Alternative London based band Amber Leaves prove somewhat hard to define with their illusive indie and dance-pop. The group came together as outcasts from Leeds University to formulate innovative rock-pop, which stretches towards the orchestral. Now signed to Musical Fruit Records, Amber Leaves had a chat to Gigslutz in the run up to the band’s new single release ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’….
How did Amber Leaves come together at Leeds Met University?
Chesney: Four of us – Jake, Josh, Seb and I – met in our first year at Leeds Met (now Leeds Beckett). We were all studying Music courses, became really tight mates and used to jam and sit around getting loose making tracks on dodgy versions of logic when we weren’t at lectures. When I needed some guys to put a band together for my solo stuff down in London, the guys were the first port of call. We met Jay in a blues bar through some mutual friends in Soho. He came along to a practice and we never looked back.
With a diverse and often orchestral sound ranging from pop to jazz and funk – which artists do Amber Leaves take most musical influence from?
Josh: We’re all really into that kind of neo-soul stuff that’s smashing about these days; artists like Haitus Coyote and Thundercat. Bands like Blur and Tame Impala have had a big influence on our sound too. We take a lot of our songwriting and arrangement influence from artists and labels from years gone by like Michael Jackson, Motown, Roy Ayers. Anything with soul and feeling that gets your hairs standing on end.
Vocalist Chesney Jefferson, you have described making music as “more like a necessity than a choice”. What is so crucial about creating music for you? Why do you feel such a strong attachment to formulating art?
C: I’ve always had this urge to write music and try to understand how other artists make these beautiful songs that captivate me and leave such a big mark on me. It’s like the ultimate game. I’ll be walking around or driving somewhere, get this melody or riff in my head and have to get it out. If I can’t get to an instrument or my computer, I’ll walk down the street with my phone out humming and beat-boxing into it to try and develop the idea before I can get it out properly. The guys are all the same too – we’re always playing catch up with songwriting because there’s so many new ideas floating about.
Are Amber Leaves excited for the release of their new single ‘This Ain’t A Love Song’? Have you been happy with the responses so far?
Jake: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to the release. I personally think it’s a great single to come off the back of ‘Heaven’. ‘Heaven’ appealed to a wider audience but ‘Love Song’ is a bit more particular in taste. It’s a solid showcase of our songwriting ability and diversity. I really like the way it takes you on a journey as the song progresses – for me, the last section of the song sends shivers up my spine every time I hear it. I’ve been really happy with the feedback we’ve had. There’s been a lot of positive reviews, but also lots of honest critiquing which is important for us to hear as we develop our sound.
‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ has been described as outreaching indie to orchestral pop, and even as playful innovation with the hip-hop beat. But how do Amber Leaves themselves describe the release?
Seb: For me personally it’s like a heartfelt funk tune crafted into a pop standard.
Jay: I guess it’s got a lot of funk in it but it’s quite floaty and soulful with a dilla-esque hip hop undertone. It’s quite hard to pin down because there’s a lot of different styles in the mixing pot.
As with your previous release ‘Heaven’ the new single was mixed with Grammy award winner Mandy Parnell (of works with Aphex Twin and Bjork), what was it like to work with such an acclaimed mastering engineer?
Josh: It was great to work with someone who’s worked with so many of your influences and such acclaimed artists. Her advice and outlook was invaluable, she’s got a great insight into the industry and we’re lucky to have been able to tap in to that.
What’s next for the inventive Amber Leaves? Could we see a debut album eventually in the pipe-line? And where can we catch your diverse sound live?
Jay: We’re working up to an album, but I think it’s important for us to learn to walk before we run. Our sound has evolved a lot since we recorded our first three singles back in April. There’s a lot more hip hop coming through now and we’re getting more electronics involved. Sadly we’ve not got any gigs lined up. We just played a show at The Borderline on Saturday 10 October which was amazing, but we’re going to start experimenting with new gear and pushing our boundaries. We’re planning a tour in early 2016 with The Buffalo Cartel who we’ve gigged with a few times and really love what they’re doing.
Huge thanks to Amber Leaves for answering our questions!
‘This Ain’t A Love Song’ is out today, 16 October.