In Motion – An Interview with Amber Run

Sometimes it’s hard to express how you are feeling, whether that is positive feelings that almost make you feel like your heart is about to burst or negative emotions that push you down a spiral you think you will never get out of again. In times like these, we humans often like to turn to art to help us convey those exact feelings, but it is rare that you find something – or someone – that tells the world what you cannot seem to get off your chest just as easily. That is why the Nottingham-based indie band Amber Run have made it their mission to use their music to tell honest stories about often difficult and personal subjects to offer a supportive hand to people in times of need. And by doing that, the group has found its way to their own purpose and a life that is fuller than it has ever been, all the while the world around them is crumbling to pieces.

Consisting of singer and guitarist Joe Keogh, keyboardist Henry Wyeth and bassist Tom Sperring, the British three-piece have used their musical journey as a band to create a space for their listeners and themselves where they can feel safe, and that is ruled by honesty, kindness and introspection. Their last release, the ever so enchanting EP ‘The Search (Act 1)’, is no exception to that and beautifully captions a world that is ruled by uncertainty, loneliness and utter hopelessness – even if it wasn’t written for that specific reason. “We finished touring for our last album ‘Philophobia’ at the end of 2019 and then went into a writing cycle, so we were writing the EP at a fairly interesting time in history,”, remembers band member Wyeth while pondering the fact that even while some songs on the record might feel like they were written during and for the pandemic, they were never given that purpose. “It was obviously going to affect it because your environment always affects what you’re writing. But we felt like we were at a period in our life when you’re in your late twenties, early thirties, where you’re questioning whether what you’re doing is right or not. There was this sense of listlessness, so we started to explore that with the music, and everything that was going on in the world and out came ‘The Search (Act 1)’ essentially.”

Made up of five jaw-dropping tracks that each come with their own unique sound and story to them, the EP feels like a natural continuation of the trio’s previously released album ‘Philophobia’, which explored the complexity and irresistibility of connections and intimate relationships and how difficult they are to navigate, but also how important they are fundamentally. And while ‘The Search (Act 1)’ might have an air to it that could easily be turned into a story of dread and emptiness during a global pandemic, the group has pulled it to the forefront to always keep their work open to individual interpretation, as bassist Sperring underlines: “The beauty of it is that people can read into things a bit, you know, place their own experience in a song and interpret it how they need at a time. So maybe it did help that it came up during the pandemic.”

Jumping right to the top of the intensity ranking of all the tracks on their EP, the first release to see the light of day since their third full-length endeavour, the stunning ‘52 Blue’ put the nail on the head of exactly that formula. For once, the song not only sounds hauntingly beautiful, with almost cinematic undertones, sombre guitar strokes and lead singer Joe Keogh’s angelic vocals serenading the listener’s ears, but it also feels like meeting someone who finally sees you, the real you, with all your cracks and dents. Inspired by the solitude of one blue whale – one that sings at a different pitch from all the others, forever swimming in the ocean, crying out for companionship that never comes – it tackles intricate topics that couldn’t be any more current while still feeling incredibly personal and intimate. “We were in LA at a gorgeous place by the fire, literally by the beach in the sun. And we were just there talking about the bleakest things, like the complete lack of purpose in life or the fact that there’s no real drive or meaning to anything. And so we started looking at the saddest things or the loneliest things in the world, and that’s how we found the story of this whale,”, recounts Wyeth, while frontman Keogh adds that “the open ocean feels like a different kind of loneliness compared to the big city where there’s still stuff going on. I generally think that we all feel a bit like it sometimes. Sometimes I think about us as being like a little marble in space, and it makes me want to crawl into a little ball and get really scared. But then it can also get me really excited at times. It’s interesting.”

“we were at a period in our life when you’re in your late twenties, early thirties, where you’re questioning whether what you’re doing is right or not. There was this sense of listlessness, so we started to explore that with the music.”

– Tom Sperring

Getting a peek behind the curtain of what happened during the initial recording of that very song, it becomes very clear very fast why Amber Run’s music sounds different to anything else released nowadays. There is a sense of humanity to it and the knowledge that whichever track you may be listening to, you will always get to hear exactly how and what the three-piece felt. Because that’s what the band is trying to do at the end of the day – convey emotions, but without the need to cover up any flaws or faults. “I think sometimes a performance has a feeling and a mood to it, and you’re never going to recreate it. I think where we were and what that song was trying to say, that performance of us just recording it in a kitchen, just the three of us, kind of did that,”, exclaims Keogh, underlining the importance of first tries and the perfection that can lie within them. “Everything else would have ended up being a bit of an attempt to get somewhere close. It’s nice that sometimes the first initial conception can do what you need it to do. I’m really glad that we, as a band, have a vehicle to be able to release that and to be able to engage with that.”

Moving through a point in time where it’s become rare to see anything but people’s utter best, the band has made it their mission to be a counterforce to just that. Proudly owning up to their own flaws and humanising them in the same act, the indie-rockers have found solitude in their honesty and invited their listeners to join them on their journey. “What I personally really like about music is often the humanity of it and the cracks, like just when you know people truly understand it. Obviously not the songs, they’re supposed to be listened to, but the stuff that really resonates with me and my soul is that it all can’t be too perfect. Otherwise it doesn’t feel real. I know these words are quite grandiose, but music at the base of it has to be about a connection. The movement of how I’m feeling to another person. And I’m not suggesting that we managed to do that because that’s not up to us, but it’s the endeavour anyway,”, states singer Keogh, who recently became a father – something the artist lovingly likes to describe as “having love outside of your body” – while he once more highlights the honesty their latest EP is grounded in. “The hot take is just trying to give people the opportunities to be vulnerable, giving them the space to be like that. So the songs on ‘The Search (Act 1)’ aren’t all going to be me jumping up and down and making you feel great. We want to give you the opportunity to feel shit as well. And we wanted to help people that are listening to the record. I never want to seem like telling anyone what to do or how to go about their lives, but at least give them the opportunity to see that there is another way of going about it if they so choose.”

“We’re making the best music we’ve ever made. And I know that’s a cliche and everyone always says it, but I feel like we are.“

– Henry Wyeth

It’s a way of looking at and working with their music that has also woven itself into their presence online, which the talented group mainly uses to once more open up about the themes that mean the most to them, whether that is the importance of talking about mental health or using the opportunity to put a smile on their fans’ faces by posting a snippet of a new song or doing one of their endless Q&A sessions. And while today’s industry comes with an apparent pressure to always be online and show the world your best self, Amber Run have turned their backs on the fake perfection web spaces like Instagram and TikTok are based on. Simply because that is just not who they are, as vocalist Keogh foregrounds: “The use of social media, I think, is a bad term for us because I don’t think any of us particularly enjoy it that much. But if we have people that follow us and people that engage with us, then we want them to know that they’re worthy. They’re great. And the shit they’re seeing around them probably isn’t as real as they think it is. If we’re going to be a voice on the internet, I think we’d prefer to be one that makes people feel better because we’re all on the way up and the way down all the time, it’s always a constant circle.”

But Amber Run wouldn’t be Amber Run if they didn’t give every opportunity handed to them a try, especially at a time when the internet was the first and foremost way of connecting to the outside world. It, therefore, came to no surprise that the group was one of the very first ones to give livestream shows a go, back in the early days of the pandemic in the summer of 2020. “It came at a very experimental time. It was the point where I was like, shit, maybe we’re not going to get back to live shows this year or ever, is this the future? So we all thought, quickly, let’s do something, let’s try it out,”, member Sperring recalls, reflecting back at their one and only online show recorded at London’s famous Omeara. “The most jarring thing about that one was that because we approached it like a gig, we tried to have it work as a journey like we do with our live sets. But you finish a song, and there is dead silence, and it just makes you realise how much you feed off a crowd.”

Thankfully, livestream gigs did not end up taking over the future of live music, with concerts with actual crowds of excited faces having their most welcome comeback in the summer of last year. An opportunity the band did not let go to waste, with them quickly deciding to get back onto the road and finally tour and celebrate the release of their latest EP as soon as they could. It was then that the group fully realised how much they had truly missed the stages of the world and the chants of their dedicated fanbase – who did not keep their urge to finally see the trio live again a secret either. But even with a long history of endless tours and festival appearances, the indie three-piece couldn’t help feeling like they had just gone back to square one, as Wyeth laughs: “Being honest, this is probably the most nervous about our shows I had been in a very long time. But then as soon as you’re doing it, as soon as it’s done, you remember why you love doing it in the first place. It’s been two years since we last toured, we are a little bit older and a little bit more mature. And I appreciate the opportunity more than I ever have done before. Now I actually listen to the crowd and look at them and watch them because it could be someone’s first-ever show or someone’s last ever show. Especially because there was a time when I convinced myself that we would never get to this point again.”

It’s that level of utter gratitude for where they are now and a sense of true recognition for the long way they have come that gives Amber Run’s music and presence their unique glisten. No matter if you are listening to their Top 5 songs on Spotify or the latest acapella cover of one of their personal favourite songs, you always know that what you see is what you get with the British talents. Unlike some others, they never became part of this business to make a name for themselves and top as many charts as they can, but rather to become their best selves and translate those very journeys into their music. They don’t aim to revolutionise the world, but if they achieve to put a smile on at least one other person and make their life that little bit better, they have already completed their mission. As they are readying themselves to turn the page to a new chapter of their musical story – keep an eye out for ‘The Search (Act 2)’ – the three-piece has found freedom in being an open book lyrically, but also personally. And at the end, it’s that sheer love for music that brings them together and provides them with the opportunity to be whoever they need to be, as keyboardist Wyeth concludes: “We’re making the best music we’ve ever made. And I know that’s a cliche and everyone always says it, but I feel like we are, I feel like we’re better musicians than we’ve ever been. We know how to do this more than we ever have. And I’m really excited about the music we have released and where we are going.”

Amber Run’s new EP ‘The Search (Act 1)’ is out now via TRIPEL RECORDS. Follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Spotify.

Written by Laura Weingrill // Photography by Jordan Curtis Hughes

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