British rock-and-roll is being fired back into the spotlight, as the appetite grows for bands with something to say and an attitude about it.
And as the genre comes back to the fore, Reading’s The Amazons are sure – with their debut album on the way – to be part of the conversation.
Their fiery alternative rock, ready-made for arenas and stadiums in the years to come, has been weightily tipped around the houses, and they’re off to some of the planet’s biggest festivals this year.
The Amazons’ new single Junk Food Forever was released last week, as were details of a new headline tour in the autumn.
They’re also at plenty of UK festivals, starting this weekend at Live at Leeds – and with both that and their album release looming, we caught up with guitarist Chris Alderton for a chat.
Read on for Chris on making an impact on British music, the effects of hype, and the band’s tips for this weekend’s first festival.
Thanks for taking the time to chat to us! You’ve been on tour for most of this year so far. What have you all been doing recently, resting?
Chris: “There’s no rest for the wicked, last week we had our first proper day off since 15 February! Earlier this month we hit the road again for the second half of our UK tour, including Glasgow, Manchester, London and then our homecoming show in Reading to finish – which was well worth the wait.”
The Amazons have set out to make an impact on, and even reinvent, British rock-and-roll. When was the last time that rock music was truly great in the UK?
Chris: “I guess commercially great, it’d be the back end of the 90s and early 2000s. Those bands – Radiohead, Oasis and the Gallaghers, Muse, Kasabian, and so on all still headline festivals. When I was at school, those were the bands everyone was excited about and wanted to be like.
“But, for us, British rock-and-roll has never not been great – it’s not about the commercial success, but the fuck off attitude. Hopefully kids growing up with bands like Foals, Wolf Alice, Royal Blood and Arctic Monkeys will create another wave of people getting behind bands, pushing British rock back into the foreground again.”
The Amazons, the album, is out on 26th May. It’s a pretty clichéd thing to ask, but what are you thinking now we’re so close to the release?
Chris: “Aside from the occasional flashes of nervousness, the general feeling is still anticipation and excitement to finally get it out. We’ve been waiting to release the album for a year now, so we’re very ready to tour it and try some new ideas at the shows.”
What is the one track on the debut album that sums up The Amazons and what you’re all about best?
Chris: “Our recent single Black Magic is probably the closest we get to an all-rounder, but there’s a few tracks on the album that I think will tilt some heads.”
Recently you also released the video for that track. It’s full of symbolism that we’re told is open to interpretation. How much of that was your doing, or was it the vision of the director? We know sometimes bands don’t really know much about it until they see it!
Chris: “The video was a collaboration between our frontman Matt Thomson and our resident photographer and videographer Matt Goff. Matt T provided the vision and the feelings that the song is supposed to convey and Matt G weaved that train of thought into a video, which he then directed.
“We’ve had some bad experiences by getting lazy and handing the project over to someone else, so we went for the more hands-on approach on this one and it worked out.”
Did any good album material end up on the cutting room floor? Anything you disagreed on taking out?
Chris: “There was one track that split the group into two during the track listing, but after a good ol’ 4-way brawl complete with hair-pulling and ball-crushing, all the kinks were gently worked out. We’re all happy with the track listing now and we have a few songs to put in our back pocket for later.”
You’ve been picking up lots of hype recently, as happens when a band starts to break. How do you deal with that? Can it go to your head?
Chris: “Of course it can, and if we’d had an ounce of the attention we’re getting now after we put our first bedroom recording up on SoundCloud 3 years ago, then it would have.
“But I think we’ve grounded ourselves by playing to 3 people in a dingy Barnsley venue, and a man and his dog everywhere else in the UK for 2 years. Getting the BBC Sound Of [on this year’s long list] felt more like recognition for all of our hard work than a sign that we’re the dog’s bollocks, we know we’re more of a dog’s pube at the moment.”
So, coming up soon, you’re at Live at Leeds this weekend. How are you looking forward to playing there?
Chris: “It’s our first UK festival of the season so we’re pumped to say the least. Had a lot of people talk to us after our shows saying they’ll be there so hopefully they’ll keep their word.
“Live at Leeds is a city festival that’s done right. It strikes me as a proper new music lover’s festival, filled with a lot of the best upcoming bands at the moment, and with a touch of the more established acts to ensure you’ll definitely see a good show by the end of the day.”
You’re playing the O2 Academy stage with Black Honey, DMA’s and Slaves. How familiar are you with them, have you met?
Chris: “We first met Black Honey at the first Flying Vinyl Festival in Hackney and a few times since then. Yet to meet DMA’s or Slaves, but we’ve heard good things so looking forward to meeting them.”
Are there any other bands across Live at Leeds this year you’d pick out as a must see?
Chris: “Always. A big plus to playing any festival is it gives us a chance to see all the bands we’ve not had the chance to see while on tour.
“A must-see for me personally is HMLTD. I find them intriguing, and have heard good – but also strange – things about their live shows. Then our pals The Big Moon released their album last week, so we’re excited to catch up with them.
“There’s a band from Newcastle called The Pale White, who are featured on our On The Road Spotify playlist, and supported us on a few dates in the UK. We’ve been driven to the edge of insanity while trapped in the van with their songs stuck in our heads, which is a good thing! Their new single’s killer and they kick-ass live too.”
You’re at loads and loads of festivals this summer too. What are some of the highlights on your schedule?
Chris: “Isle of Wight, Best Kept Secret, Fuji Rock, Valley Rock and BBK Bilbao are a few of the bigger ones we’re playing, but we’re predictably most excited for Reading and Leeds in August. Seeing some of our favourite bands rise up the bill through the years has been a real marker for the level of success that they’re having, so to know we have our foot on the ladder now is incredible.
“Going to Japan for Fuji Rock is nuts too. It’ll be interesting to see what the people of Japan make of Matt’s hair and height!”
What are the odds on another headline tour later this year? Sometime around the autumn, right?
Chris: “The odds are very high: It’s just been announced! It’ll be in the first two weeks of October, and tickets went on-sale on Friday.”
The self-titled debut album from The Amazons is released on 26 May. They’re at Live at Leeds this weekend, playing the O2 Academy stage at 6:15pm. The rest of their UK festival and tour dates for 2017 are:
The Amazons UK Festivals
April 29 – Live at Leeds – Leeds, UK
May 18 – The Great Escape – Brighton, UK
May 27-28 – BBC Radio 1’s Big Weekend – Hull, UK
May 28 – Liverpool Sound City – Liverpool, UK
June 11 – Isle of Wight Festival – Isle of Wight, UK
August 25 – Reading Festival – Reading, UK
August 26 – Leeds Festival – Bramham, UK
The Amazons Autumn UK Tour
October 2 – The Waterfront – Norwich, UK
October 3 – The Leadmill – Sheffield, UK
October 4 – The Liquid Room – Edinburgh, UK
October 6 – Rescue Rooms – Nottingham, UK
October 8 – Riverside – Newcastle, UK
October 9 – Tramshed – Cardiff, UK
October 11 – Phoenix – Exeter, UK
October 12 – O2 Forum Kentish Town – London, UK
October 13 – Engine Rooms – Southampton, UK
October 14 – SWX – Bristol, UK