The Amazons brave the heat to discuss the state of rock’n’roll backstage at Reading 2019

"The moment you see us in shorts mate, we've broken up."

It’s homecoming time for The Amazons lads. Ready to bring new album ‘Future Dust’ to the BBC Radio 1 tent, we caught up with them at a sweltering Reading before they hit the stage, to chat about how things are going, and where ‘rock music’ is at the moment (they have a lot to say about that one).

Hi, The Amazons!

Matthew Thomson (vocals, guitar): How are you, having a good weekend?

It’s a hot one – in case anyone hasn’t mentioned that to you yet.

Matthew: It’s a gnarly one mate. This is a different level to Leeds, man. Leeds was fine – this just horrendous. Awful. Can we go home? Especially with us in our jeans and corduroy. Bands weren’t fucking made for summer – let’s put it that way. The moment you see us in shorts mate, we’ve broken up.

So how are you feeling for Reading, hometown show ‘n’ all that?

Matthew: It’s good, the phone’s off the hook – people trying to get in. It’s just a different level of stress that you don’t expect, but ultimately, the rewards are bigger, aren’t they? Because we’re from Reading, and there’s a degree of pressure that comes with that, and this is the twelfth year in a row that I’ve been here. I came in 2007, (to Joe) were you earlier than 2007?
Joe Emmet (drums): Probably – I can’t remember the year though, Prodigy headlined…
Matthew: So, 1990. (Laughs) But yeah, it’s all good man, the harder it is, the more stressful it is, the bigger the reward, so that seems to be the gist.

Do you have a big hometown crowd coming?

Matthew: Yeah, it’s all friends and family really. Just trying to smuggle them backstage and side of the stage.
Joe: My kids are coming to the festival – nine months old, getting them in early!

How’s the rest of festival season been treating you?

Matthew: Yeah, it’s been good. We’ve done some good UK-based festivals, TRNSMT was good, Big Weekend was wicked.
Joe: We were in Zurich on Wednesday.
Matthew: Yeah, Zurich with Royal Blood – we came on stage with them when they were doing their drum solo as part of ‘Little Monster’, and Ben was screaming at us to get on the stage and start smashing the gong for him – which we all did.
Elliot Briggs (bass): You can’t not hit a gong when you the opportunity!

How have things been since the release of ‘Future Dust’?

Matthew: It’s been good, we’ve actually only been doing festivals really, we haven’t started the touring of ‘Future Dust’. Your worst nightmare is that no one gives a shit about the new stuff and everyone loves the old stuff, but it seems to be equal, in quite a balanced way, so it’s been really good.

Going straight into festival sets after releasing an album must be daunting? 

Elliot: Yeah, a baptism of fire almost. It gives no one any chance to get acquainted with the new tunes.
Matthew: But the ratio of the set has naturally been 50/50 old and new, which is really nice. Plus it’s only forty minutes so we can cut everything down. As hitting as rock’n’roll can be in 2019.

Today is definitely more rock-centred, so you’re in good company. 

Matthew: Yeah, I dunno. The balance of it all now is guitar music being more niche. I was over in the Radio 1 tent yesterday, and I could name one band – Pvris. And Pip Blom. Is Pip Blom a solo artist or a band?
Elliot: They’re a band.
Matthew: So that’s two bands in ten acts on a stage. So the balance has completely shifted, that’s for sure. I guess if we get our own day’ cool, thank you so much’. We can bemoan guitar music, but it’s not like there are any guitar bands knocking at the door that I can think of that should be here that aren’t here. Because back in the day when we first started going, you could reel off like The Futureheads, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys and Franz Ferdinand. It was just different, and I wouldn’t even say that was better.
We’re just fucking happy to play on the same day as the Foo Fighters two days in a weekend because we just get schooled. We go ‘Oh, that was a fucking great gig’, and then you watch Foo Fighters and you’re in tears because you’re getting a good seeing too by daddy rock. They’re killing us.

Are you pulling from that?

Matthew: Oh yeah, man, absolutely. And how comfortable they are on stage, how relaxed and exciting it is. They’ve really stripped down over the years who they are. You’re watching the essence of who they are. There are no unnecessary moments, I don’t think. It’s purposeful, even if they’re just grabbing some guy that looks like Freddy Mercury from out of the crowd…
Joe: That happened in Leeds… I forgot about that!
Matthew: There’s a real degree of musicianship which stands very tall and sticks out like a sore thumb when at a festival like this. How many acts are you gonna see today or over the weekend, where it’s just a personality goes on stage and sings along to a track? And, I feel for journalists, because I was watching Post Malone last night, like great songs, cool guys – but how do you review that show? You can’t talk about the musicianship, how he changed that particular thing up – he just sung along to the songs.

What did you think about the Post Malone guitar smash’?

Elliot: I saw the guy bring it out, on TV, and he smashed the guitar for no reason.
Matthew: There’s a real adoption of very cherry-picked views of rock’n’roll and blowing it up into a huge size, and what I’m kind of getting from the last year and being out and doing stuff in the music industry and just the climate, it doesn’t feel like subtlety works. Subtlety just gets ignored, I feel.

People want things larger than life, and in their face right now.

Matthew: Big, in their face right now – and I don’t even think it’s about quality. It’s like they just want to see the people they’ve been following on social media – ‘That’s fucking them! And that’s the song I’ve been listening to! And there’s no bullshit, and they’re doing it exactly how I like it and how I listen to it’. There’s no challenge. It’s like seas of kids going crazy – and none of them care, they’re all loving it. The standards of what we have, and the audience for that kind of act, are very different.

How does that play into being ‘A Band’ at a festival?

Matthew: It’s hard to navigate, and we’re in the business of selling music because if not we’d just make it and give it to our friends. You put out records because you want to make some kind of difference and to make some money from your art to an extent because everyone can dress it up in different ways, but if you’re gonna put out an album, you want it to sell.
So you look around and go ‘ok, that’s where people’s heads are at at the moment’, but we’ve had experiences before the band, making music that we didn’t connect with. [We don’t want to make] music because [we’d know] that a thousand kids in bucket hats were gonna like it. You just need to find your own lane and do it to the best and make music you want to hear essentially. That’s what we did with ‘Future Dust’ I feel, and you’re fully prepared for it to not translate because you love it.

The Amazons brave the heat to discuss the state of rock'n'roll backstage at Reading 2019
The Amazons brave the heat to discuss the state of rock'n'roll backstage at Reading 2019

Words: Steven Loftin

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