Reading based quartet The Amazons are most certainly a star on the rise; the band (made up of Matt Thomson, Chris Alderton, Elliot Briggs and Joe Emmet) have been going from strength to strength of late, building up momentum as they head towards the release of their long-awaited self-titled debut album later this month. Having recently appeared on Jools Hollands’ legendary ‘Later With…’ show on BBC2, it’s safe to say that they are attracting love and attention from some of the music world’s most respected characters. BBC Radio 1 have also shown them a great deal of support, awarding most recent single release ‘Junk Food Forever‘ the title of ‘Hottest Record in the World’, and on top of that, the band are set to head to Hull this month to play at their annual ‘Big Weekend’ event. 2017 has already seen unabated touring and the forthcoming Summer months bring promise of a flurry of high-profile festival appearances across the world, followed by yet another gargantuan UK headline tour in October.
Kickstarting festival season in style, the band recently visited the O2 Academy in Leeds as part of Live At Leeds; the venue was packed to the rafters, with the adoring audience hanging on their every word and singing virtually every song back at them. I had the pleasure of chatting with frontman Matt and drummer Joe following their performance; their passion for what they do was immediately evident, as too was their gratitude in finding themselves in the position they are today.
How and when did you first come together as a band?
Matt: 2014 was when we first came together. I met Joe in a pub on the dark side of Reading at the edge of town.
Joe: It’s where the zombies migrate to!
Matt: Oh yeah, they all congregate around there! It’s this pub called The Queens Arms… I actually drove past it the other day and it’s boarded up.
Joe: It’s all part of history now. It’s a bit like that Salford Lads Club!
Matt: It being boarded up now rather than a bustling business is sort of poetic. So yeah, me, Elliot and Chris were doing an acoustic gig there and Joe was playing bass in the band after us called The Lone Poets. We got talking and he could tell that we didn’t have a drummer and that was it, really. We jammed and that was it. We’d auditioned eight or so other drummers before this but Joe was the one who hit us the hardest.
Joe: It was like First Dates.
Matt: It was like First Dates. I think it went really well! We’re still together now.
Joe: We’re pretty much married now!
Matt: With all of the resentment that comes with that! We’d all been in bands on the Reading scene before that and it just never clicked, but it did when Joe joined the band. He was the missing piece of the puzzle!
What are your earliest memories of music?
Joe: My parents who used to play some absolute tosh, but also some really good stuff. They did and still do, have a very eclectic music taste. It ranged from Neil Sedaka to The Beatles to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana… so it was a bit of a weird mix! My earliest memory is of them playing that Beatles album with all of the number ones’, and from a very young age my mum would get all of the pots and pans out and hand me a pair of chopsticks. I’d just tap on them… even though I was probably just bashing the floor!
Matt: That’s one of those few albums where you always know what’s coming next after one song finishes.
Joe: It’s almost chronological.
Matt: I think we’ve got really musical families. Our parents are all from the 70’s and, looking back, the 70’s was probably a very good decade for music. We’ve all got families who are well into music.
Joe: My parents were born in the 60’s but by the time they were old enough to appreciate music, it was into the 70’s. My dad is well into Motown… that was his thing. The first gig my mum ever went to was David Bowie at Earls Court.
Matt: Growing up in my house, my dad was into Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin and then my mum was into Simply Red and Pop stuff. She was well into Elvis Costello and Paul Weller, but more The Style Council. But in terms of my musical awakening, I think you only really get excited about music when you discover it yourself. It was ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ or The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’ that really clicked with me when I heard them on the radio for the first time. My parents didn’t introduce me to it… they didn’t even have any of that at home, so that’s what made my hunger and my thirst for music even bigger. We’re actually playing on the same stage as The Undertones at the Isle of Wight Festival… it’s us, then another band and then them. I’ll definitely be watching them!
You’ve spent a lot of time on the road recently. Is there anywhere that you always particularly look forward to playing when you’re touring, or have had memorable experiences in the past?
Joe: Leeds… every time!
Matt: Leeds… and this has easily been our best performance here.
Joe: It’s the biggest venue we’ve ever played at a multi-venue festival.
Matt: The year before last, we did a few of these kind of festivals and we were very much at the bottom of the pile. We played The Faversham at Live At Leeds in 2015. No one was there and we had a really terrible gig.
Joe: Today is definitely up there as one of my favourite gigs that we’ve ever played.
Matt: It felt good. It can’t get better than seeing all of those people singing our songs. But other places… Reading is always good because it’s our hometown.
Joe: Manchester is always good.
Matt: You all know about guitar music up here!
Joe: That’s the thing about up here. Up North, when you get a band who are from Leeds or Manchester or whatever, everyone rallies around them. But if you’re a band from London, people don’t because there’s just so much going on. Being from Reading, they have really rallied around us. We played our biggest ever headline show there on our last tour.
Matt: It’s taken a while to get Reading to support our band because it’s not really a natural thing. Manchester often has bands come out of it every year or so who they can really support, but not many have really come from Reading so they don’t know what to do… but we’re teaching them slowly! We’re preaching the message! I think Reading is a town without a huge amount of identity because it’s so close to London. It’s a bit of a commuter town, so often people will have their jobs in London but raise their families in Reading. Culturally, it might have suffered a little bit because of that, but we’re doing our best and we’ve made a bit of a scene there. There are obviously bands like Sundara Karma who have come out of Reading as well. They’re good friends of ours, so it’s getting there.
Has anyone in the band got any strange talents or interesting hobbies outside of music?
Joe: I’m incredibly good at drinking.
Matt: He can drink us all under the table and not even touch the sides! Joe is fantastic at gambling on horse racing.
Joe: I won £50 today actually from a £5 bet. Three winners!
Matt: He’s got a blog called Landing The Gamble.
Joe: Landing The Gamble (On The Road). I write about being in a band on the road and then trying to win money to pay for that.
Matt: It’s a great angle! The aim is for him to get a column in The Racing Post. Everyone in our circle now comes to Joe for tips on horse racing.
Joe: Our lawyer went to Sandown on Thursday and I just had a really quick look, didn’t even put any time into it, I just flicked through the racing card and there were three winners… three placed, and only one was out of the top three. It may just be luck!
Matt: Slash obsession! Chris, our guitarist, is an amazing producer. He produces for a lot of bands in Reading, and he used to produce a lot of our stuff in the early days when we didn’t have any money.
Joe: Elliot is really good at falling asleep in the van, and that is hard! I can’t fall asleep on trains or cars, or even on aeroplanes. Chris is good at that too, he’s catching flies most of the time.
Matt: I’m the boring one! Everyone else has a job in mind when we get asked what we’d do if we weren’t making music, and I don’t have anything. I’d just do music. My whole ‘outside of music’ thing is basically music!
Tell me something about The Amazons that no one else knows…
Matt: Right… what have we done today that’s slightly abnormal? This is like writing a personal statement or a CV!
Joe: I’m going to get one of those sweat suits that you put underneath your clothes and then collect all of the sweat throughout a gig. I want to measure how much I sweat per gig and have an actual amount that I can give someone if we ever get asked this question again. It would be disgusting but we could then answer this question!
Matt: Who’s thrown up recently?
Joe: I have a terrible gag reflex, actually!
Matt: Yeah, you retch a lot…
Joe: My oesophagus must be really delicate.
Matt: He’s also a massive handful when he’s really, really drunk. We’ve had a couple of fights… which is because he’s my best friend.
Joe: We can fight, then kiss and make up.
Matt: He’s my favourite Amazon! I sponsor tigers! I really love tigers. If you look at the bit on Instagram about who’s liking what, I like pictures of tigers daily. I am obsessed with them.
|The Amazons at Leeds O2 Academy as part of Live At Leeds Festival|
You became a regular fixture on the festival circuit last year, and I know you’ve got some amazing ones already in the pipeline for 2017. Would you say that you approach festival sets differently to standalone gig performances?
Matt: We drink a fair bit more before festival sets… is that not right, Joe?
Joe: That is correct. The difference with festivals is that you don’t get soundchecks, so it’s all quite chaotic.
Matt: Festival shows are shorter so it doesn’t matter if you’re a little bit pissed when you go on stage!
Joe: I actually find that festival shows are often a little bit better because everyone’s been on the beers and they’re really up for it! It’s an all day thing rather than just an evening thing. We’re very lucky now in that we now get the chance to play quite late on in the day, so everyone’s been on the beers all day and are up for a good time. It definitely makes a difference from when we were playing earlier and everyone looked as if they were standing in a morgue!
Matt: As music fans, we love going to festivals and we feel like that has sort of bled into our own music. We feel like it definitely suits festivals, so we always enjoy playing them. Essentially, it’s a very different buzz. The best thing about being in a band is that we can’t really choose whether we prefer festival sets or headline shows because they’re so different… but they’re both sick!
Joe: Headline shows are great because you get to play a longer set, so you can almost craft a journey for the audience whereas when you do a festival set you’ve got to bring our your best songs and capture peoples’ attention much more quickly. At your own shows, people have come to see you specifically where as with festivals, people could be seeing you live for the very first time. You have to win people over, and I find that aspect of it a lot of fun. It’s a challenge, and I love that.
You recently featured on ‘Later With Jools Holland’ which must have been a bit of an honour, him being such an iconic character in the industry. What was that experience like?
Matt: Every step that we take in the British music industry set up is huge for us, whether it’s playing Glastonbury or Reading festivals, whether it’s being on Jools Holland or whether it’s playing Leeds O2 Academy… it just means so much to us. We’re a born and bred British band and we know what Jools Holland is all about. We were the only British act on there that week and you could tell that everyone respected him but didn’t really know what it’s all about like we did. I hate to sound cliché and say that it was a dream come true, but it meant so much to us.
Joe: It’s a platform that not every band gets, which is why it means so much to us. There are so many bands in this country so to be picked out to do it is one thing, and then to be standing there whilst it’s happening is surreal.
Matt: Whatever happens from now on, we got to play for Jools Holland and that is incredible.
Your debut album is out very soon! How does it feel being just around the corner from finally having it out there?
Matt: May the 26th!
Joe: Relief that it’s going to come out, I think.
Matt: There are so many different emotions. Nerves, because you don’t want it to fall flat on its face and not really connect with anyone. I don’t really care about chart positions. We’re just hoping that it connects with as many people as possible and that people get excited by it.
Joe: We want to be allowed to keep on doing shows like this.
Matt: We don’t want to be the kind of band who peak on the first album… we want to be able to build something from there on. You want to be able to do our best work later on. We’re excited to be able to have it out there and to play some more shows in October on our next headline tour. Hopefully, everyone will know all of the words by then!
Finally… what are the hopes, dreams and plans for the future of The Amazons?
Joe: We’re going to places this Summer that we’ve never been to, which is ridiculous! We’re going to Japan and South Korea… we’re doing Valley Rocks and Fuji Rocks.
Matt: Our minds will be blown every single day and I can’t wait for that! We’re playing in America and Australia. It’s weird to see how far music can actually take you… we made music in our bedrooms, we wrote and record stuff at home and now we’re going to Japan which is nuts! It’s an adventure.
Joe: We love music. We love listening to music and finding new bands, and we love taking new bands on tour with us.
Matt: We’ll see how the album goes down with everyone and just play it by ear. The essential thing is that we want to keep on gigging and writing music. The hopes and dreams are us going on to write some of our best material.
The Amazons’ self-titled debut album is released on the 26th of May and will be available on all major purchasing and streaming platforms. Pre-order it via their website HERE. In the meantime, listen to some of their work to date below: