The Amazons Talk New Album 'Future Dust,' Unapologetic Rock and Roll, and Breaking America
After finding success at home in the UK with a collection of EPs and their debut album, The Amazons return Friday (May 24) with sophomore album 'Future Dust.'
Future Dust is an undeniable evolution from the Amazons' debut self-titled album, both lyrically and sonically; a result of personal growth and retrospection. The band unapologetically confronts the world around us, tackling subjects from social media and facing new challenges with age, to eating disorders and depression, all the while maintaining brazen riffs and captivating melodies.
In a conversation with Billboard, frontman Matt Thompson, guitarist Chris Alderton, bassist Elliot Briggs, and drummer Joe Emmett reflected on their motivations behind their newest album, rediscovering their identity, and finding catharsis in rock and roll.
The songs on this album feel more intense than before. What led to that change?
Matt: Yeah, I think this time around, especially lyrically, I found that probably due to the concentrated time period that we were writing. There were clearer themes and as you grow up a little bit, more significant things happen in your life, you develop more responsibilities; actually it's the act of developing responsibilities and realizing that you've done so usually involves some kind of traumatic event.
We all seem to be very plugged in to what's happening around the world and for that reason, I feel like we kind of share a consensus that 2018 and the last couple years have been quite rough. I don't see how that's going to end if everyone's plugged in and your day's affected by reading about a story about like someone blowing up a pub a hundred miles away, or something hundreds of thousands of miles away.
I can access everything that's going on in the world. I don't know how useful that is sometimes, to be that plugged into something that I have absolutely no control over. So, lyrically, there's a kind of helplessness to that.
Writing and recording the album was an act of control. It was like, this stuff in a personal life and on a wider scale is happening and I can't do anything to change that. I think that's something a lot of people can relate to. What I can do is go write and record songs with my band. It's a kind of cathartic process and there's nothing else for us to do.
How did you find that control when writing and recording Future Dust?
Matt: [We went] off to this house in Three Cliffs Bay, which is an hour outside of Swansea in Wales. It's very idyllic, somewhere you can get lost and, because there isn't a huge amount of signal, we really felt cut off from the world. But in a positive way, because we got some time and space to gain a bit of perspective and a real sense of what was going on outside. We listened to huge amounts of music. We cooked together, hung out together and bonded again, and got into the groove of writing, recording and knowing what we wanted to do sonically and lyrically. Especially with the music that we were very intent on making, kind of unapologetic rock and roll.
I saw that you've been re-examining the history and origins of rock and roll in order to better understand your genre. I've noticed how much shorter song intros have become over the years -- is that something you considered for this album?
Chris: That's exactly why we left the intro on “Mother.” It's so long because we're like fuck it, that's interesting to us and that's carried on to the live show. But you're right. We could have quite easily cut that off and then just came straight in on the riff, but that’s boring.
Matt: We wanted to show with that reintroduction to the band that we were confident in what we were doing. We weren't desperate to make a palatable radio single. I think bands pander and cater to that demographic and format a little bit, and what we like about rock and roll is when people commit to whatever the fuck they want to do and [are] fearless and confident. That's what we wanted to show with 40 seconds of drum intro before even the riff kicks in on “Mother.”
Chris: I think it can be quite patronizing to assume that no one has that attention span.
Matt: I totally agree. I don't feel like our fans are mindless idiots who need to have a chorus within thirty seconds. I think they are intelligent, lovely, kind people who don't mind 40 seconds of drum intro. Joe Emmett's on drums -- why do you not want people to hear that? He's a great drummer. That's a great beat, you don't hear that kind of beat in rock and roll, so you might as well just show off. Let people enjoy the drums.
Joe: I totally agree. There should be more of it. The whole song should be drums.
You have an interlude track called “The Mire” leading into “Doubt It.” This was the only interlude on the album -- why did you include it?
Matt: That was Chris' idea, I believe.
Chris: I went to go see a band called Unloved, they did the Killing Eve soundtrack. They were putting out an album. They're really unknown, even in England, and we went to watch them and it's all done with samples and the drummer plays with, what are they called?
Chris: Yeah, he plays with beaters. And it just all sounded really cool. And when I was taking notes of the sounds I liked. Kind of imagining how it could just be a piece of music on its own. I sort of wanted something at the beginning of “Doubt It” because it just felt like it could have that at the beginning. So, in the studio just trying to make it happen, because like on the first record sometimes we'd have these ideas and just unless you’re like “we need to make this happen,” it just won't. So, I kept saying like, “can we do the intro now?” and because I had the key idea of what I wanted to do, I said “we're going to do this now.”
Matt: We'd done real quick songs, like “Mother,” “Fuzzy Tree” and “25.” We wanted to kind of set the scene for “Doubt It,” which is kind of a bit of an epic.
How has your mindset changed between your first album and Future Dust? What have you set out to do with this one that's different than before?
Matt: I think with the first album we didn't know what we wanted, really. We were like oh, we just want to be big rock stars and just see what happens and, you know, let's play Jools Holland.
Elliot: Or let's play Reading Festival.
Matt: Let's play Reading Festival. Then you do all those things, and you're like, okay, cool. I think this time around we felt like we didn't have to worry about first times, first time on the charts or whatever. I think we worked out what we liked and what we didn't like through writing and stuff. I think the biggest difference this time around is that we have something to say. We have a voice that's not just having an opinion in an interview. The voice that we have is a lot more realized in terms of the music we make and in terms of the visuals and in terms of the way Chris plays the guitar -- I think he has a much more realized voice than he did on the first record. I feel it's the same on the drums, the bass, and my vocals, especially my lyrics. And I just think we’re very much in evolution. It's very much an evolution that we've been conscious of the whole time because you're not going to really change unless you make yourself change.
Joe: These guys have been in the band for a long time before I joined. There were songs on that record from those times, plus the ones we had put together as a band. Whereas this album feels very much like the start of something for us. It was was great and it allowed us to go to some amazing places -- we got top ten in the UK with it -- but this really feels like it's the start of a new journey and we're going in a new direction where we feel way more confident.
Matt: Yeah, the goalposts of success are completely different. It's very much less based around how many tickets you're selling, or how many records you sell, or anything like that. It's very much more creative. I've always said to the boys, we want to be the best band in the world and that doesn't necessarily mean the biggest band in the world. We're not prepared to become bland or boring and cater and pander to the masses just to become the biggest. That's exactly the opposite what my idea of rock and roll is all about.
Chris: Yeah, creative ambition, not monetary.
Matt: It's that kind of realization of who we are. More than anything, this album was much more of a realization about art and about the band we want to become. So, I wouldn't say we're half the band we want to become, but I think this album is definitely a step in that direction.
You talk about social media on this album, and you’ve said that as a band you’re putting a lot of thought into how you want to use it. Why is that?
Matt: I think social media is a reality that's not going anywhere anytime soon. We can be bummed about it and think back to the good old days when Jimmy Page only had to worry about turning up to the show at the right time and playing people's faces off or worrying about a record or whatever and not content creating, but that's not going to get us anywhere. We're in 2019 and it's reality, and it's actually an opportunity to expand on the music that we're putting out. Expand on the themes that we're working with and to tell our own story.
It’s not this thing where social media is ruining our lives or it's enriching, the answer really is a bit of both. That's probably a lot more interesting to explore from artist's point of view rather than this pretty black and white way of looking at it.
I think lyrically when we address these kinds of things, we've been very careful to not kind of just to completely criticize it. You're not contributing to the conversation and it's an easy thing to do. I think with a song like “25,” I try to weigh up all the different sides because you can get so much amazing stuff out of it. All this amazing music we've been able to access really easily, like the roots of rock and roll. We wouldn't have been able to otherwise, especially in England, records don't really get very far out across the water. It’s much easier to access through the internet.
Does the idea of breaking America intimidate you, or do you welcome the challenge?
Matt: We’re ready for America to whisk us up in another adventure. We’ve toured around England a lot, and America's the spiritual home of rock and roll, so touring around America means a huge amount to us. Especially symbolic destinations like New Orleans, Memphis, Austin, Nashville, L.A., or New York City. There are so many great places that we want to visit and be open and let everything sink in. This is probably my fourth trip to the States this year. What I like about it is that all the absolute worst things in the world are here, and all the absolute best things in the world are here. Everything sucks and everything's amazing and [New York City] is really beautiful and also horrible. Everything is here all at once.
Whilst living in Reading in England everything's okay. My country isn't really as much part of the conversation as it thinks it is. What I really like is, for example say you're in Reading, and you just want to like get a car and just drive out. You're just going to get to like Bath and then the sea…and then you're done. If you're in New York City and you just go and you drive out, oh my god, endless possibilities of what could happen. I feel like Europe and the UK for us is the old world and America, that's the new world. It’s exciting. It's not all great, it's not all bad. It's just everything.
Listen to Future Dust below.