Amber Run are a five piece band whose raucous yet harmonious sound was born while they were at uni together in Nottingham. I caught up with Felix Archer (drums) and Joe Keogh (lead vocals) before they went on stage at St Stephen’s Church in Shepherd’s Bush for the London leg of Communion Music’s New Faces tour.
Have you ever played in a church before?
Felix: Yeah, we’ve played in this exact church before for a festival called Bushstock, and that was very very crazy. It was the beginning of summer and it was a really really good line up of people before us and we were kind of worried because—
Joe: – they were all kind of singer-songwriter stuff – it was all quite sparse, whereas we’ve got a fuller sound.
Felix: And then it just kicked off. Everyone came to the front and it really went mental, and it was amazing.
Joe: It’s just a really nice room, and I dunno – you always sound like such a dick when you use words like ‘vibe’, but when people feel like they’re witnessing something a little bit different in a space they wouldn’t normally go to, it feels a little bit more special. Churches are really nice for that I think.
Do you have a favourite venue that you’ve played?
Felix: Everyone’ll probably have the same top five, but my favourite would be… My favourite venue we’ve played is Brixton Academy, with Kodaline.
Joe: Yeah, in terms of venues there are some really prestigious ones we’ve been able to play which is great. In terms of favourite shows I still really like the small grotty rooms where it’s packed out and everyone’s getting well into it. Hopefully we’ll graduate to these bigger places and it’ll feel the same but yeah, I’m still really at home in the smaller stuff, just because I know it and I love it.
Do you think it’ll stay that way?
Felix: If things started to really go well, and we got given the opportunity to headline and sell out big shows we’d like to do a tour of huge shows but we’d always love to come back and play those small shows, cause they remind you of where you started, and that’s just as fun, you know.
Do you ever recognise faces of fans at shows then?
Joe: Yeah, sometimes – I’m really grateful that people have decided to like our music and yeah, it’s humbling, it’s wicked.
Felix: It’s always extra special when someone comes multiple times.
Joe: It really really is, cause this music means the world to us so if people are involving themselves that much that they’d come back, it’s amazing. So yeah, always try and say hello!
You played at a few festivals this summer, so how does that compare to playing in venues, big or small?
Felix: It’s different because when you play a venue, you know how many people are gonna be there, you know that if it’s a headline show they’re there to see you and they know your songs, or they know at least one song which has got them to come and see you and buy a ticket, whereas at a festival it’s a total mixture of people and you’re kind of trying to convert people – which is fun in a completely different way. You’re trying to wow these people so that they’ll jump on board and come and see you in a venue.
Who comes up with the harmonies? Or do they come naturally?
Joe: I’ll be honest, I am awful at harmonies. I’ve always done the lead singer thing – you know, super arrogant or whatever – I’ve always done the lead vocal. But Henry (Wyeth, keys) and Tom (Sperring, bass) particularly have just got a really good ear for them. I think they’re a really important part of what we do, and we practice for months and months and months. We’ve sat in dingy rooms, gone down to my basement, and things like that. Genuinely we have, we’ve been practicing so much. I like it when it comes up cause it’s always nice to know that your hard work is actually being listened to.
You’ve got three EPs out, is there an album coming soon?
Felix: There is an album, we recorded it from January to February and finished it off around May and that will come out early springtime, roughly, next year. We’ve got a few singles to put out in the meantime.
Amber Run followed on from three great acts – Oxford’s Pixel Fix, the very chatty Kimberly Anne with her Xylophone, loop pedal and free teabags, and ethereal electronic musician Fyfe; all of whom put on a spectacular performance and had everyone either enraptured or bobbing away in their seats. During the changeover before Amber Run came on, the aisles of the church began to fill and those sitting in the pews gradually stood up, promising a repeat of their last performance here. They opened with the plaintive I Found, and indeed had a fuller sound, their voices wrapping around one another and filling the high ceilinged room. They played a high energy set, doing songs from their EPs but also a couple of new ones such as 5am, which elicited a ‘Sorry Jesus!’ from Keogh. Before launching into final song Noah, he yelled “We love doing this! When you see ‘sold out’ after a show it’s such an amazing feeling”. The band then bemusedly came back on stage for their ‘first ever encore’ which saw the crowd singing along and not just standing in the pews but on them.