Nottingham band Amber Run, formed in 2012, have released an album and 3 EPs in the last 5 years, and are set to release a fourth EP this year. They all quit their Humanities and Law university studies in their second year to focus on the band, a decision which has clearly paid off – their fourth show was on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading Festival in 2013 and they signed to RCA Records just a few weeks later. I talked with singer and guitarist Joe Keogh about inspirations, their upcoming EP, and why he wants a gold encrusted chamber pot on his rider.
What inspired you guys to make an acoustic EP?
Honestly, I think it’s the challenge of it, we haven’t made anything like it before and I think we were really scared of being seen as folk and we wanted to run away from that. For us, it was just a real challenge, a different way of making music – it was just kind of fun!
What was the most difficult thing about making it?
You can hide behind the bells and whistles when you’re doing a track normally, so it was trying to get really great performances of just the acoustic instruments, without trying to ham it up or… yeah, I think it’s just trying to get really great vocal performances out of me and instrumental performances from Will, Tom, Henry, and myself as well.
Why did you not want to be seen as a folk band?
I think we were just young, there were things that we thought were cool and there were things that we wanted to be and we dreamt of being as kids. Early on in our careers, we got pigeon holed into folk. I have nothing against folk, it’s really beautiful music and there are some unbelievable musicians there, but we just didn’t want to be there, we hid away from what we could do in that kind of genre. Looking back now, it all just seems a bit stupid, we were just a bit younger, but that’s how we felt at the time. Now we can go on and see that, come back and do some other stuff, it’s exciting!
What brought you together as a band?
Tom, Will and I went to school together, did music, went out to the same shows and Henry joined when we went to university, he was the same as us, just a kindred spirit. We just enjoyed writing music together, I’d much rather be doing this than anything else, and I’m just glad we had an opportunity and the drive and ambition to do something really great.
What’s your favourite venue to play, and your favourite song to perform?
‘No Answers’ is my new favourite song to perform because it’s just super heavy and just has the balls that make it a wicked rock song to play live. Favourite venue… I really love playing Rescue Rooms in Nottingham because that’s where I used to watch other bands which would make me want to do it, so I love playing that venue. Koko in London is a beautiful venue, The Roundhouse is also beautiful. For some reason I just really love The Academy in Bristol, I think it’s a beautiful venue, I’m not going to badmouth them, but some [O2] academies can be quite soulless but this one is really cool, I really like it.
Who inspires you as a band?
Oh, there are some unbelievable musicians out there, there are some people who I really respect. We could sit here and chew the fat about people who are great all day, but I’ll just give you a few – I love the band The National, I think they’re unbelievable, obviously Radiohead because the way they go about making music is inspiring and not how anyone else does it. Singers like Nina Simone, the way that she sings makes you feel her pain, feel her joy as she sings and feels it herself – the ability to perform like that is really inspiring. There’s such good music out there, I’m not a big believer in just listening to one style of music because how would you get better, how would you get a different perspective if you don’t engage with any music?
If you weren’t in a band what would you be doing?
Probably a chef, I like food! I think I just like being stressed out… But fuck it, I’ll be a chef.
What’s your favourite thing to make?
I dunno… Just pizza, innit? Nah I’m kidding, I just love eating really great food, I can’t pick one dish. It’ll probably have to be some kind of really homey food because you don’t want asparagus wrapped in Spanish ham on a cold winter night, do you? But you can deal with a pie and chips in the middle of the summer.
What’s your favourite part about shows?
Just that instant gratification where you walk out and everyone goes mental, and they sing every word. Our European tour will be in places where we’ve never been before and they’ve already started selling out, they’re going to be singing the words to our songs… That’s just really exciting.
If you could have anything on your rider, what would it be?
Something extravagant and totally unneeded that’s ridiculously expensive, which I’ll use once and then just leave.
Like the Queen needing a new toilet wherever she goes?
Yeah! Why not that: a potty. A gold encrusted potty- chamber pot! At least it has a purpose! Or, I really love mozzarella, I want six balls of fat mozzarella thrown in from Naples which I’ll eat like an apple.
Are you nervous about the fan reaction to the EP?
Not particularly, and I don’t mean this as in “I don’t care” what the fans think, I really do care, but if that was how we went around making our music, second guessing if people would like it, then I don’t think the music would be very good. I think that we first and foremost when we release music have an obligation to challenge, inspire, excite ourselves, and if we do that then I think we’ve got a better chance of challenging, inspiring and exciting the people listening to the music. We don’t want to sound like One Direction and every pop star out there! What they’ve done is unbelievable and fair play, but we don’t need another one. I’d rather be the kind of musician that challenges; pop stars like that, the way they’re written, they’re done so you feel like you’ve heard them before and you fall in love with them straight away. I’d rather push forward and try to do something new than try to appeal to the base level of music instincts that other people have.
What’s next for you after the EP?
We’re going to do another album, going to do some more stuff, we’re just going to keep on moving forward and try to do exciting things. I try not to think about it and plan too much because often the most powerful and exciting things come out of the woodwork, and then you’ve just got to jump on that wave and run with it. Obviously there are moments for it, but when you’re starting an album, just see where it takes you for a little bit and see where you end up, because there’s already so much pressure to sell more records, sell more tickets, so why would you put the same pressure you have there into writing music, which is meant to be one of the most fun parts of it? Writing music and playing shows are the fun part of being in a band!
Tickets for Amber Run’s tour are available here – check out ‘No Answers’ from their latest album, For A Moment, I Was Lost, below: