How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me? is out now!
British rockers The Amazons have shared their new album, How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me?. We caught up with frontman Matt Thomson to chat about the release, working with their musical heroes, hitting the road again and so much more!
Your new album, How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me? is about to come out, which is super exciting. In my opinion, the album is a return to like good times sonically and conceptually, obviously it's also about the longing to be reunited with loved ones. Each song in my opinion kind of seems like a little love letter and I can't help but assume that the theme of longing was something that arose during COVID lockdowns all that stuff. Could you kind of like briefly like unpack the themes and concepts explored across the album?
Yeah, absolutely. I think most albums that have come out in the last year or are going to come out are gonna be affected by, you know, COVID and lockdowns and stuff. It was such an all encompassing experience because it was so long. I feel like it was such a spectrum of experiences as well from obviously completely tragic to utterly mundane and incredibly boring, and everything in between. I think lockdowns themselves was never that interesting, COVID was not that interesting. I mean we see that on our doom scroll like every day. So it was kind of like not really that exciting for us to write explicitly about it. But for me, I was already in a long distance relationship with someone in Los Angeles, which is about 6,000 miles away from where I was for a few years in Brighton, which is like on the south coast of England. I was like, 'Okay, there's something to explore here I think, I hope it's not too boring' eccetera. And then lockdown did happen and it took me a while to kind of really contemplate and really have this thought process that now everyone was in some way in a long distance relationship. They were down the road from each other because that was the nature of lockdown. I don't what it was like for you guys, but I'm sure like from each state or whatever or region, you were in a long distance relationship because it was like the distance might not change, but time certainly did. Time just creeps on and you get further and further away from the last time you were there with that person. So that was something to navigate really on this record. But ultimately, and actually a lot of it is, if I like talk about songs like Northern Star, that's pretty explicitly just a kind of tribute. That's kind of just me expressing how I feel about someone whilst In The Morning, For The Night and I'm Not Ready, actually those last three are really talking about like in a long distance relationship it's kind of episodic. So you are always gonna get hellos and that's euphoric and incredible, but there's always like gut wrenching goodbyes and they are always, they're inevitable for everyone, however long you are with someone. Kinda talk about that as well in the album,.
I know that you were already working album prior to this one and from what I've heard it was going to be quite a different body of work. What do you think made these songs feel like the right avenue to go in and move on from those songs you were already working on?
Well good question. We started out at the beginning of 2020 with this idea that the previous album had been written quite like instinctively together as a group in the rehearsal room. So you would get almost quite far along with the arrangements and the songs, but without me like working out what the song was actually about [laughs]. So I'd do a lot of lyrics in the vocal booth and trying to make stuff up as I went along. I think that could work for other people, you know, that kind of jam room setting and stuff. But for me it just made me feel uncomfortable to not be a hundred percent sure what the song was about. So really at the beginning it was about working out songs on a melodic and on a level of like having an actual title and having an actual something to talk about. Just me and a guitar or just me and the piano. And we just felt like if these songs can't move you at such a stripped level and they can't get you excited, then what's the point of taking any? And we did do a whole batch of songs post-second album where it was kind of jam room and instinctive and there was some good stuff that came out, but it just wasn't right. It wasn't fulfilling us in the way that we wanted our new music to fulfil us. It just felt like the last album Mark II. We needed to do something different. And these songs started kind of coming on their own, like Northern Star was at the end of 2020. One By One, How Will I Know, they started happening. I wasn't with the band to jump in the rehearsal room, so it actually forced me to finish the lyrics and to finish what the song's about and the story. And then I could like present it to the band like, 'this is what this is about'. And that can help massively with the boys' choices with their guitars and bass and stuff. If I'm like, 'this is Northern Star, it's X and Z', they're like, 'okay, wow, okay, we're building a mood here rather than kind of just blindly in the dark', kind of just feeling it out actually gave them a bit more of a blueprint.
The album is quite bright and anthemic sonically. Was that something that you really wanted to do when you went into working on this album? Or was it something that that you found the conceptual nature of the songs brought out?
I think honestly the lockdown affected that. We were just so bored. We were so bored and we knew that we weren't gonna be releasing music for a little while. There was this idea that we were having of like, there will be a festival at some point and there will be live shows at some point. We've gotta believe that. And actually instead of creating kind more quieter and introspective stuff that would soundtrack our daily lives, let's write music for the future. The light at the end of the tunnel. We were so confined within four walls, we wanted to push against it. I didn't wanna just sit kind of, you know, happily with a little acoustic guitar and make quiet music. I was like, ' fuck this! Let's blow the roof off'.
Well you did, you definitely blew the roof off! Now on the album, you've got some like great collaborators. Maggie Rogers, Jamie Hartman, Craig Calbi and Jim Abiss. What like drew you to working with them for this particular body of work?
Well honestly, I would've worked with them all on the first record but we'd only just started do you know what I mean? People like Jim Abiss and Craig Calbi. Craig working on The Suburbs, mixing The Suburbs in 2010, like that changed my life a hundred percent. Jim Abiss working on the first Arctic Monkeys or working on the first couple of Bombay Bicycle Club records definitely changed my life to the point of like there wouldn't really be The Amazons in the way that we are without those records. Like they almost created the language that we speak. So funnily enough we all got on really well [laughs]. Because every idea that Jim would have, we were like, 'that's a sick idea dude', obviously. Because we were just influenced by stuff that he's done with Daniel before. So we were like, 'everything you do is is weirdly great, what the hell?' It was a beautiful thing to be able to get to a point where we could get in a room and have our phone calls answered by Craig Calbi and Jim Abiss for sure. When it came to Maggie, we've been friends really since about 2017. Met at Glastonbury and have just kind of hung out when we can over the years.I was in Los Angeles and usually like our hangs are very much like exchanging just, you know, 'have you seen this movie or have you heard this album?' I've discovered so much great music from her. I'd never heard of Kacey Musgraves or that album [Golden Hour], the one that got a Grammy. She introduced me to like Sturgill Simpson and people like that. Like I would have no idea, just the UK doesn't have that much country music, in the peripheral least. I've always just loved hanging out her. She's super inspirational and she's someone who I would describe as like 'in it', like she doesn't let industry shit get in the way of her pursuit of like making stuff that truly fulfills her. And I've always found it really inspiring because I think when you are Maggie Rogers there can be so much just crap swerving and around that you have to kind of navigate just to be able to be the artist that you wanna be. I'm sure everyone has an opinion on what she should be doing and what she should be wearing. Anyways, that's kind beside the point we're hanging out at her place and I just had this idea, like a verse idea for ages and I was like, 'can I play this to you?', she was like, 'absolutely'. Sung it to her and I was like, 'What would you do next?'. She started singing this melody, and I was like, 'that's the chorus. It's incredible'. I've been sitting on that idea for honestly maybe years, to the point where I'd actually written the, this is in Say It Again and it's the acoustic guitar bit, like the open guitar bit I'd written in my first band when I was 16 [laughs]. So I've had that for long, long time and then put some lyric on it. Yeah, it was super organic. Kind of exactly how I'd want it to be. It wasn't like 'we're gonna write at 10:00 AM on Tuesday'. It wasn't like that at all.
I love that, sounds like such a lovely experience. If you had to pick three songs of the album play to someone who had never heard any of your music before to make like an instant diehard fan, which three would you pick?
Ooh, that's a great, great question. Northern Star, Say it Again, and potentially How Will I Know? just for a little bit, like it's a bit harder, but more up tempo, bit more progressive but still very melodic. Yeah.
So is there like particular line, lyric or musical motiff from the album that you get stuck in your head more often than not or maybe one you're most proud of?
Yeah, I love the first verse of Say It Again because it takes me back to the moment that the song is set in. It's like a morning in Los Angeles and me and my girlfriend have only been together for a little while and it kind of all clicks, all comes together. I'm a real clutz and she has these lovely white covers and sheets and all that stuff and they always turn out to be pretty coffee stained when I'm around [laughs]. The line is like coffee stained your bedsheets baby, never knew that I was ready. Whisper it softly, voices breaking with the dawn". And I like "with the dawn", like the dawn is already breaking and our voices are kind of like breaking from a whisper into not full. I like that line.
Obviously you guys are heading on tour throughout the UK, North America and partts of Europe for the rest of the year, what can like Australia.
Australia [crosses fingers], please!
I know right, it needs to happen! But what can audiences expect from this tour, especially since you know, it's been some time between tours?
Yeah, it's gonna be a very different show because I think that the new album kind of gives us dynamic, which I've always wanted from our shows. Because I feel like if you are just going up tempo, hard rock the whole time, then the impact is kind lost. So to be able to have quieter moments and stuff, I think the impact of the tempo stuff will be greater and vice versa, which I'm really excited about to be able to do. The UK is obviously where we are the most successful, so we have more planned there and I think we are just experimenting with at the moment putting a set list together and working out how to make the set as immersive as possible. Working out ways to do that, if you know what I mean. There's a lot more like soundscape stuff that we're playing around with, which is very different for The Amazons. We're usually a bit more like plug in and play, but I just wanna do something different that we have never seen before.
GET TO KNOW THE AMAZONS
Biggest musical influences?
Springsteen, McCartney, Bowie.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Born To Run
If you could create the soundtrack for any film, which one would it be?
I don't have an answer but Do Revenge just came out on Netflix. It's got an exceptionally good soundtrack. I recommend it to anyone with Netflix.
What was the first song you loved to sing?
Ooh, well I auditioned for Stars in Their Eyes. It was a UK show where you impersonate stars and there was a children's version and I impersonated Jimmy Osmond and sung Long Hair Lover from Liverpool.
First concert you went to?
Bootleg Led Zeppelin, a Led Zeppelin tribute act. And the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Best concert you have been to?
Impossible. Impossible. Okay, so I've been trying to see Paul McCartney in the Flesh my entire life, but I've never been able to except from the two songs he played at the Taylor Hawkins tribute concert and tears. Crying. That's it.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
It's gotta be Spice Girl, come on.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Ginger's taken, goddamn it! That's great question. I like history. History Spice.
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
Supporting Muse at the San Siro football stadium in Milan. It was bloody good.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Hearing Smells Like Teen Spirit on the radio when I was like eight.
How Will I Know if Heaven Will Find Me? is out now!