The venue tonight is the Nation of Shopkeepers, a hipster haven situated in the heart of Leeds city centre. It’s the kind of bar that if you order anything other than Brewdog, you will be looked on with complete disdain from the heavily bearded bartender. As I walk in to meet the hotly hyped quartet The Amazons before their show tonight, they immediately offer me a beer. Promising start from the rather anthemic, indie rock & roll band.
Anyway, I digress. The Amazons, who derive their name from “swallows and rainforests,” are the latest buzz from the Reading scene. They consistent of four long-haired ruffians Matt, Chris, Joe and Elliot who look like they’ve just “popped some tags” from a thrift shop. However, their music is far from the American fur coated rapper.
The quartet have released a critically acclaimed EP ‘Don’t you Wanna?’ (produced by Catherine Marks of Wolf Alice) which has been soaking up the streams on Spotify. Moreover, they’ve been nominated as ones to watch by Radio X, played at Reading Festival and toured Germany with “year eleven heroes” The Kooks. Not bad for such a new band.
Frontman and guitarist Matt seemingly enjoys the underdog status coming with being in a guitar band, the red-haired frontman exclaims that he “likes that guitar music isn’t the coolest sort of thing, the odds are stacked against you”. However, he feels “no pressure to whip out a laptop and make house beat”. This is clear, as they sound like a blend of Van McCan’s big choruses mashed with Jimmy Page’s riffs, all with their own tribal twist.
IN WOLF ALICE’S FOOTSTEPS?
The Reading quartet have been working with Wolf Alice producer Catherine Marks. It’s clearly apparent on their debut EP ‘Don’t you Wanna?’, with lead single ‘Junk Food Forever’ encompassing 90’s chorus soaked guitars combined with the vulnerability of Wolf Alice. The single commences it’s ode to McDonald’s after a night out until emotional urgency is unleashed in the chorus. Here Matt howls in almost falsetto vocals, “don’t wanna be alone”, over backing vocals which would sit comfortably on Arcade Fire’s ‘Funeral’ LP.
I question the band on what it was like working with such an acclaimed producer. Matt stated “she’s amazing”, adding “she’s inter facilitating the vision of the band”. As I quickly pounce to ask what the vision of the band is, the band laugh timidly as if Matt had stuck his foot out. Yet the frontman is unfazed, and then describes emphatically “Joe drums f**king hard, we want to let people hear that.”
Our discussions progress to their hometown, in which has seen a flurry of new bands including Sundara Karma. I decide to give the town an ‘R-Town’ label since the rise of Peace, Swim Deep and Jaws has constituted ‘B-Town’. However, Matt seems reluctant to accept this label, despite going to parties with indie sweethearts Sundara Karma. He contests that “nobody gives a s**t about Reading, we’ve had time to develop… if we get successful I want people to think that there WAS a scene there, not that there IS a scene there”.
They then recall playing the BBC introducing tent at Reading as a hometown gig. The stage, notorious for being located next to the food vans, punters around this area are normally more concerned with buying overpriced burgers from the vender least likely to be serving horse meat. However, the gig was “rather triumphant”, with muddy punters screaming lyrics back to the band. Chris, who oddly looks the spitting image of Matt Healy, stated like an excited schoolboy that that the “crowd kind of grew, people actually stopped and watched”.
Joe even explains that the band even managed to blag their way behind the hallowed main stage, and got offered a massage at the self-titled ‘vanity tent’. When questioned if any of the quartet’s ego had been rubbed with oily hands, they disappointedly declined. No Kanye-esque characters yet then.
When delving deeper into the Reading scene, a harrowing Waitress confession was brought to the table. Chris admitted that “we used to slip demo CD’s into shoppers baskets at Waitrose, there was lots of old women so it didn’t quite work how we thought it would be”. Personally, I was disappointed, as I rather relished the prospect of the Facebook ‘overheard in Waitrose’ page having middle-class grannies questioning their devotion to fast food. Anyway, this just highlights how desperate The Amazons were to spread the word.
Their admirable resilience did pay off. The band completed five dates in Germany touring with The Kooks last year. At this point the quartet weren’t even signed, had played around ten shows and had one song on soundcloud, yet were playing with their “year eleven heroes”. It was clear they were hardly ‘naïve’ about this opportunity, when the news broke to them football type celebrating ensued, in which the quartet ran around the garden screaming topless.
Joe described the experience as a massive learning curve for the band, playing in front of four thousand people a night was quite a contrast what they’d been used to. However, they wholeheartedly embraced the German gigs, acting like they were the “hottest s**t” in England. They must have caught Pritchard and Co’s eye, with The Kooks giving the band some rather classy Veuve Clicquot Champagne at the end. Cheers Luke.
JUNK FOOD 5-EVA
As the interview drew to a close, I felt a crass need to ask the band one more question. In light of their confessed love of fast food, I felt obliged to ask their opinions. Rather unsurprisingly I suppose since working in Waitrose, they’re on the road to going vegan. Consequently, their fast food favourite is a vege supreme pizza. You’re welcome.
So there you have it, if anthemic rock & roll, drenched in emotional urgency is your thing- then The Amazons may just be for you. With more Catherine Marks releases in the pipeline, 2016 looks rather promising