Following the release of their anthemic new album, How Will I Know If Heaven Can Find Me? Reading-based rock band, The Amazons are back. We got in touch with vocalist Matthew Thomson from his shaky tour bus, to chat about the new release, genres, hometowns, beer and touring’s most and least glamourous moments.
What can we expect from your new album?
I think people who have heard us before would say it’s something slightly different, for us at least. This album was inspired by a long-distance relationship I’ve been in, especially in all the challenges that lockdown brought – international travel bans and things like that – that struggle really inspired it. Sonically we wanted to create something with energy and spirit and life, inspired by the music that made us want to be in a band in the first place.
It sounds like it’s a bit more personal lyrically – is it quite a vulnerable experience to release?
We've kind of gone through that process before release, because a lot of the songs are not ready. The rudimental beginnings of the songs were written as means of communication with my girlfriend, it was just something we would share between us, and it was only through her encouragement that I showed the band. It was a bit like, ‘ok guys, this is something we don’t have to do this but here's the song, what do you reckon?’ and their response was amazing. They were like ‘this is amazing, why don’t we try X and Y, and let’s do a guitar line like this and add the drums’ and they saw themselves in the music which is all you could ever ask for. By the time it got to the point of releasing it last month, I was ready. This is our most honest, truest, best record and we wanted to get it out there and see what happened.
I suppose it’s nice to have that confirmation that others can see themselves in your work.
Yeah, and also, we're four fairly reserved English men who don’t present their feelings that openly all the time, it’s not like that at all for right or for wrong, that’s just the mould that we have found ourselves in. For it to come out the way it did is even better, it’s really cool.
To what extent do you think genre is important to you?
It's restrictive if you think of music as pretty instinctual, like painting or making a movie or something. Genre can inform maybe in some of those dimensions of creativity, but if it’s just me singing on a piano or me singing with a guitar – which is where a lot of the songs start –they’re almost genre-less they’re just songs and then it’s up to the band how we arrange and develop that. It’s about what keeps us excited. I’m not saying in this genre-less vacuum where we have never listened to anything before or we don’t have any influences, of course we do, but you have to make something as honest as possible – that’s the root of true originality. The more you get the bullsh*t out of the way of your true personal expression, the better it is.
I understand you’re releasing a new beer with a Reading-based brewery, can you tell us a little bit about that?
I’ve actually got some here, I took a bunch on tour with us. Basically, we teamed up with a brewery called Renegade Brewery, formally The West Berkshire Brewery which was the beer that I would pour at my first ever job at a pub in Berkshire. It’s a nice little full circle element. They wanted to collaborate with us on a beer, so we've got this west coast IPA called Bloodrush based on our first single from the album. I’m actually reading the blurb on the side right now, classic west coast hops with a citrus and tropical backbone…
My personal favourite kind of backbone.
Mine too – reliable. My own tasting notes would say it’s pretty fruity in the beginning and then there’s kind of a piney finish which is interesting. It was amazing to have the opportunity to be shown the beer-making process and hang out at the brewery and try loads of beers and then come up with the basic tasting profile of what we wanted which wasn't easy seeing as there are four different sets of taste buds in the band.
It’s cool because people often have mixed feelings about their hometown, but I’m guessing that yours is pretty good.
Yeah, that’s been a journey in itself. I think everyone has phases where they want to get as far away as possible – I certainly had that as soon as the band started, when I was still living in Reading. Right at the beginning of the first album I was still living with my parents, and it was like ‘we've got a top 10 record and I’m still living with my parents, what am I doing?’ so that was like the catalyst of me being able to leave, which was great. When you first start travelling the world with music, you can’t unsee that stuff, you can’t really go back and pretend that nothing has happened, you change. For somewhere like Reading, it’s not a cultural hub or anything like that it’s kind of a commuter town outside of London it’s not somewhere I want to spend most of my life, but it is home and that’s why it’s special to me.
What would you say are the most glamorous and least glamorous parts of touring?
Great question, living on a tour bus is not glamorous. There’s this whole thing of like, ‘Oh, it rocks you to sleep’ – nonsense, fake news, it’s like being wrenched around everywhere and it keeps you awake. The only time you can get some sleep is when you get to the destination at 6am and you have to get up in a few hours – that is not glamorous. What is glamorous is that little pocket of time just before you get on stage when the anticipation is super high in the air and the roadies and the crew have finished all the preparation and they leave the stage and there’s that little window just before the band comes on stage, that always feels pretty glamorous, I think it’s pretty magical. That and the after-parties. And the champagne that is being poured into my eyeballs right now by the bandmates. They’re all looking at their phones and I’m trying to get their attention.
Has anyone looked up?
I’ve got a couple of sniggers.
Lastly, what are you listening to at the moment?
What I like about that question is that’s probably one of the best ways to learn about an artist or one of the best ways to get into their head – talking about stuff that they love. Okay, so I like this song called Swan Song by Victoria Canal I was taken aback by how beautiful it was. There’s a song called Bump by Dora Jar – really awesome. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have come out with an incredible album called Cool It Down its really good. I also really like a band from LA called More*. That’s all the new music I’ve been listening to but there’s also an album that came out last year called Music For Psychedelic Therapy by Jon Hopkins – it’s like really meditative ambient music and he went to the Tayos Caves in Ecuador and did loads of soundscape recording and it’s just like a great pallet cleanser. Sometimes I get sick of the verse, chorus, verse, chorus structure and I get bored of lyrics and singing, I’m like ‘shut up, let me listen to some rain in Ecuador.’ I think with the album coming out it's kind of stressful and quite an anxious time so I’ve been really getting into more ambient music, but yeah that would be my pick of the bunch.