Everyone says this about every hot new act that comes along – but 2017 really is the year of The Amazons.
Reading’s hottest indie-rock quartet have been making waves since they burst on the scene with 2015’s ‘Don’t You Wanna’ EP. Supporting the likes of You Me At Six and Jimmy Eat World, their stadium choruses and rock ‘n’ roll riffs have scored swathes of fans. This summer sees them grace the stages of some of Europe’s biggest festivals – Reading & Leeds, Bilbao BBK, Isle of Wight – as well as the release of their self-titled debut album on May 16th.
I meet with the band in Deaf Institute’s green room, smack bang in the middle of their sell-out headline tour. The venue is chaos, bustling with fellow journalists and roadies. “The difference between the last headline tour we did in October and this one now is just crazy” vocalist and frontman Matt Thomson notes, black hoodie pulled up close around his fiery locks. Seated around a grimy kitchen table, the four of them are friendly and charming, modest about their success despite achieving so much in merely three years. “We didn’t expect the entire tour to sell out before we even started it!”
The first time I saw you guys live was way back in 2015 at Soup Kitchen for Dot to Dot!
Joe Emmett (drums): [laughing] That seems like light-years ago! We turned up to that gig with about two minutes to spare. We drove there in two cars and the traffic was hideous! It was a baking hot day – me and Matt had our jeans rolled up to our knees and the windows down, fan on…
Your travels sound very intense!
Matt: We were on the way to Middlesbrough one time and we ate so many sweets, do you lot remember?
J: Oh, we were fucking high!
From a sugar rush?
J: [laughs] Just a sugar rush!
M: This was all happening in traffic and by the time we’d got to Middlesbrough, we were absolutely drained. That’s a cool tour story.
J: And with Dot to Dot Festival, we were bumper to bumper, with about two minutes to spare just before we went on. We literally just threw our gear on and ran onstage.
It’s fair to say that you’ve blown up in the music scene since those early days. Do you think anything’s changed about the band?
J: We’ve got a van now, so no more two cars.
Chris Alderton (guitar): I can play my guitar now. I can sing as well!
M: I think our growth as musicians matches the opportunities that we’re getting now, if I’m honest. I don’t feel we’re out of our depth like when we first started. Or maybe we weren’t. I don’t feel like when we played Soup Kitchen we needed to be any higher up on the bill or anything like that. But we’ve done around two hundred shows since then, and it feels like we’re growing with them. I’m sure there will be points in the future where we feel out of our depth again-
J: But that’s when you have to step back, isn’t it. Personally though, I relish that pressure. I like knowing that you have to be good.
Do you think the pressure makes you write and perform better?
Elliot Briggs (bassist): There were a few gigs we played in the early days where we were told “this persons coming down”, and you’d think “fuck – well, we have to practice and be good”. That kind of thing’s fun – you’re right.
I guess the extent that you guys tour allows you to develop your songs live, too, from since when you first wrote them.
J: And actually, for us, we always find that sometimes we’d try out new songs in the earlier days, play them live and think “that doesn’t quite work”. But then we’d go back to the drawing board and to the rehearsal studio and work on it.
M: That’s what I miss most about constant touring – being able to go back to the practice room and explore and develop the ideas we have. We just don’t have the time to do that.
You’ve been on the road for a ridiculous number of days now. How do you find the time to chill out?
J: It’s hard. We’ve had seven days off in the past two months.
M: Four in March, three in April.
E: And even those don’t really feel like days off, because you gotta wash all your crap [laughs]
M: And come back and return to doing ‘normal stuff’.
E: It’s weird man. You have all these experiences on tour and then you come home and it feels like none of them ever happened. Do you guys know what I mean?
J: It feels like you’ve been asleep, dreaming for the past two months. And trying to remember a gig that happened a few weeks ago is impossible because the pace of it is so fast. But it’s fucking great.
From a Brummie with limited knowledge of the South, what was it like starting out in Reading? What’s the music scene like?
J: It’s starting to develop one.
M: But when people get successful, they leave. There’s not a scene in Reading anymore.
J: There were very few venues that would be willing to give you gigs-
E: Or promoters-
J: So we were like “fuck this”, and started to put on our own nights. Sundara Karma did the same thing. It’s us and Sundara Karma who have kind of made a conscious effort to do something about it. Matt’s got a night called ‘Two Step’ that he still runs with two of his mates. We tried to get things up and running, but there’s a lack of a ‘real’ venue in Reading.
E: Which is strange, because we have Reading Festival – one of the big ones. You’d think there would be something going on.
M: Yet it has no allegiance to the town. But hopefully, I’d like to think we’re bridging the gap.
J: And I think bands coming out of Reading and Berkshire aren’t afraid to say they’re from there anymore. Before, people would just say they’re from London. But now? I don’t think bands are afraid.
Moving on to the start of this year – what was touring with You Me At Six like?
E: Very fun.
M: But mentally taxing.
E: We did eighty hours of driving in a week, which was shit.
J: But they were the loveliest fucking dudes you could ever meet. They shared stories and wisdom with us. They’ve been in a band for ten years, signed since they were sixteen, and they’ve seen a lot of shit. But they were more than happy to tell us some of that, which is helpful for us who’ve only been a band for three years.
M: They can really drink as well.
E: Really drink! Their tour manager becomes their bar manager – they have such an array of liqueurs.
J: [laughs] We’re trying to train our tour manager to do that, but he’s not having it so we’re gonna sack him.
M: The crowds were great, the places were great.
Where was your favourite place you went?
I was there the other week! Downstairs of Paradiso for Car Seat Headrest.
J: No way! We played the upstairs room a few months before and then came back and played downstairs. Huge difference.
M: Paris was great too. It was the last show of the tour and it had a good energy about it. Everyone was buzzing and the weather was beautiful. Where wasn’t cool?
J: Luxembourg was an interesting place.
M: Shit hotel.
E: In the middle of Luxembourg City is a gigantic canyon, 100 feet deep, and at the bottom is a massive skate park. The coolest thing about a weird town.
Looking ahead to the rest of 2017 – you have your debut album coming out in a few months. How do you feel about its release?
J: Excited to get it out finally.
It’s been a long time in the making.
E: We’ve been sitting on it for a while. We recorded it last April, so nearly a year ago.
J: It’s going to be good to get it out. The last couple of singles played a hand in telling what it might sound like, with ‘Black Magic’ and ‘In My Mind’ channelling the rockier elements. But I’m excited for people to react to some of the other moments on there that we’ve done.
Is there anything different on the album?
J: Definitely. It’s not just a full ‘balls-out’ record. We like to think that there are different sides to it.
M: There’s more acoustic, a little bit of strings, some piano. This year we recorded 6 acoustic versions of tracks for the deluxe edition, too.
J: Rather than put out a bunch of songs that we recorded and weren’t happy with, we thought that stripping them back and doing acoustic versions of them would show a different side to them.
You’ve timed its release perfectly for festival season. You have a string of dates throughout the summer, kicking off with Live at Leeds at the end of April. The blog stage is over at Headrow House, so I’ll make sure to come see you at some point.
J: We’re over at Academy, with Black Honey, Slaves, all the big ones – it’ll be great!
M: We hung out with Black Honey the other day in Reading, so it’ll be nice to see them again. They’re good people.
J: We played Live at Leeds two years ago at The Faversham with a good line-up – Vant, Pretty Vicious, Reverend and The Makers, The Academic.
I know you’re at Bilbao BBK this summer too, another one I’ll see you at!
J: [laughs] I’m on a stag do that weekend at that festival. It’s gonna be messy!
And then, obviously, you’re back in Reading at the end of the festival season, a “homecoming show” of sorts. Is there gonna be a lot of friends and family there?
M: Oh yeah.
E: When we did BBC Introducing two years ago everyone we knew was there. So hopefully they’ll come out and see us again. It’s a glorified homecoming show that one. Ever since we were kids we always wanted to play there.
Did you go a lot when you were younger?
M: Yeah man. I’ve been ten years in a row.
What was your favourite year?
M: 2009. The NME tent on the Friday was Friendly Fires, Florence & The Machine, Jamie T, The Horrors… just wicked acts back-to-back. I stayed there all day. That was a really good year. I got a horsefly sting on my ankle though, didn’t really think about it, and by Saturday night it had swollen so bad I couldn’t move. I tried to get a first-aid car but some kids the other end of the campsite had blown their faces off by throwing a deodorant can into the fire, so I started this two hour trudge to the first-aid tent and just met a lot of weird people tripping along the way.
So, there’s only one question left – a bit cheesy, a bit light-hearted. If there’s one thing you’d want people to know about The Amazons that they wouldn’t necessarily expect, what would that be?
J: Elliot’s into K and J-pop.
E: A little bit.
J: [laughs] A little bit’s an understatement!
E: Me and a friend had a massive K-pop binge in the dressing room for two hours last night. We watched some Hatsune Miku videos, a Japanese hologram who plays arena shows to thousands of people backed by a full band.
J: If it wasn’t so expensive we could incorporate that into ours shows. We’re the 2D version!