With three top 10 albums under their belt, The Amazons are hardly a little-known band. They launched into their UK tour How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me at the beginning of October and I managed to catch frontman Matt Thomson and guitarist Chris Alderton at their Southampton concert to chat about their new album release, mandolins and the meaning of genre.
Jasmine : So we’ve actually reviewed you guys before, at the O2 Bournementh gig that you did in 2019.
Matt Thomson (frontman) : Ancient history dude, oh my God,
J: You have grown since then how does it feel to have an album that’s fifth in the charts? Congratulations also!
M: Thank you. Well, we definitely gave our pound of flesh, so probably vindicated actually.
Chris Alderton (guitarist): Yeah, it’s kind of relief.
M: Because it was quite the week to release it in. I don’t know if we could have timed it worse.
J: Yeah, I actually had a question about that. Like, how did you find releasing the album given the way recent events collided with the release? Obviously, it’s such a uniquely difficult situation.
M: So it was Thursday and it was the day, the evening that the Queen died. And of course, our phones were starting to get, you know, WhatsApps like oh I reckon the Queen’s died, its like Hugh Edwards is in all black on BBC News and the Queen is ill. And we were like oh, sh*t, this is probably going to happen at some point. So lots of calls and then, calls her dead, and we had to like pull a launch party. And then there was just honestly, the main emotion was just like total uncertainty about what the hell was gonna happen. And so we were gonna play on the Friday at Resident, a record store in Brighton. And it was like, is that gonna happen? And it did but, you know, we had our song pulled off the radio, like everyone did, like, had all of our billboards and our adverts pulled, like everyone did. And basically our record label was like, we have to kind of cool off on marketing the record for the next few days and we were like yeah, I mean, we’re in the same boat as everyone. But I don’t know, we put a statement out and just said, listen, if we promote this record, it’s not out of disrespect, it’s just this is our life. And I think we’re just humbled and so thankful for our audience, just responding to the music, seeing something that connected with them in music and going out and buying physical records, that’s like a really special thing. I think. So yeah, it was it was an incredible learning experience.
C: We really put our discord to work on that
M: [laughs]Yeah it was absolute meme central that week
J: I heard about your instore vinyl promoting and your use of the mandolin, which I thought was so interesting. How did that come about?
C: Oh, yeah. I got a mandolin for Future Dust [second album]. I got it maybe a week before we went into the studio with Catherine in Wales. And it was an instrument my, honestly, just my dad likes it. He wanted me to learn one. And I said, if you buy me one, I’ll learn one, because I’m not going to fork out for that [laughs]and I haven’t really learnt it, I play it like a guitar. I just kind of put my fingers on it until it sounds good. But you know, me and Matt have been doing acoustic sessions since this band started and it’s always been a bit of a challenge to kind of have the lead parts in our songs, which usually play a pretty big part, to properly stick out. So the mandolin is tuned very, very high so everything just kind of pokes through a lot easier and it sounds pretty when it’s all together.
M: Really it’s just different, I love it. It kind of awakes some deeply Celtic yearning in the bottom of our bellies.
J: I understand that you’ve wrote some of the album long distance with your girlfriend during lockdown. Do you think this makes the album kind of more personal to you? Do you have a different outlook on it than your other albums?
M: Yeah, I honestly think this was the first time lyrically that I had, like a subject to really dig into over multiple songs. There’s almost like a scattergun approach on the last couple of records but this one, it definitely was a big enough task or a big enough component, a big enough effect on my life that I needed to just attack it from a lot of different angles. And it was just it was just easier because I felt like the songs were like a means of expressing myself and giving me a little bit of power in like a quite a powerless situation. You know, it’s like months go by and there’s international travel bans. Like I mean, most people couldn’t even leave their streets so songs were definitely a means for me to express myself but also just a means to communicate with that person. Just to kind of create something extra rather than just WhatsApp messages or letters or FaceTimes or stuff.
J: That’s really nice. I thought that was really interesting.
M: Well, yeah, but the best stuff just comes naturally, it’s just something that you feel compelled to do, rather than like, it being a nice gesture or like, or like tokening, do you know what I mean? It’s not like a token, or it’s not just like a gesture, it was just like something that I had to do, like create a rhythm to just pass the f***ing time, do you know what I mean? Just make sense of the situation because it was just sh*t, the whole thing was sh*t, like the last couple years have been sh*t. If you can create some kind of art out of it or express yourself that you can kind of frame it in a more romantic way, which kind of gets you through the slightly more mundane and like difficult months. If you have like this wider, more encompassing kind of goal out of it.
C: I mean, just coming out the end of it with something
M: Yeah, exactly. Something to show for it
C: Most people could you know, were on furlough and could pretty much carry on working? A lot of people couldn’t and I think, what else are we going to do?
J: So there’s a lot of labels floating around about what your genre is so like, indie, alternative, Britpop, punk, how would you define yourself?
M: Oooh, alternative
C: I’d take Britpop off that list.
M: I’d put punk at the top of that list [laughs], no we’re not punk. No, no, not really for us to decide. It’s fun to hear other people do it.
C: Yeah, I think I like alternative though. That’s the slot I look at if I’m on Spotify,
M: Right. And you think about like, there’s so much in alternative, so much. And I think pop and kind of mainstream world it’s just so dominating at the moment that I think people really want an alternative. And I think that’s why bands who are a little bit more discordant, like Fontaines D.C. or IDLES or whoever provide a f***ing alternative.
C: Yeah, true
J: So to do with the labels, the media kind of groups bands together, like you just said like alternative, punk and stuff like that. Do you think that’s healthy because it helps you and each other grow? Or do you think it makes it hard to stand out?
M: Its a great question. I don’t get the whole like, genre sucks dude. Like, what are you? The expectation of human nature is extremely high if you think we can get to genreless position
C: I don’t know. I think it depends what your point of view is on it if you see it as like a label and people putting you in a box, man. Yeah, then we’re like, whatever, I guess.
M: That is sh*t
C: I think it’s just a tool for people to discover new music. It’s like, oh, you like punk music? Yeah, here’s some other punk bands like I think it’s, it’s less of a label and more of a way of being able to explore new music
M: You can’t complain about the end of music tribalism and how like everything is homogenized and just boring and similar, and then kind of have it off with genre, I think they kind of are the same. It’s, you know, like your modern rockers or like the punks and stuff. It’s [like]punk is not just a genre of music, but it’s like a lifestyle as well. That’s what I think it can be quite powerful in terms of counter culture.
C: I think it’s quite fun. Like, if you’re talking to someone and you’re like oh what kind of music do you like? If someone goes like, I like a bit of everything, it’s just like, boring! Tell me like what you actually like. I think that’s, again, it’s just a it’s just a tool for communicating
M: Its just a fricking tool! Jesus it’s just a fricking label dude, and you know, whatever, who gives a sh*t
J: You also have a partnership with BBC Music Introducing. How do you find that, do you see it as giving back because you were once in that position, and now you’re helping other people get known?
M: Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of a thrill for us really, it’s kind of giving us something because we get to see all these acts that we’ve discovered over the last couple of years and we get to see them live. I don’t like the idea of bands getting to a position and then just pulling up the ladder, f*** that, that’s just not what it’s about, it’s supposed to be like, especially now more than ever, it’s not easy to be in a band. It’s not easy to be a musician in such a kind of an inhospitable environment that is the UK in 2022. There’s plenty of space. And I think, yeah, whatever we can do to just give these acts a platform, basically. But it’s fun, I really love meeting these bands in their hometown. They just give it you know, just kill it, but it’s new, we get to see someone new every day.
C: It’s been a real win-win I think. We get the opportunity to put these bands on and they get to play these pretty big venues. And we not only have discovered a bunch of these bands that we really like, genuinely I really mean that but yeah, we get to see them play live.
J: Yeah, I mean, I’m excited to see Coach Party tonight, I think they sound really good.
M: F*** yeah, they’re cool as f***
J: And then finally, new tour, new album, but I’ve got to ask- what is next for you guys?
M: Christmas song, next year. It’s really good. I’m excited as well. We’re just kind of fine tuning it and getting the lyrics right, but it sounds pretty damn good. Just gonna work out how we’re gonna do it.
J: That’s good. I don’t think there’s enough punk Christmas songs
M: [laughs]It won’t be that punk. No, it sounds like I don’t know. It sounds like, we love that song Two Thousand Miles by The Pretenders. That’s what we’re going for, our kind of take on that.