Interview Exclusive: Amber Run

Amber Run

Words: Leander Hobbs

The haunting voice of Joe Keogh is somewhat subdued as we exchange pleasantries on an uncommonly warm day at the beginning of August 2017. I am here to discuss Amber Run’s forthcoming digital EP release and UK tour, including an appearance at Hanger 34, Liverpool on 8 October 2017. What I really want to discuss however is how a band that has only been performing together since 2014, yet has already seen both a change in record company and various band members, keeps on moving forward musically and delivering such stunning albums as For a Moment I was Lost (released February 2017)?

“I just don’t think change is something that stops momentum” explains Joe “if you didn’t have change then you wouldn’t have a new feeling in the camp or a new approach to what you’re doing or even a new way of attacking the same problems you’ve had before. So, you know I think change actually enables creativity and momentum because you have to engage with it and it’s not just the same routine.”

Following the same routine is certainly an anathema for Amber Run if their music is anything to go by with two very distinct albums, several EPs and a new acoustic EP that looks set yet again to break the mould when it’s released later this year.

“We left RCA records, our first record label after one album and three EPs because we didn’t quite make them enough money to make it relevant to go forward, which I guess is the by-product of the situation the music industry is in right now. But it was also a good opportunity for us to think about what we wanted to achieve with the band. We’ve always thought of ourselves as a wicked live band so we wanted to replicate that live atmosphere in For a Moment I was Lost. We were lucky with our second and current label, Easy Life records that they shared our vision and were willing to work with us to get it right. So that’s the change in sound, a move towards replicating that live feeling.”

Is the new acoustic EP then just another natural step in this process of bringing live music to the recorded environment?

“The new EP isn’t moving further or closer to any particular sound we want to create it’s just a new and interesting challenge. Our next record, based on the all the writing we’ve done so far and the ideas we have had for it is going to sound different again. It’s really important for us to try and keep doing things differently, it’s what helps you to get better, trying different ways and different approaches.”

There is no doubt that live music is important to both Joe and the band at large but Amber Run gained notoriety early on not for its live performances but for its streaming via You Tube. It’s undeniable that in the last decade social media has increasingly been responsible for the launch of some important new artists, artists that like Amber Run have gone on to be great live performers. Joe has a theory why that may be.

“For me live music is the best sort of music. The live music scene though is oversaturated at the moment and with so many bands touring for such a long time it does make it difficult for newer bands to get people to come along and create the kind of buzz that they need to get a shot. So, it’s important that you work at everything you do, including your live performances, but also your merchandise and of course your social media presence so that something sticks and everything is of quality. Often it is in the most unexpected places, like You Tube, that you get your greatest traction.

“That said, live music will outlive us all, it’s been around for thousands of years and people will always love it so if you’re good at it and really work at your craft then live work can be a huge advantage to new bands coming through.”

Joe has in the past used social media as a way of engaging with Amber Run’s growing fan base. More recently however this has slowed. As they become a bigger live band then has social media stopped being so important to Amber Run?

“Social media is not something I engage with myself as much anymore to be honest. For me it has stopped being such a positive experience for interacting with our fans and become more about ego and in fact has been quite damaging to my mental health on some occasions if I am being totally honest. Having a platform where you are expected to give away so much of yourself can be really stressful for young people and I think social media has really had a negative effect on the way young people see themselves and other people. I believe it is definitely adding to the growing mental health problems we are facing as a society.”

Joe has often spoke candidly about his struggle with depression and titles like For a Moment I was Lost point to a darker side to Amber Run’s populist image. Does Joe at least find solace in the music?

“I am lucky in that I have found comfort and distraction in music in the past and that has helped me to deal with anxiety and depression at times in my life. Then at other times I have not wanted to do music at all, in fact I have fucking hated it; it was nothing but pain for me, it became a game that I had to win at all costs and so I have had to face it in a different way. People deal with stress in different ways and some not at all and that’s when it can get dangerous.”

I guess we are all lost sometimes, for Joe Keogh it was only for a moment.

“We are back out on tour and loving the music again” Joe is relieved to say, “and that’s where we will be hopefully for the next 12 months, that’s all we can wish for.”

 

Alaska is released on September 21st.
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