The Amazons: “Rock and roll isn’t a very sexy genre anymore”
If you haven’t come across this Reading rock and roll foursome yet, you’ll likely be hearing more of them very soon. The uplifting headbangers on their eponymously titled first album earned them a place on BBC’s Sound of 2017 poll, and many are tipping them to lead the charge for the rock genre this year. In a rare quiet moment, we caught up with frontman Matt Thompson ahead of their upcoming Sheffield show. Words: Rose Trigg.
You’re playing The Leadmill next month, a venue very close to the hearts of gig-goers in Sheffield. How much are you aware of its reputation?
Yeah, I’ve read about it in magazines and gig reviews and I’m aware it’s a venue that every band comes through at this level. Sheffield has always been a pretty musical place, hasn’t it? A lot of people kind of have the Leadmill as a benchmark of success – so happy days!
How has the material from your debut album gone down on the live circuit?
Really well! It’s what the music that we wrote was made for, that participation between us and the audience, the to-ing and fro-ing. It’s not really an album we wrote to be listened to alone in a dark room with headphones; it comes alive with other people singing along. Rock and roll should always be a communal thing.
The Amazons were amongst only a handful of rock artists in a Sound of 2017 shortlist dominated largely by RnB sound. Do you feel like you’re now flying the flag for new era rock bands?
I suppose there is a bit of pressure, but there are a lot of wicked rock bands in our scene that deserve just as much attention as us. For whatever reason, we’ve been given the mantle and feel pretty confident we can do the job. It’s cool; we’re playing an MTV festival in Gibraltar with Ricky Martin, Charli XCX and Years and Years and all these pop acts and we relish it because we get to be different. Back in the 90’s everyone and their mum was in a band. It’s almost a bit more interesting now that rock is more niche than ever before. It’s not very fun being in a band if there’s 10 other bands in the top 10, if BBC Sound of was full of bands then it wouldn’t be that interesting. It’s kind of cool being a lone wolf.
We’ve always gone “we’re from Reading” we didn’t hide the fact, it’s not a very glamorous thing, it’s not very cool but that’s what made us different
I heard you’re a fan of the Bob Lefsetz music analysis letter?
He recently wrote that part of the reason rock dropped out of the limelight is because it ‘lost touch with the street’ and stopped telling personal truths. Do you agree on that?
Oh, I don’t know. I think, if anything, rock and roll isn’t a very sexy genre any more. If you look at when it was at its height with Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, both were really sexy acts – groovy and primal music. The music that’s on the charts at the moment is groovy and primal, but it’s not rock and roll.
Rock and roll really got its roots in the late 50s and 60s when the ultimate act of rebellion to your parents was to go out and have sex with people. I think that’s what it’s lacking more than anything.
What advice would you give to a young four piece rock band starting out in their parent’s garages?
I would say patience is pretty important; you’re not gonna get a million streams online overnight. It’s just not how people in the alternative spectrum of music listen to stuff, it’s more the buying albums and going to show kind of audience.
More than any promotion, your own identity is important. The big challenge for bands is finding the reason that you’re different from everyone else and you’ve got to look at who you are. The things that maybe you didn’t find were that important are the things that set you apart.
We’ve always gone “we’re from Reading” we didn’t hide the fact, it’s not a very glamorous thing, it’s not very cool but that’s what made us different and people ask us “what’s the scene like in Reading?” because they don’t know and it’s kind of an unknown thing. We’re not moving to London anytime soon and we’re not interested in being part of that scene. It’s about being wherever you’re from.
The good thing about the rise of DIY bands is that they have a bit more control over their own identity.
Definitely. That’s the biggest piece of advice I could give – just do it yourself. If you’ve got an internet connection you can do pretty much anything and everything you want. You don’t need a label until you’re ready, and you don’t need management until you’ve got ten of them knocking at your door. How can you understand how to pick the right booking agent when you haven’t booked your own shows before and know what the pitfalls are and the things that can go wrong? Just do it yourself!
The band is all from the same town, but did you or your families know each other before?
Me, Elliot and Chris the bassist were in previous bands, I met Chris through school and we met Joe a couple of years later when we were looking for a drummer to start a new band. But no we didn’t all know each other. Our parents are all best mates now though; they’re experiencing something that they can’t really connect with anyone else about, their children are in a band. They come along whenever we’re in Reading or London.
Finally, what can the people of Sheffield expect from The Amazons next month?
We always love bands that have a kind of energy and come out of the block straight away and give passionate performances. We’ll be drawing a lot of material from our new album, which only came out a couple of months ago, so it feels very new still.
It’s an exciting time so hopefully people will get the energy that we’ve got in our performance and it should be a fun night. That’s what it’s all about.
The Amazons play The Leadmill on 7 October. Get tickets and more info from www.leadmill.co.uk.