Amber Run look out from Rock City’s main stage, their illuminated faces are full of wonder, their bodies unstoppable with adrenaline; a rush that has come from fourteen months of hunger. Playing their first headline show in their adopted home town’s iconic venue, Amber Run made it back. They made it back stronger than ever. Spending half of the set cradling himself, arms wrapped around his torso almost pinching himself, frontman Joe Keogh, declares; “We are a band reborn!”
Rock City is home to the band’s best memories, and moments so good that seem to have escaped their memory, with a little help from the infamous double pints. It seems perfectly fitting that on the day that their second album, For A Moment I Was Lost, was released to the world that it was performed here first.
Defined by fear and hurt, the album is crafted from the shards of 2015, which saw the band be dropped by their record label, and the departure of their drummer.
“None of us saw it coming at all,” explains guitarist, Will Jones. “We were all like, lowest of the low at that moment. It was kind of one of those points where we all looked at each other and we all knew, if there was a moment to call it a day and to have a get out clause and give it up, then this was it.
“But the fact is, it gave us a kick up the arse. One of the most momentous things is that it made us love what we do again, when we’d fallen out of love with it in a big way.”
For A Moment I Was Lost is the darkest body of work from Amber Run. The lyrics dig right to the core, and stir emotion, forcing you to face your internal battles. Guitars are brasher, they’re angrier and they battle with drums that torment in their capturing rhythms.
“What we say about this album is that it’s more honest, and not all emotion that you feel about loads of stuff is simple. It doesn’t like slowly ebb up and down… there are moments that are easy and nice and there are moments of pure ferocity and it comes out of nowhere. That’s just how human beings are,” says Joe, closing his eyes in careful reflection.
Where Perfect ironically stomps all over expectations, Fickle Game is an empowered scrawled note to the music industries. Island intricately highlights the dangers of infatuation and comparison, while Haze captures the vulnerability of a single vocal in a painstaking account of struggles with depression.
“Some of these songs are just mirror images of how we feel,” explains Henry Wyeth, the band’s keyboard player. “How are you going to write anything or make anything of genuine emotion if you’re not feeling that emotion? If you’re not in that head space then you can’t make an honest effort.”
Their favourite track, No Answers, was born from the rut they felt of their career. Behind the endless reluctant nods and passive agreements, Joe recalls, “I was actually like ‘NO. I’M WELL PISSED OFF. I’VE GOT TO SHOUT ABOUT IT.’ I had to shout about it rather than sing it because I was actually really pissed off.
“I think that there’s an honesty in that, and that’s why there’s strength in the album.”
A band in unity, the boys bounce off of each other. In excitement they give each other gentle pokes with their feet, and nod in agreement on tender subjects. The brotherly reassurance translates to the new album, right down to the title being in past tense. Amber Run are no longer lost.
“There’s no better way of saying it, and it’s cliché and you hear it all the time, but we’ve just matured a little bit, because we actually have grown up.” According to Joe, the album has allowed them to stop hiding and t face their demons.
While Will questionably compares the making of their debut album, 5AM, to “the longest, most painful labour imaginable”, ultimately though they recognise that the record was the one that bought in the fans. We fell in love with the joyousness of Spark, the giddiness of Heaven and the euphoria of Just My Soul Responding, which meant the next step was a bigger revival.
“The reason we are where we are is because our fans are the sort of fans who listen to something and want to tell all of their friends. We genuinely have the best fans, because they’re not sort of musos who sit there impressed with it, they’re like – I found this band, I want to tweet about it, I want to tell my mates about it, they want people to know that they’re listening to us which is like the best thing.”
For Amber Run, it’s this human connection that has meant that For A Moment I Was Lost has been so truthful – for the fans to connect in the same way as before.
“If you were to actually sit down with somebody and ask them what’s going on, they’d tell you a lot more truthfully how they felt. That’s what we’re trying to do on the album, to be more brutally honest.
“We’ve actually been told off a number of times that we shouldn’t be speaking like this, like mainstream media won’t want to get on board with you if you’re just seen as little whingers,” Joe admits.
“It’s not about whinging, I think it’s one of the reasons that we have such a good connection with our fans is that they actually understand where our music comes from. If we didn’t speak about it, they’d listen to it in the wrong place and on the wrong foundation – maybe they wouldn’t like it as much. Because we can have an honest dialogue with the people who are consuming our music, that makes the body of work even more powerful.”
The writing, recording and releasing of this album is described in awe, by bassist Tom Sperring, as “liberating”. During that lost period, the band tried to gratify what they thought people wanted, but consciously writing pop songs for singles got everybody “really fucking miserable”.
“Honestly, if we had tried to write ‘Noah’ again it’d have been the worst track. It would have been a cold, ugly lie. We then thought, if we write what we feel like writing, it’s going to be so much better. When we did that it was ten times easier.”
A collaborative effort, each band member gave their “direct reaction to what was going on at the time.” The life experience pumps into the heart of the album, and it’s a heart that very much beats. Revived.
In harmony, they breathe a sigh of relief in telling, “our mental state since halfway through last year has just been so much better and positively we’re just a different band to the band we were back in towards the end of 2015, genuinely.
“It’s through going through shit and coming out of the other end and thinking, we’ve done that and are so much better for it.”
It’s more than evident that the songs on For A Moment I Was Lost needed to be written, just as much as the band needed to write them. Its haunting nature sends chills down the spine; some songs swell like a lump in the throat, others are a guttural reaction and kick and bite with a painful anger, then there’s the intimacy of softer moments with Amber Run’s signature harmonies. All are emotion in its rawest form.
“It’s been better in a way to release the album to the world and say the honest story of how it was difficult… If people want us to smile then they can go and fuck themselves because we’re not going to – this album has been hard! That’s what it’s about.”
“Just as much as that, we’re back to writing songs for this next album, I’m not saying that they’re all super happy, there’s still sad stuff in there, but there’s a more positive theme already,” says Joe.
“We won’t hide from the fact that if we’re feeling good, we’re feeling good as well. It’s actual honesty. This was a hard period but maybe there’ll be an awesome period coming up, and we can be just as vocal about that and actually mean it.”
The record is the ultimate meaning of catharsis. Every inner thought and emotion has been uncaged, in return for redemption. A reminder that we wouldn’t know happiness without knowing sadness, For A Moment I Was Lost is a battleground, but a constant reminder that all darkness has light and how quickly that can turn on its head.
Words by Tanyel Gumushan