1883 Magazine
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With a boisterous and brazen sound powerful enough to reverberate around many festival fields this summer and one day fill stadiums, The Amazons are not quiet in their approach to making music.

Comprising of Matt Thomson (vocals/guitar), Chris Alderton (guitar), Elliott Briggs (bass) and Joe Emmett (drums), the quartet have already released an EP titled Don’t You Wanna? and are currently gearing up to release their debut album. Before thier set at Standon Calling this 29th - 31st July we chat to frontman Matt Thomson about all things about latest single Nightdriving, as well as discussing the fluctuating creativity his Reading hometown and the obstacles that occur when filling your tour van with petrol instead of diesel, oops!

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I guess we should start with Nightdriving, the music video is brilliant, is it reminiscent of a typical journey home for The Amazons?

Matt: Definitely not, I think that would be fairly illegal or dangerous at the very least. I guess it does have some relationship to reality, we’ve all been picked up in our friend’s cars or been in the back of taxis slightly drunk, so in that way it’s relatable. The song generally is about not knowing what’s round the corner and fear of the unknown so we wanted to put in some bits and bobs that you might not normally have in the back of your car and make it a bit trippy, a bit mysterious and entertaining. It’s quite a big, anthemic, bombastic song and we wanted to do something a little bit more light hearted, but not necessarily a comedy video, just a bit more down to earth and more relatable than the recorded song to strike a balance between the two. It was an idea that wasn’t very expensive to execute and easy to do with the resources that we have at the moment.

How long did it take to shoot? Was it just one night?

Matt: It was about a week of preparation just getting bums on seats and people involved, which actually wasn’t that hard in the end. It was preparation like getting props too. There’s a shop called Fun and Frolics in Reading that me and the director Matt Goff spent hours in trying on bits and bobs and debating whether Joe our drummer would like to be in a cheerleader outfit or the Snow White outfit. We originally wanted a fairy godmother vibe but the costume they had just wouldn’t fit any of us let alone Joe. We picked the worst time of year to do it as well, we needed the sun to go down and we needed as much darkness as possible which is hard when we were shooting around the longest day of the year, so we had quite a limited time of night time and darkness. We were shooting from half nine or ten until four or five in the morning, and then that last shot is us after we had just ran up the biggest hill ever, we were all out of breath trying to find a spot on the top of this hill for a sunrise and we were all completely knackered, I think that was about half five in the morning. Some of the exterior shots of the car were filmed the weekend before. We used our tour van to film from and we drove around and got the exterior shots in the van and then did all the shots with all the people the weekend after, so to be fair we spent a lot of time on it, now I think of it.

There are a few cameos in the video too, the boys from (fellow Reading band) Haize are in the video and as you mentioned it was directed by Matt Goff, at the moment Reading appears to be a hub of creativity from the outside, is this the case? And if so how does it feel to be a part of that?

Matt: It feels good. I mean we’re not all sitting round camp fires and writing songs together at the moment or anything like that, everyone’s doing their own thing, but it’s us, Sundara Karma, Haize, Palm Honey and a couple of other bands. We all get together, we all see each other at the same watering holes, we go to the same parties and it’s always been a conscious effort because we’ve always been a bit disillusioned with Reading and how little goes on. It was a conscious effort maybe eighteen months ago just to be like, ‘We’re not getting any bands through, let’s put on some shows.’ I put on a monthly club night at a place called The Purple Turtle called Two Step, and then the Sundara boys had their Thirsty Network shows that I don’t know if they do anymore, but they were doing that monthly and we’d all play on each other’s line-ups and all support each other. With Haize, they were available, we got them down and they knew the song and that was it really, we’re just friends and especially Haize we get along with really well. We were at the Barn On The Farm festival yesterday and we had two guestlist spaces so we brought the Haize boys down, not because they’re another band but because we’re mates with them and we all share the same interests. I think there is a scene and a hub of creativity. There’s also artists, producers and photographers – Matt Goff is so integral to the scene because he does visuals and stuff for us, he does stuff for Haize and he’s done stuff for Palm Honey and Sundara Karma. Everyone shares each other’s resources and features in each other’s videos just because it’s fun. Most people aren’t in a band so when you do get along with other people in bands you strike a bit of a connection because you go through the same stuff, you’ve almost got a shared experience and you can learn off of each other. Everyone is learning off of each other’s successes and if we go in a different direction they can learn from that, so yeah it’s great.

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You’re back on the road in October for a headline tour, how are you going to prepare for that?

Matt: Last October we did quite a similar tour but it will be bigger venues, so we expect to see a lot more people there. This time round we’re going to get some more production and lighting and we’ve got some crew involved, all this stuff that adds up to a better show for everyone. We’ve got a lot of new songs to play, we’ve been doing an album over the summer, so it’s time to bring them out of the closet and show them to the world, so there will be a lot of new stuff as well as the old stuff too. It will be a longer set and hopefully we’ve improved as a live band over a year – we’ve done a lot of shows since our last tour. It’s going to be loads of fun, we’ve got some really good bands supporting us on the tour as well. We’ve got this band who we’re friends with anyway, a band from Cardiff called Tibet and they’ll be supporting us on every night of the tour. Then we’ve got a great band for our London date called Hello Operator who are going to be playing with us as well, it’s going to be a good rock show, it’s going to be awesome.

It sounds really exciting! Are there any cities you’re looking forward to in particular?

Matt: I think the Reading date and the London date are pretty exciting for us. The London date at Oslo in Hackney is the biggest show that we’ve ever booked for a headline show, so we’re equally excited and terrified by that one. Reading is always an absolute riot when we play because we don’t play there as much anymore, we’re really looking forward to that show. Also there’s one in Tynemouth, really up North near Newcastle, at Surf Café that we’re really looking forward to, places that we don’t usually get to go to. Sheffield, we always have a really good time there and we’re good friends with the people who are putting on the show. It should just be a really fun tour, really looking forward to it.

Do you have a favourite song to play live?

Matt: I think the other boys would say they love playing the new stuff live but I always feed off of the audience. Ultraviolet we put quite early in the set and I can always sense a bit of a lift when we play it, so probably Ultraviolet at the moment. You see it a lot more now people know the words and sing along and that’s definitely a song I would want people to sing along to.

You mentioned Tibet and Hello Operator are supporting you on tour, are there any other new bands you’re into at the minute?

Matt: Yeah loads, so many actually. I think there’s a really good crop of bands coming up at the moment. There’s a band called Palace who we share a label with, they’re on Fiction Records and they’ve got an album out in November, really looking forward to that. The Reading bands are all awesome, we need to give a shout out to them of course. I really like INHEAVEN at the moment, they’ve got a song called Bitter Town that they did with the lady who produced our album, Catherine Marks, and I really, really like that song and I love the band as well. Black Honey are awesome, I really like Frances, she’s a singer-songwriter who we saw yesterday. There’s loads of good stuff at the moment and there’s no one really competing with each other, everyone’s got their own path which is really nice. I guess it’s reflective of how people listen to music and the internet. There’s not, for example, a big punk thing and everyone you’re listening to is a punk band, it’s very much like everyone has got their own path and everyone sounds really different so it ticks lots of different boxes rather than feeling like we’re competing with anyone else, so I can really enjoy all of our contemporaries and our peers at the moment. I guess if you were in the 90s and you were a Britpop band it would be hard to enjoy a lot of the music around because everyone is competing to be the biggest in the same genre and I don’t think that’s the case at the moment.

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You’ve been doing some festivals too, I managed to catch your set at Isle of Wight Festival. Do you enjoy playing festivals or can they be more challenging that your own gigs?

Matt: They are more challenging definitely. At the beginning you’re like, ‘Oh just plug in and play’, but the more you hone your show, the more you put your personal stamp on things and you like things a certain way – like soundchecking a certain way and certain things in your monitors – once you’ve gone down that route of having things the way you like it and performing better with it, festivals become way more challenging. You don’t really have a say, it really is just plug in and play. Yesterday we got to Barn On The Farm twenty minutes before we were on, we literally jumped out of the van and started setting up, there was no time to get things how we like it. Basically around midday yesterday I filled our diesel van up with sixty litres of petrol. Out of everything I’ve done I think that’s probably one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done, but this is it, this is festival shit. This is also what happens when you leave four boys in a van without a fucking tour manager. We were driving for about two minutes and it kept shuddering and lurching back and forth and we were like, ‘This does not sound healthy, there’s something wrong with it.’ Then one of the boys said, ‘Has someone put petrol in there instead of diesel?’ Then it just dawned on me. I was like, ‘What the fuck? Oh my god! Stop the van.’ It was like, ‘Oh my god we’re not going to make the fucking festival.’ But we did, with twenty minutes to spare. Pointless story is: festivals are really challenging because you never get to take your time and relax, it’s always on edge. But you do get, like at Isle of Wight, you start off with half a full tent and by the end of the set you finish off with a kind of full tent. Especially on that stage as well, and generally the whole festival, everyone seemed to be super into music rather than some other festivals where people go and listen to music on the side. I think festival crowds are more up for it, they’re up for trying new things. You can play to a lot of people and not be particularly well known, if people walk past you and they like what they hear then they’re more inclined to walk into a tent and check out a band rather than buying a ticket to a standalone show.

Your sound is very euphoric and is often described as stadium rock anthems, has that always been the case or did things start off a bit differently?

Matt: When you start off young you usually start off doing covers and then it works into your own stuff. It was a lot more indie and it was a lot more derivative of bands when we first started. You could probably watch us and think that’s like Bombay Bicycle Club, Two Door Cinema Club, Bloc Party and all this stuff. It’s definitely something that’s developed. Early on it was me writing the songs primarily but then telling everyone what to do, now everyone’s got their own stamp on things and it’s more of a rounded rock sound. We did go through a period about two years ago before The Amazons started, this was before Joe joined the band, we were really into electronic music and we were really into trap and hip hop so we had a go at that, I guess that was a bit of a change of sound. We were doing everything on laptops but using really bad software and it was more because we felt this was how you get popular, we thought we were cutting a corner to success. That’s what it always felt like, this is what’s popular at the moment, this is the sound and we need to keep up with the sound of the moment, we can’t just do things because we love it, we have to stay on top of it and we have to be relevant and all this shit. It all fell down when we met Joe. We tried to get him playing to a click track, but that didn’t work, that guy does not want to be told what to do, he just wants to do his own thing, so that was the first hurdle that we weren’t going to do electronic music. Second, I went to see Foals at Ally Pally and Cage The Elephant were supporting them. We ran in just as Cage The Elephant were starting, there was loads of space in the crowd so we got quite near the front and I was just bowled over. I hadn’t listened to a rock band or a guitar band for a year or so, I’d just been going to house raves and seeing Bondax and I was getting goosebumps watching five guys on a stage, the relationship between every member of the band, their unbelievable personality and how unpredictable and spontaneous the frontman was, he had so much charisma. I’d known about the band but I’d never seen them live and I walked away thinking, ‘Fuck, what are we doing? We need to be a band again.’ Because we were originally a rock band and that’s way more exciting than going to a rave and seeing a guy on a laptop. So in terms of sound it was a journey. We had to go back to what we were into in the beginning just to find out who we were. We needed to go away and do something that wasn’t really us before we knew what we wanted to do. Rant over. Mic dropped [laughs].

And to wrap things up, if you could only listen to three albums for the rest of your life what would they be?

Matt: Oh my god. Ok, number one would be Arcade Fire – The Suburbs. It’s got fifteen songs on it, it’s really good and it’s probably my favourite Arcade Fire album. Listening to it all the way through and now after making an album you realise how difficult it is to create that world. With The Suburbs it’s really got a theme that runs throughout the whole album and that blows my mind because it’s just so hard to do that and not sound contrived. Number two… lets go for Pink Floyd – Dark Side Of The Moon. That’s one of the albums my dad introduced me to really, really young. I rediscovered it three or four years ago on my own, and it makes a difference when you discover stuff that hasn’t been shown to you by your parents, it became a bit more mine. I really like that album, it’s just a great album. Third one, we’ll go with The Beatles – The White Album just because it’s got shit loads of songs on it. I’m thinking I need loads and loads of different songs, and to be fair by the time The Beatles were doing this White Album they were hardly writing together anymore, it was very much Lennon would bring songs in, George Harrison would bring songs in on his own and Paul McCartney, so there’s definitely lots of songs and lots of variety. Right those are my three!

 

Check out The Amazons new single ’Nightdriving’ below and you can buy their EP ’Don’t You Wanna’ via iTunes.
For more info on the band head to www.fucktheamazons.tumblr.com
For tickets to Standon Calling this 29th - 31st July visit www.standon-calling.com

Words by Shannon Cotton
@shancotton

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