The indie rock band sits down with Popdust before their New York debut.
Standing outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg in 36 degree weather, two young women pressed their ears to the doors while their favorite band ran sound check.
Another fan stood bundled up nearby while they chatted about discovering the band on social media years ago. They bonded over the long-suffering but gratifying wait for Amber Run to book a tour in the U.S.
The vibrant energy from these freezing fans, who said they "just want to be in their [the band's] presence," isn't what you'd expect for a band that hasn't seen much "mainstream" success, but the genuine creative energy these guys put into their maturing sound has caught the ear of international devotees — and the A&R men smart enough to sign them. Within a year of forming, Amber Run was signed to RCA (they're now with indie label Easy Life Records); then came their first EP Noah, their first tour with Kodaline, and their debut album 5AM.
The guys sat down with Popdust before their performance to talk about overcoming the down-and-outs of the music industry (and life), preserving their unique sound, and of course their surprisingly devoted fan base.
You originally wanted to be called "Amber" but, as striking as you are in your resemblance to the pop star known as Amber, you settled on "Amber Run." What's the story behind the name?
Tom: It was more like a feeling. It was a warm color, that was it. Naming a band is one of the worst parts about starting up. You hope that at some point you can surpass your name. And you kind of just pick one and at some point it stops having meaning. It just so happens we picked that and happened to go with it. The "run" was kind of added to the end. "Amber Run" sounded like a band name. I guess we've now surpassed the need to have a meaning.
Yeah, titles are kind of bullshit. Your album and EP names, 5AM, For a Moment I Was Lost, and your latest EP The Assembly, those are meaningful to the people who hear them, but how did you settle on those titles? And do you have a favorite?
Joe: I really like For a Moment, I Was Lost because it was how we felt in the moment, so it feels the most truthful. Album titles are slightly more important to us than what we're called because they are the title of an important piece of work. We try to encapsulate the feeling of the record within a single word or phrase, which is, again, quite difficult.
Tom: I agree. It just made total sense. That whole album is about a moment we were struggling and at a bit of a low point. Lost. But it was just for a moment because we found our way back.
Follow up question: So, are you okay?
Joe: [laughing] Yeah, we're great. Most people have those sort of moments. It's totally allowed. Within music in general, there seems to be a pandemic of people pretending they're great, everything's great all the time. You'd just be a total liar if you said you didn't have moments with a lack of clarity or struggle. We feel really, really good right now, but that doesn't mean you can't have waves of ups and downs.
Looking back, do you have a favorite song?
Henry: As far as all the work we've done, "Dark Bloom" off the second record. I couldn't tell you why, it just resonates with me. I love playing that song. If I'm on the train, listening to music, I don't listen to Amber Run—but if I were to, that would be the one.
Tom: The song called "No Answers" on the second record is possibly one of my favorites, because it was a direct response to a situation we were in. It was a slightly different direction in terms of the aggressive nature of it, and the lyrics are quite direct...It's about being frustrated, and it felt cathartic. To have it received well by fans felt good.
Joe: "No Answers" is up there for me. I just really enjoy the new ones that we do. We wouldn't put them out if we didn't like them. At the moment, at a slightly different tempo, I really like "The Weight" off The Assembly.
From a writing perspective, we've been in quite a dark place for a long time. I know I found it really cathartic and also quite enjoyable to do something that was kind of naive and innocent in where it came from.
Henry: Notable mention is "See You Soon." It rounded off our first album. We wrote it really quickly, and we were so happy with it that we played it at our next gig. It was the first time that we let ourselves go big.
What bands influenced your style?
Henry: Radiohead's quite a big one.
Tom: I feel like that's a standard.
Joe: We've come to the point now that we're on our third record, and it has been fast. We've been doing this for five years now, and it feels like we're getting to the point that when we come together to write Amber Run songs, it feels like we come together to write Amber Run songs, and we don't pull from a ton of influences, simply because we know what we like and what sounds good in the confines of what we're good and bad at.
You're about to play to very cold but very excited fans. Some people have flown in from Seattle. Are you surprised by that kind of fan response your first time in the States?
Joe: That's crazy. We'll do our best!
Henry: Wow. We have had a couple people fly in.
Tom: There's a guy who's been to the last couple shows from LA.
Henry: Someone last night came in from Alabama.
Joe: We've done the UK and Europe enough that we've managed to be able to go to some really far-flung places and see some people. But it's just crazy that people would make the journey, because obviously we think that what we do is important—but to get people thinking that, as well, and spend the money and the time is a real privilege. I don't think we'll ever get to a point that we'll take advantage of that.
Do you have any pre-show or post-show rituals? Pump up songs? Shots? Enthusiastic stretching?
Henry: We used to do a pretty serious vocal routine.
[Tom belts out half a scale.]
And then we started doing Ronan Keating's "Nothing At All." We sing through the first verse and the chorus. When you get to the chorus you go up a semitone. And then you sing the chorus. Repeat again and again.
Tom: It really hypes you up.
Henry: Thanks Ronan, if you're listening!
Tom: We have tequila.
Joe: We do drink a lot of tequila. But now we're just excited to be here, really. There's no hyping needed. Because when you walk out on stage and you hear those people start screaming, that's enough to get the blood pumping, you know?
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