comes to the song writing process.
Matt: Yeah, when it comes to the band and stuff and actually the influences may differ to the stuff we’re currently listening to. But I think it’s always good to be open and just to let lots of different sounds come into your repertoire.
Joe: You can’t shut anything out, otherwise it’s just going to become one dimensional.
Matt: There’s not a huge amount of conflict when it comes to song writing because there’s not three song writers in The Amazons like there was in The Beatles or whatever. I look after the melody and lyrics and stuff, so the way we’re set up is such that everyone’s just happy in their roles. I’d never be able to drum as well as Joe, but I don’t care about that and I don’t want to drum as well as him. Why would I want to do a drum beat when he can do it? Everyone else’s way of doing things is so much better so I can come in with a skeleton of an idea and we all build it up from there really.
The Amazons, debut album by The Amazons, came out last May – are you working on new music yet?
Matt: Always. Yeah, we might have a little surprise up our sleeve tonight. But I think it’s weird because when we did the first record, all of the songs were new while we were building up to that and we did about two years on the road where we were trying out new songs all the time and it didn’t really matter to anyone because we were only playing to smaller crowds. So I don’t really see the problem with bands trying out new material on the road, it’s just that instead of playing ‘In My Mind’ to ten people we’re gonna play a new one to ten thousand people. But we did something last night and it went really well so. It’s rock and roll man.
MCR Live is all about new music; are you listening to anything new that you think people should know about?
Matt: Yeah, Sam Fender is going to be huge. Joe put him on his playlist and I thought that was cool. All of my stuff was like super old, but we all like Sam Fender.
Joe: I like a band called Stereo Honey, who I put on the playlist as well because I think they’re really good.
Matt: We love Yonaka, who are on tour with us next week. They’re awesome, they’re really good. And Otherkin are great, they’ve got a wicked album out and I think they’ve got a really bright future. Their album did really well in Ireland, I think it got to number two, but they’re still trying to get their teeth into the UK. Which is tough for UK bands to do, let alone Irish bands so we’re happy to have them over. But I think they’re ones to watch maybe in an album’s time. Because from what they’ve said when I’ve talked to them about new stuff it sounds very different, which is exciting.
And finally, what does the future hold for The Amazons?
Matt: We are carrying on with a bit of touring in March,
Joe: Writing enough music to carry on this adventure.
Matt: It is an adventure. But yeah I think that’s it. We want to put out our favourite record we have ever done. And that’s it.