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October 2022
Feature

The Amazons: "We're still growing and finding our feet musically"

Think you know what to expect from The Amazons? Think again.
Published: 8:50 am, September 06, 2022Words: Steven Loftin.
The Amazons: "We're still growing and finding our feet musically"

Pandemic travel restrictions have separated many from their loved ones over the past few years. For The Amazons' frontman Matt Thomson, it meant he had to go to great lengths to reunite with his partner, stopping off in Mexico for a couple of weeks and then making his way up to the US. "It was a nice loophole - it was also legal!" he stresses, laughing. It's this time that inspired the Berkshire band's third outing, 'How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me?', and found them channelling their inner-Romeos.

It's certainly a decided departure from the darker riff-heavy world of their second album, 'Future Dust'. So, is this the death of the riff, then?!

A moment of silence falls upon the pub's table as Matt and bassist Elliot Briggs smile. It turns out, maybe it is. "There's always a route back," Matt considers, "but you have to rely on your instinct." Fear not; there's still a shadow of the tasty-riff toting hard-rocking Amazons on 'Ready For Something', but, for the moment, it's time to lighten the mood.

Recalling 'Fuzzy Tree' from that second album, Matt remembers saying, "'This is the heaviest we'll ever go'. Like, I'm glad we've done it, but we'll never go there again. I don't want to go there again because it's boring and not reflective music I listen to." After a quick skim through their Spotifys, it turns out they're more in the realms of HAIM and Phoebe Bridgers et al; unabashed music, delivering emotions on all fronts while keeping things cool, calm and collected.

Their second album was what Matt also refers to as "basically being our idea of a rock star." Toting custom leather jackets, and slicked-back hair, that era was all about embracing their inner rock 'n' roller while "paying homage to our heroes and stuff." But all this rocking and rolling took a toll on the band. "I felt, by the end of touring in 'Future Dust', we were coming offstage - while it was fun - we weren't necessarily fulfilled with the songs," reveals Matt. "So I think we always wanted to just move slightly lighter. That doesn't mean like whimsical, or frivolous, it means just actually making music that's more positive or hopeful."

The manifest for evolving into this new chapter came from a time Matt was kipping over at Maggie Rogers' house in the US. From this little sojourn not only came some co-writing on 'Say It Again', but also a little lightbulb moment while digging through piles of clothes Maggie had been gifted. "She'd got these huge leather boots that were silver with red stars," Matt remembers. "And I was like, you've got to wear them; these are incredible. And she was like, 'I don't know, they are amazing, but they're someone else's rock star'."

Sick of being someone else's version, The Amazons' take on rock star now is more relaxed. They're all about embracing feelings rather than obtuse ideas and thoughts. It also didn't help that comments on videos from the 'Future Dust' era came from the 'real rock is back' brigade. Shuddering, Matt quickly adds, "It just screams red flags - get the fuck out! So hopefully, people will listen to our new record and say, that's not very real rock. That would be a fantastic accolade."

The process for 'How Will I Know...' was, as with most bands nowadays, a remote affair with ideas swirling around Dropbox folders before finally emerging as this third iteration of The Amazons. "This was a change of direction for us," Elliot recalls fondly. "It made us grow as musicians. I just thought that was more of a bonding thing, more personal."

Even recent touring buddy Royal Blood's Mike Kerr found himself becoming a sounding board for some of 'How Will I Know...' while Matt, for all his travels, was living down in Brighton. After showing him a few bits of the album, including 'Northern Star', which Mike reckons "is like every Amazons song once you strip everything down", it allowed them to dig deeper. "He was like, all your songs are kind of like this, but they've got riffs on."

"I reject the narrative that a band gets it right on their first record, and that they can't get better" 
Matt Thomson

The opener 'How Will I Know?' was one of the first penned, long before the pandemic came into play, inevitably pointing The Amazons to a tunnel of love. But continuing down this path into a euphoric compilation of feelings was soon the only way forward.

"I reject the narrative that a band gets it right on their first record, and that they can't get better," Matt says. "It's BS, man. I think the best bands grow and have different phases and come up with their best work later on. Like that seems to be a trajectory that's weirdly lost." On that point, where do The Amazons see themselves fitting these days, given the metamorphosis the world's undertaken since their last album?

"Funnily enough, actually, I'm not sure," Matt says after he and Elliot ponder together for a moment. "It's hard to say; I think if we dwelled on it very much, it wouldn't be a good idea."

Elaborating further, he explains: "We're still growing and finding our feet musically. I personally think we might have felt a little bit rudderless the last couple of records and were just trying things out. And that's okay, but I think this is the time where we actually found a destination, and the next few records that we put out will be a direct continuation of this one."

While music and love are two notions which have essentially coexisted since the dawn of ears and a way to bash a rock on a cave in the hopes of piquing a love interest's attention, entering the arena of 'rock band does love' is quite a big task, is it not?

"It's enjoyable because it's so important to all of us," says Matt. "We all care about someone, whether it's your mum, your dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, whoever it is," Elliot adds. "So it's individually close to us, and I feel like we can all find meaning here. Even though it's Matt who's written about it, I find my own reason to enjoy a song like 'Northern Star', which is basically a balls-to-the-wall love song."

It's hard not to get swept up in the emotion of a song pouring its heart out to a rambunctiously melodious track, and 'How Will I Know...' does its best to wholeheartedly embrace this while serving something on a personal level. Though the album was indeed written from the experience of being in a long-distance relationship during a global pandemic, the album's beacon 'Northern Star' takes this a step further into the life of Matt.

Admitting it was written for his girlfriend's birthday to go alongside a home video compiled throughout their relationship, it was after she implored him to share it with the band that it found a home. "That's our take on it just to be authentically ourselves," Matt adds. "And hopefully, people will resonate with it because that's one of those songs you want to share with everyone."

There's also a lesson learned from 'Future Dust' that's integral to this third outing of The Amazons. While the rock'n'roll dream was fun for a bit, Matt admits, "there were times the 'Future Dust' stuff wasn't that inclusive of the crowd. We were kind of going on these long solos, and it was a little bit 'stand and watch' while we were strutting with leather boots on stage and slicked back hair. Which was kind of cool," he recalls smirking, "but then after a while, it gets boring when you're doing like a nine-minute version of 'Georgia' or 'Black Magic'. The songs they were really vibing off were with the first album where you would take your monitor out just to hear the crowd bellow back to you."

So in a firework-worthy culmination of feelings, motives and newfound direction - and a shed load of singalong choruses to boot - The Amazons are ready to embark on their new journey with what they readily admit is the purest iteration of the band to date. "Without a doubt, it's the best and the purest," exclaims Matt.

"Best will be subjective because I know that fans in the audience will have different experiences wrapped around our first record or second because I do too, but in terms of a band just getting better and finding their songwriting and what they want to say." He ends, "It's probably the first time I've had a consistent subject. It's probably the most dynamic of albums. We worked with great people. It just ticks every box." 

Taken from the September issue of Upset. The Amazons' album 'How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me?' is out 9th September.

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