In Conversation: w. Joe Keogh from Amber Run

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Amber Run, one of the latest indie rock bands and hotly tipped for success in the future have recently released their second album, For a Moment, I Was Lost, and are now touring in support of that album and a newly released E.P. Alaska.

Last month I caught up with their lead guitarist Joe Keogh for a quick conversation over the phone to ask him a few questions about the tour and the nature of being in a modern rock band.

For those who don’t know what your music is like can you give me a brief description of how you would categorize your sound?

It’s the most difficult question you could’ve started with. The age-old question, I think I would call it emotive, indie-rock. We have a very guitar driven live show but we also try to write songs that kind of have an emotional current to them as well. A sound similar to bands like Radiohead or The National, bands that just try to get their message across but in an interesting way. Which is what do as well hopefully.

I understand that you guys in Amber Run have just released a second album, called For a Moment, I Was Lost and that as you may be aware there have been a lot of bands this year that have been releasing second albums. Now as I understand for a lot of artists when they go from their first album to their second album they try to do something different, but at the same time try also to retain something of that original sound so as not to alienate their fan-base. Did you encounter such difficulties when recording your second album?

Yes, it’s always about attacking the creative process in a new way, it’s about keeping it inspiring to yourself as much as anything else, because if we kept trying to create the same kind of music then it would get very boring as well. So for the second record we wanted to create a really live sounding album with some harder edges. Because our live show is more rock that it is kind of whimsical and we wanted to show that on this second record.

Yes I noticed that too, because one of the first tracks of yours that I ever listened to was No Answers from your second album. And for me that very much summed up the sound you just described since the first two minutes was very much the kind of layered, melodic Amber Run sound and then it goes quiet and when it starts up again it feels like you’ve stumbled into a live punk-rock gig.

Yes, that was one of the things that we were trying to achieve with this album’s sound. Because there are so many different things you’re going through these things and you’re going through these personal issues there are so many emotions that come through and you’re trying to throw all that into one type of track which starts off with a slow kind of ‘you’re dealing with it’ kind of attitude and then that pure anger that comes randomly at points when things happen. And we grew up listening to a lot of live music and lot of heavy music so it was really exciting for us to do that kind of thing.

You say that there’s a lot of emotion in your work, so how does that work out then when you’re actually writing the songs? I mean what is the process for the band when you guys go into a studio to make an album? Do you guys jam or does someone bring a specific idea to the table and everyone else just works around that?

It changes all the time and I guess that’s one of the exciting things about creating music. On the most part somebody will bring in an idea, like a melody or a lyrical spark, and then we’ll build it from there. It normally comes largely from a single person when the recording process starts and that‘s how we do it. I mean there’s million ways to do it, there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

Yes but then there is probably that dilemma afterwards that most bands have of sorting just who gets the credit for the song and through that the royalties for it.

Well this is something that we have talked about after the first album, because I got a lot more of the splits on the first record. But you know Amber Run is a collaborative project and how we do it is that we split every single song the same way, I’ll got 40% and the rest of the guys will share 60% of the writing credits. And that works the same for whoever writes whatever else happens on the record, on the most part that’s how it happens because it’s about everybody being a part of something exciting and engaging rather than just one person getting a huge chunk in comparison to someone who may not be as creative or as successful in that way. I mean everyone has their role to play in the band and maybe sometimes that isn’t songwriting, but there are other guys in the band who do a lot more than I do, so we all have our roles and some of those roles don’t obviously get paid for in the same way that song-writing does. And people should get recognition for that stuff and if it has to come out through the song-writing splits then so be it. You’d rather be part of something fun, engaging and exciting where everyone’s in to it rather than a place where the atmosphere is quite toxic because they feel like they’re not getting any credit for the work they put into it or don’t feel like they’re not a part of what’s actually going on.

Your press officer, Philip Morris, sent me a copy of your new E.P. and I was just giving it a listen last night and it brings me up to a couple of questions. First of all do you think that in today’s download culture that E.P’s are still relevant or do you favor the Oh Wonder approach where they release one song a month and then cobble them together into an album 14 months later?

I think that there’s no wrong or right way to do it. I think in all honesty that the Oh Wonder approach is probably the best way to go about doing these things. But at the same time albums and E.P’s have got historical value that you can’t forget. I mean like I still listen to LP’s and album and I genuinely do think that that is the most pure way that you can listen to a body of work. But again there is no wrong or right way to listen to music. Of course of people just want to listen to the single then that’s fine but they’ll be missing out on loads of other beautiful tracks, but I think that we’re all just trying to find a new ways of doing what we’re doing and trying to all have fun and engage and stay excited with what we’re doing.

Well then if we’re speaking in terms of doing something can I then ask if you’ve recently just recorded an acoustic E.P. can we then expect some time in the future, when Amber Run come to due a third album, that you guys might pull a Led Zeppelin on us and do an acoustic only album?

I don’t think that that is something that we’ll do, personally. Not for any dislike of the genre. I mean it was a real challenge to do something acoustically but it’s not something that we’d keep going back to. I think you can get versions of songs that were acoustic that are really powerful but you know one of the things that we love about music is that it is basically something that you can feel in your heart. Like when the sound of a bass drum kicks you in the chest. That’s the kind of stuff that really excites us cause we want to be a great live band and so I think that our next record is going be you know big in sound and exciting.

Well I look forward to hearing it, as I’m sure many people will. And now I come to my last question: What advice would you give to bands that are just starting out?

Learn your craft and don’t be sucked into the business of just releasing something and expecting anything too quickly cause the industry is in a pretty weird place at the moment and it make take a while. So you should use that time as an opportunity to plan, organize and just learn what it is you want to do and get really, really good at it. Because at the moment the industry is crying out for someone or some people, a woman, or a man, or just anyone to take it by storm or by the scruff of the neck and just do something incredible. And just be ready to put in a whole load of effort and to work really, really hard.

Joe Keogh and the rest of Amber Run will be stopping off at the Tramshed in Cardiff as part of their tour in promotion of the second album, For a Moment, I Was Lost, on October 6th 2017. Ticket are available now, so hurry while sales last.


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