Before Amber Run’s gig at The Lemon Grove, I chatted to the band’s lead singer Joshua “Joe” Keogh. With the support act’s sound check playing faintly in the background, we discussed everything from their new album Philophobia, to their inspiration, and the sometimes crazy responses of their fans.
So, the new album’s just come out, I thought I’d start by asking you a couple questions about that. How are you finding the initial response to it?
I think it’s been good. [Although] I don’t actually read reviews because, for the first record and the second record, I definitely did and I fell into that trap of [seeing that] they’re all great and then you see the one that says you’re terrible and [that affects you]. I’ve started to realise, for my own sanity, just not to read any and to know that what you did was the best you could do in that moment. So, I believe it’s going well but I couldn’t tell you for certain.
That seems like a good view to have on it.
I think so, there are people behind all this stuff, you know? Even [people] like Miley Cyrus are real people and I want to be able to live well in my normal life as well as being able to perform and to create in a space where I feel good. Does that sound a bit pretentious? Maybe. But that’s me.
As a band you tend to change your sound a bit with each new release, do you think your new album differs a lot from your last one?
I think that this record is actually a perfect love child of the first and second, the more I listen to it. It’s got the naivety and the innocence of the first but the anger of the second. It is slightly different, but it is rooted in the stuff that we’ve done before, in my perception. But, when you put your music out into the world, it’s not really mine to decide anymore. If you think it sounds different then it sounds so fucking different.
Do you have a favourite song from the album?
I really like ‘What Could Be as Lonely as Love’, that’s my favourite. I also really like ‘Worship’ and I like ‘The Darkness has a Voice’.
Is that the same as the ones you like performing?
I really like performing ‘Neon Circus’, because it’s just fun. The riffs are well fun [but] I find that ‘Darkness has a Voice’ is very difficult to perform, very technical. We haven’t played ‘Worship’ on this tour, but we should probably start because I really like it.
So, talking about touring, you just finished your European tour, how did you find that? Was there a particular show that was especially memorable?
I really enjoyed Amsterdam because my partner lived there for about 6 months, and so I love the city; I’ve been there so much, it feels like a second home. Obviously, I love the touring part, I love everyone in it, but it gets very insular and it’s nice to have people that you love turn up along the way every so often.
Is there anywhere you’re looking forward to going for your UK and North America tours?
I really enjoyed playing Nottingham, going home and playing to them and then in America, there’s some places we haven’t been before, going to places like San Francisco and LA will be fun. Never thought I’d go to Denver or Salt Lake City, so I’m interested to see what they’re like, every town has its own spice, right?
So, if I just move on to talk a bit more about your music in general, there’s been quite a few different ways of describing your music, but how would you describe it yourself?
Thoughtful. We try not to just make the same songs again and again. Everything that we do has to have some bit of emotional currency to it, that’s the running thread that passes through them all. It has to have a motive that we think important.
Do you have any particular inspirations for your music?
Real life experience and, musically, obviously there are influential bands. I’m a music fan so there are tons. Bands like The National, Radiohead, Phoebe Bridgers and Noah Gunderson. Music and art is never made in a vacuum, there’s always stuff that’ll inspire you because there are a ton of really talented fuckers in the world.
Do you find you get inspired by the stuff that you’re listening to or do you listen to some stuff that’s very different from what you’d want to create?
I’d say a bit of both. I’d be lying if you didn’t hear a song and you’re like my band could do that, that’d be really fucking cool but often it comes from the places you don’t quite know. Henry’s a huge Chance the Rapper fan and I know that he was trying to get a lot of the kind of sounds that he was doing into this record, which I’m sure that people wouldn’t have expected to hear.
Do you think you’d collaborate with anyone? And, if so, who would you love to collaborate with?
Yeah, of course! The best music is always collaborative. I would love [to collaborate with] Phoebe Bridges, I think that record she made is fucking unbelievable. But in other spheres, I’d love to make a record with someone like James Blake or someone slightly more electronic because that’s not our obvious remit.
What kind of stuff did you listen to when you were younger, do you think that had an impact on what you created as well?
My dad loved all the early Muse records, so I was listening to those a lot, Origin Symmetry and Showbiz and that lot, and my mum was a big Sonic Youth fan and it definitely impacted. I was at a wedding and loads of noughties hip-hop and stuff came on and I realised I don’t know any of it. Everyone went absolutely ballistic when it came on and I didn’t know any of it. I felt like I’d missed out, but what I did get was a deep appreciation for rock music, so it’s definitely shaped what we do.
In terms of performing, do you have any post or pre-performance rituals?
One of the things that I do on tour that I’ve only just started to realise is I’ll go on last, but I’ll leave the stage first. I really love the interaction and the relationship we have with the people who come to watch our band, but I find it quite emotionally taxing; a lot of the songs that we do are quite intense. I try and give it all away during the set and not stick around for the applause bit because, maybe I think I don’t deserve it, I don’t know.
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Do you like meeting fans or do you find it a bit strange?
It’s just a person, right? It’s just fucking weird that they love what you do. Sometimes it can be surreal but everyone’s normally pretty nice, though obviously you get some kooky ones. I’ve had some weird stuff sent to the house, but that’s very rare and, for the most part, it’s just a privilege that people will spend their money and their time on something you’ve created, so it’s a pleasure to meet them.
What’s the weirdest experience you’ve had with fans, then?
I’ve had some pretty weird ones. I’ve had some models and statues made, that’s a bit kooky. On this tour, we’ve had people break into the dressing room. Obviously, as a white, heterosexual man, I’ve lived a pretty safe and privileged life and it’s only in the last six months stuff like that has happened. It starts to make you realise how unsafe and how horrible that makes you feel. It’s given me a real new appreciation for the struggles of others.
So, when you started you were quite young, I was reading that you were only in your first year of uni, did you find it particularly overwhelming at first, when you had your early success?
I don’t know about overwhelming; I really never gave myself another option, I was just always sure I was going to be in a band. So, it felt more like this is how it should be. It was definitely more hard work than I thought it was going to be. But that’s good, you know, these are the trials of making something you think is worth making.
Was that always the dream then, to be in a band?
I guess so. It was about being able to make music and being able to do it in a meaningful, impactful way. It was never about mass success, it was always like that would be awesome.
Just to finish, then, have you got any plans for the future of the band?
We’re going to finish off this tour which is another month and a half, so I haven’t really thought past that. But, there’s a lot of new material that we’ve already started, you know, as I said before, as long as we think that we’ve got something important and impactful to talk about, then we’ll keep on releasing music so I’m sure they’ll be a new release at some point soon, um, my head hasn’t gone past the end of this tour in honesty because it’s very long.
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