Art & Culture News Reviews

Interview: Amber Run redefine Indie Rock as they crossover to the US

The guys in Amber Run are the kind of people you feel like you’ve known for a while when you meet them. Three charming musicians walk in to the Music Hall of Williamsburg green room and our conversation instantly took a lighthearted approach as the guys informed me about Meatloaf and Fight Club. As we dove in to the conversation, I was reminded that to anyone just discovering Amber Run it may seem like they’re an up and coming act emerging on to the scene about to release their first full length record. The band currently has two full length records out and recently released their latest single Carousel via Easy Life Records. The trio spent the first of half of December embarking on their first North American tour dates. The tour hit key cities and hosted several sold out dates. Quite a remarkable feat for a band that has never even played a show here. Skipping the step of being an opener on a U.S. tour to a successful headlining run should be a key indicator that Amber Run is the real deal.

The band has sold over 24,000 headlining tickets back at home. As the success has started to trickle over into new territories the guys are staying focused and humbled as they look back on their recent past of playing to empty rooms and working on being the best musicians they could be. “We spent a long time in the UK touring, but we still remember that it wasn’t that long ago, we were playing to no one. We got gradually bigger each time we went back to a city. We’re in a really lucky situation now after years of hard work and releasing music that we can come here and get some sold out shows. I think it will be the same as it was in the UK, but the more we come back, the more the people see the show, the more that people see what we’re all about, which is playing live, the more people will come. Which is what I genuinely believe.” lead singer, Joe Keogh explains. The band has played to empty rooms more than a couple of times, but their dedication to touring and refining their live set has allowed them to double their crowds with each new batch of shows.

Their hard work has so far paid off, but bassist Tom recalls a show that was less than great and helps them put their current position in to perspective. “There’s a really distinct gig that I think we’ll always remember. It was the Leeds cockpit and it was the top floor. It’s an iconic venue and we had one of our mates from university going on the guest list and our manager drove us there. This must have been our third fourth fifth maybe sixth show and we fully played to just our manager and the guy we brought on our guest list. There was literally no person in the audience. The sound guy even said that there was another band on downstairs that he wanted to see and because no one was in the room he was like ‘do you mind if I just go and watch them instead’. We were supporting a band there it’s not the end of the world and these things happen. Our first tour we were playing maybe 100 cap venues. We sold out a 100 cap, but maybe regionally in 100 cap venues playing to 40-60 people. You’d go back and the next time you play to 150 people. It just took work and going back.”

Being cognizant of their past struggles and current achievements, has presented the band with a new attitude as they face the next era of their career. Their dark and moody second record, For A Moment, I Was Lost, was a representation of the defining moments they were experiencing at the time. With a recently departed drummer and navigating the tumultuous industry, they were pouring their emotions into a sophomore release. “The moments we’re in definitely influence the record. That’s why the second record is quite dark and addresses the state of mind that we were all in.” Tommy explained about the record.

That second release was a significant turning point as they transitioned from a major label deal to an indie label where they were more “in control” of their work. Joe properly expresses the purpose of everything happening as it should, “I would never trash talk that [major] label. We were lucky that they picked us up and had the confidence to think that we are good at what we do. There was some mis-management at points. So to go from that and do it on an indie label and have total control of what we did was super refreshing. We weren’t feeling that passionate about stuff at the time. To be able to take back control of your child was really refreshing and gave us some context to be able to enjoy this period, the here and now. You know, the work and playing to no one. Even though we kept on moving up, we felt like we were moving down. Now looking back with hindsight, it has informed this period. What we do now is the best stuff we have ever done and that feels really refreshing.”

That refreshing new feeling began with their latest single Carousel. They worked with Ben Allen on the song and wrote it in their current home of Brighton. The single has been perceived as a love song by many, but actually holds a special place in the band’s heart about a friend dealing with addiction. “I’ve seen some media outlets write about it as if it’s a love song. I think it’s funny because it’s not that at all. It was about a dear friend of ours that has an addiction and I don’t think they know that they have it. We worked for a long time with our collaborator, Ben Allen, who is our front of house as well…It felt like coming home recording that single. We were writing for a really long time and to go [back] in to the studio was just fun.”

Such a sensitive topic produced a body of work that allowed the guys in Amber Run to push past their comfort zones and find the passion driven enjoyment behind creating a piece of art that is both personal and creatively challenging. “Playing weird old instruments that barely work is fun. I think what we came out with was great. We go through moods and sometimes we can be quite light and airy. Sometimes we can be quite hard-nosed and intense. It feels quite nice that we went with the periphery in that way. If you just recorded the same song every time it would be pretty dull for us and probably for the people that listen as well.”

With this new chapter of their career continuing on, the Amber Run guys are fully embracing their new supporters. As the faces of their fanbase change, they find comfort in the similarities of day-to-day life on the road. “It’s also kind of funny. I think we tour Europe and the UK so [often] people know what to expect from an Amber Run show. I’ve had people say, ‘I was expecting a lot, but your live show is so good’ and I was like ‘thanks’ but it’s just so weird. We were talking about it earlier. It’s crazy to be in these new cities, but the venues all kind of look the same, the set is the same, the crew you have on the road is the same and so it doesn’t feel that different. When we go out and we get food and we walk around that’s when it feels crazy. When we come in to the show, for us it just feels kind of normal, so it is just really interesting how people have different experiences having not seen it or having not heard about it. It’s quite nice to start again in some way.”

As they start again in a completely different market one thing remains the same, everyone is there to revel in Amber Run’s artistry and pure talent on stage. Expressing this awe in different ways, Tom confirmed the one key difference between American and UK fans, “I feel like Americans are more than English people, outgoing. British fans are reserved. There’s a lot more screaming. I don’t know if it’s because it’s the first time we’ve been over here, so no one has any idea what to expect in person. You go on stage and there’s certainly more screaming than what I remember from British crowds.”

It’s just about dedication to the cause. If you think what you’re doing is good you to and put everything in to a show. Even if it’s twenty people. Not like it’s Wembley, come on be real, but play the songs well and enjoy yourselves and people will come back. 

Not ones to rush anything, Amber Run are enjoying the process. “The dream is that you start a band and are already playing arenas. But it doesn’t work like that. I think anyone that does go straight to really big venues then like they obviously are doing something right and I am in no position to tell them otherwise. But I feel like you miss the reward of playing big shows if you don’t know the reality of what it’s like to play shows like that” Joe stated. Their honest and endearing views about the industry, fans, and creativity are just one indicator of their clear vision. This is the kind of band that you want to take over the world and tour at the stadium level like Coldplay. They’re engaging listeners with more than just a catchy tune.

Amber Run are completely passionate individuals that have put together a special experience for anyone willing to listen. “We’re going to do our absolute best to come back to America. We love America. We’d love to go see some new cities and meet some new people. People have been flying from all over the place to see our shows. It’s a pleasure. We’ll put in the work too and go see them if they want to see us. It’s difficult for independent music acts. The best way for people that want to see Amber Run to see Amber Run is to buy tickets to a show. We want to come back, help us come back.”

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