After the release of their third album, Philophobia, Amber Run are back on the road. Kirsty Macadam caught up with frontman Joe Keogh ahead of their Nottingham show to talk phobias, the new record and advice for university newbies.
You’ve just released your third album ‘Philophobia’ which is the fear of falling in love – do you have any other phobias?
Do I have any phobias? I fucking hate heights, I really don’t like heights. And I’d say, if we are going really, really deep, I don’t really like looking in mirrors.
What inspired the new sound for the new album?
So, I think, the message and thematically and lyrically what we are saying has not changed at all. If you listen to songs like “What Could Be As Lonely” it’s a desperately sad song but I think it’s quite fun to dress these things up in new costumes and to push yourself into new directions musically. Cos if we’re getting bored of what we make, we were getting bored a bit, but if we don’t push ourselves to do something different and engaging for us, I think the people that listen to our music would just as easily get bored as well. It’s really important to keep changing and developing and in reality, if we’re being honest, it’s probably not that different. It was about us trying to push ourselves a little bit more musically and to do some different things because all the songs that we think are the best versions of ourselves are the songs that we were like “I don’t know if this is good or not.” Songs like “I Found” and “Fickle Game” and “No Answers”, can Amber Run do this? And you just get to the point where you realise you can literally just do whatever you want, and people can choose to like it, or they can choose not to, but you should at least give it a go and see where it turns up.
What is your favourite song off the album?
I think What Could Be As Lonely As Love is my favourite simply because it’s like nothing we’ve ever done before. I also really like Worship because it is like something we’ve done before and that’s the kind of music I listen to and I love day to day.
What’s been your favourite venue/city to play at?
Nottingham. It’s like coming home, we love this place. New York is always really fun. Hamburg we really love but coming home to Nottingham is always a pleasure.
Are there any places you’d like to play that you haven’t yet?
I’d like to go to Japan, I think it would be really fun and interesting. It’s a real privilege that this band takes us to some places that I’ve never been before and it’d just be fun to explore some places probably even more otherworldly than we’ve known before.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
We take 10 minutes before every single show to just, it’s gonna sound kind of creepy, but to just look at each other and basically speak to each other and get each other to the place we feel comfortable. Then it feels when you go out on any stage anywhere, that you’re just five people speaking to each other just as much as you’re playing to however many people. I think that’s a really nice ritual that we have that keeps you quite grounded and quite focused.
You went to university in Nottingham but dropped out to pursue the band – was there ever a moment you doubted the future of the band or regretted dropping out?
Like any big decision, obviously there are moments of, I wouldn’t say regret but moments of doubt and insecurity. That probably means it was a good decision because you’re living on a knife edge and what you are doing is meaningful and powerful. If you lived your life just sitting around the middle, you wouldn’t have lived as interesting of a life as you could have. Life could’ve been very different.
What career do you think you’d have if you hadn’t pursued music?
I reckon I’d either be a chef or a teacher. Probably a history teacher. I’d be that guy with the blazer and elbow patches. I just think it’s really interesting and I think now more than ever in the political, social and cultural backdrop to be able to look into the past and to be able to see the pitfalls and triumphs will mean you’re better focused and more understanding of what we can be doing in the future.
And finally, what advice would you give to students starting at University?
Join all of the societies and all of the clubs that you literally can because I remember my entire university career I was like “I’m going to join the Italian speaking club or join the Spanish speaking club. I’m gonna join the gym here and join this hockey stuff.” Because how else are you going to meet great people and in reality you are already paying all this money and all these societies are here and you could get an opportunity that could change your life. You could meet someone that helps you learn a completely new language and once you’ve done that you end up like “Yeah I know Italian, I’m going to live in Italy for a year” and then that’s changed your entire life. Say yes to all the opportunities that are literally there in front of you. Obviously go out and get absolutely wrecked but there are so many opportunities there, and I’m going to sound like such an old bastard saying that. Beer will be there forever but free opportunities like that out in the working world are not applicable, are not there, are not relevant. You don’t have them so take advantage whilst you can.
Words: Kirsty Macadam