INTERVIEW: The Amazons

Having made a name for themselves with tracks such as ‘Junk Food Forever’ and ‘Nightdriving’ and also a support slot with The Kooks, Reading’s The Amazons are soon to be a band that you’ll be hearing a lot about. With a stuck dressing room door leaving us trapped inside with the band for a while, Gigslutz caught up with your new favourite band.

The band became The Amazons as we know today back in the summer of 2014 when drummer Joe Emmett gave them a message to see if they wanted him to join. “We auditioned eight drummers, you were the best though!”, frontman Matt Thompson laughs. “We played some crappy gigs under another name which we don’t want to admit. We settled on the name The Amazons back in September 2014 and played our first gig soon after. We need a more interesting story, it’s so boring!”

Coming from Reading, the hometown of the likes of Slowdive, Chapterhouse and more recently Sundara Karma and Haze, they’re are quick to rubbish any beginning of a ‘Reading scene’. “There are a few bands that are coming from Reading but I don’t know if it’s just a media thing and they want to say there’s some massive scene happening. We don’t really want to put a magnifying glass over it like that! It’s way too early for some of the bands to be even put in magazines and that.”

“I think it’s really good that Reading hasn’t coined a ‘B-Town’ style name,” Matt continues. “‘B-Town’ is catchy, but ‘R-Town’ wouldn’t be and it wouldn’t be valid! There hasn’t been one person that’s created this by just booking loads of bands. Instead, the bands have actually had to come together to put on their own nights. It’s happened by bands getting off their arses and doing something!”

“There wasn’t a lot going on in Reading till about 18 months to two years ago. We were thinking ‘we’ve got to make something happen’. It’s kind of cool that it’s actually happened and we’re getting to talk about it now!”

Though the music coming out of Reading may not be part of a huge town-wide scene, all the bands are helping each other out to get them all where they want to be. “We’re all mates! Everyone knows each other,” Joe begins before Chris adds. “I’m mixing and doing some stuff for Kaldera and Haze.” Joe continues, “Haze were in our music video and we always do shows together! It’s not like we’re incubated in Reading though, every band is ambitious to do their own thing.”

Matt jumps in, “Palm Honey for example, I know where they want to go because I’m such good friends with their manager and we talk about it all the time. It’s the same with Sundara [Karma]! There’s not much competition between us either, there may have been at the start but now we’ve all settled, we know what we’re all wanting to do.”

Not being from one of the major UK cities hasn’t hindered them at all, and have even seen it working in their favour. “It’s more interesting!”, begins Matt. “If you’re from somewhere like Manchester, you just get ‘oh, so and so are from Manchester’, so you’re already having to fit into some sort of stereotype. With Reading, there’s no assumptions that can be made.”

With no stereotypes to follow, The Amazons are free to make music as they please and over the past two years, they’ve evolved to make the exact music they want instead of what’s expected.

“We’ve got a lot heavier,” they explain. “We’ve been doing an album over the summer and there’s so many different sides to the beast! We’ve gone more melodic so there’s not just four-piece band songs. There’s pianos involved; there’s ballads, tearjerkers, Joe Strummer’s glockenspiel and we’ve done more acoustic stuff! It’s how we listen to music as we don’t just listen to one type.”

“It’s an eclectic mix!” Joe adds. “With ‘Junk Food Forever’ and ‘Ultraviolet’, we kept getting described as an indie rock band, but now we’re definitely nearer the rock side. It’s darker and heavier.” Though their new heavier outlook wasn’t something they aimed for as Matt adds, “We’ve naturally evolved! If you’re after something, it’s going to sound shit. If we tried to write a big rock song, it would sound pretty contrived and rubbish. It’s just all about what turns you on in rehearsal!”

Not being afraid to go where the music takes them brought the band to the attention of Fiction Records. With the likes of Tame Impala, The Maccabees and Death From Above 1979 on their roster, the label would be appealing to anyone, but especially for The Amazons it was the exact thing they were after.

“We went in and met the team, and there was such a family feel to it! They’re a relatively small team, so it feels like its an independent label on a major. They’ve got some massive bands though, so for us that felt like the best fit! We didn’t want to get lost.”

Joe continues, “We still have so much creative control to do what we want to do, there’s not too many people telling us. Instead they help facilitate.” Being on the road and constantly working on their sound helped the band get to a place that was appealing to Fiction as well, as Matt explains. “I think we have creative control because we share the same ambition as the label. They looked at us basically fully formed and liked that, instead of watching us and thinking ‘it’d be cool if they did this, this and this’, and then signed us. There was no artist development really!”

Their most recent single, ‘Nightdriving’, was released through Fiction back in May but was a track that’d been there since the beginning. “It was a song we first started when in a previous band when we were 18, so most of the work was already done but it just never went away,” Matt says. “We arranged [the drums] with Joe and then we got Catherine Marks, our producer, to work on it. She got really excited about it, which made us get exciting again!”

“As we did most of it when we were quite young, we brought it up to speed and made it sound so much better from the original demos. It’s got such a strong chorus so we didn’t want to waste it. Some songs you just want to get them out there, even if they might not reflect where you are musically at the moment. It would’ve been a shame to not have it out.”

‘Nightdriving’ may not reflect them currently, but their debut album which is in the works now will. Though they joke it will never be released, likening it to the “end of Indiana Jones when they put him in the crate and wheel it off” with the other albums that never made it, they do share that it will be out some time next year.

“We’ve got a couple more singles to release first,” they explain. “We still need to create some further interest before we release an album! We do have a single out in September though, we’re in the middle of trying to make a video, do the artwork and all the other stuff, whilst touring, doing festivals and mixing the album.”

They may be hectic at the moment, but they still give their full attention to every show they play at this year’s festivals. Though already hailing Truck as their “best festival…ever” with many more to go, Y Not was bound to be up there with the main Big Gin Stage being one of the biggest they’ve played over the summer.

With quite a few festivals in their diaries over the summer, the big decision comes to between which they prefer; gigs or festivals. “I’m fucking sick of them to be honest!”, Matt begins jokingly before worrying about his “nonchalant comment” not coming across. He continues, after a brief cool down, “it’s a completely different experience! I love them really, like you get a free pass and you get to see loads of people that you’ve been seeing at the studio, and on tour. You see friends and meet new people like we met Flyte at Standon [Calling] and they’re sick!”

Back on track, talking about his love of festivals, talk turns to their local Reading Festival. “The way we got excited about rock and roll, and when I really thought ‘my god, I really want to do this’ was at festivals. Reading Festival was right on our doorstep. The trajectory of your career in my mind is always about where you are on the line-up. You can easily see the stages of success of being in a band, and that’s so important.”

Being on stage and performing is where The Amazons want to be, whether that be at gigs or festivals. “We’ve practised pretty hard and we’ve always wanted our live shows to be one of our unique selling points,” Joe begins explaining. “We want to be known as a great live band!”

“We want to entertain and not let people leave unsatisfied. We don’t want to be predictable but we want to walk away feeling sweaty and drained. It’s hard when the crowd isn’t on our level. Like at Standon Calling it was just families and dogs, it didn’t have the extra 10% Truck did, but we still try.”

Festivals may be harder for them to put on the high intensity shows they aim for, but with their headline tour just around the corner, things will be soon back on track. “You can actually tell why people come! There’s so much more of a connection, even if it’s just 50 people going mental and singing the words. That’s what they were written for, not just to be listened to in someone’s room.”

Previous shows have seen security guards joining in with the pits and crowd surfing, and coked-up Scottish men jumping on stage shouting “you’re fucking brilliant, I’ll fucking kill you!”, so their upcoming dates are bound to show the same antics and unruliness.

Joining the tour will be Tibet and Hello Operator, who were handpicked by The Amazons to be supports. “It was a pretty painless experience,” Matt explains. “We like to pick the supports ourselves, even the local supports. We get to send suggestions as we don’t know the scenes in all the cities, but it’s so good because we get to go through loads of new music!”

With so much in their diaries over the next couple of months, The Amazons have a lot to look forward to. With promises of more music, a tonne more shows, a European tour in February and the release of their debut record, they still promise themselves more downtime as they continue to reel off their plans. “We’ll go to the pub in between, maybe write some songs if we have time! We’ll start writing the second one just in case, then maybe play some FIFA and level up on Pokemon Go.”

With so much planned, The Amazons is a name you’re going to be seeing around a lot. To get ahead of the hype, make sure you head to a date on their headline tour in October. Tickets can be found here.

Becky Rogers