By Joseph Viney
Emerging from the North East of England, Ambershift are keen to blaze a trail across the country. Taking their inspiration from acts such as The Police, The Smiths and New Order, Ambershift want to be the group that defines the soundtrack to your life. Soldiering on without any of the privileges enjoyed by other bands such as expensive PR and a fear-inducing management team, Ambershift are doing things the old-fashioned way; travelling in packed vans, lugging their own gear and building up a fan base one gig at a time.
Lead singer and bass-player Dave Lord has kindly taken some time out of his busy schedule to tell AMO more about the band.
Hi! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the band please?
Hi, I’m Dave Lord, singer and bass player – I formed Ambershift in January 2007 as a New Year’s resolution to get my act together. The original line up was me on lead vocals and bass, Phil Hodgson on Drums with Andy Wright and Paul Moutter on guitars.
This line up recorded a demo album which was sold at gigs in the winter of 2007 but was never released anywhere else. One track though, ‘Another Trigger’ featured on a North East Compilation CD called ‘Planet Durham’. This was released in 2008 on the Dot.45 label and seemed to get us noticed down South, particularity by record plugger Dylan White. He called us up as he was coming to Newcastle to do a music seminar so we met him on the way for a chat about the music biz in a Durham service station… and here we are!
What is the origin of the group’s name?
The name came from drinking sessions on the streets of Newcastle and the banks of the Tyne… it refers to an ‘ambershift’ being a long session of drinking… mainly lager… It’s also a lighting term in the theatre world – but we’re still trying to work that one out…
The North East is known for its exports of famous, million selling acts; Jimmy Nail, PJ & Duncan and Lindisfarne to name a few. Would you characterise yourself as a ‘North East band’ or are genre-labels like that not of interest to you?
We’re not writing music to suggest that ‘its grim up North’ or that we’re using our home town as a badge on our sleeves. Our music is related to many different experiences from different things we’ve seen all over the place. That’s not to say we don’t love the North-East – its a great place. You can’t compare anyone or anything to Jimmy Nail, the man is a legend! I guess we prefer the label of a British band.
How did Ambershift come together? Was it a gradual process or did it all happen fairly quickly?
I decided to form the band from a couple of other bands I’d played in, me and Phil (drummer) have played together since we were thirteen so we’ve always been pretty tight. The last two guitarists we had quit due to the stress of touring, and I suppose it isn’t for everyone. The four of us have very different ideas about music and that’s what makes this band great to be part of.
Who is the group’s biggest influence? As well as that, who’s career trajectory would you most like to emulate and why?
We’ve all got totally different influences, from Thin Lizzy to Death Cab for Cutie. Personally my main influences come from The Police, The Smiths and New Order. In terms of a career path, I’d say somewhere between The Happy Mondays and the Who. They seemed to have a great time! In all due seriousness though, I think it’s difficult to predict any kind of career trajectory in the music industry in this day and age. We just hope things continue to stay as positive as they are.
What do you offer to music that other bands cannot?
Emotive and explosive music of epic proportions, offering a new soundtrack to YOUR life.
Was starting a band and trying to ‘make it’ in music always a dream of yours, or was it a happy accident?
Starting a band always comes from watching other bands that make an impact on you in your youth. I really don’t think that there are any positive accidents in this business anymore. I think any band that makes it by accident it must be a very cleverly calculated PR campaign or a miracle. After speaking to hundreds of bands in the last couple of years it’s become apparent to us that those days are long gone.
We’ve working really hard to bring this album together and nothing has been passed on a plate. It’s all self funded and we’ve not had massive amounts of luck. It’s just been a case of getting in a van and doing the gigs, doing nine to five jobs to pay for everything until you get to a point when you can afford to make that big step, and even then it’s a gamble. I would like to think that most bands would say the same thing. As our drummer Phil says, ‘You can’t be beat’.
Do you get a good reception from audiences? Do you think your music is accessible to all or that some people simply won’t ‘get it’?
You put yourself on a pedestal and you have to be prepared to take some knocks. We’ve had a few because we don’t wear skinny jeans, wear top hats and love some trendy band who don’t have a bass player. If people want haircuts and fashion ideas from us, I guess they’d be barking up the wrong tree. We’ve always had a good reception form shows because we always perform our own music – it’s addictive and the gigs have a lot of energy. A little bit like lighting the blue touch paper and waiting for a bang.
Is there one creative force in the band or is it a collaborative effort? Talk us briefly through your song-writing process.
I write all the lyrics and come up with a backbone melody/structure for the songs – then we put it into rehearsal – swap bits round then leave it. We keep coming back to stuff we wrote over a year ago and adding it to newer ideas. If we don’t remember something it just isn’t catchy enough to belong in a song. We all have input into the writing and its getting more intense with every new idea we have. We want to write that song that really sticks in your head for a very long time.
If you had to pick your favourite Ambershift song, which would you choose and why?
Probably ‘Another Trigger’. It’s the first single from the new album – released 12th July – it’s about losing your patience with everything and everyone. I guess it is about a breaking point in someone’s head and questioning how much one person can take.
Of all of the famous acts you have supported, who were your favourites to work with? Were there any you did not enjoy working with?
Nine Black Alps were probably the most personable band we’ve supported – they we’re really decent chaps and had a few beers with us before and after the gig. Electric Six were a bit odd. They seemed to be a little absorbed in themselves – I remember their guitarist even covered up his dials on his pedals so you couldn’t copy his ‘unique’ sound. It was only a stomp box!
Tell us your favourite gig/tour story from your own experience.
Probably when Phil set fire to himself in the back of the bus. He was smoking a cig and thought he’d chucked it out the window. He fell asleep and after a while someone noticed a burning smell. I turned around from the front seat and saw Phil trying to rip his shirt off which was on fire and he was screaming ‘FUCKING HELP ME MAN!’ – Andy was sat next to him and put him out with a can of lager. He was ok but annoyed that we were just laughing and pointing at him. Funny times.
What influences you in every day life? For example: art, buildings, certain people?
Any person that fights for justice when the odds are stacked against them should be an inspiration to anyone. People are more interesting than art or buildings, although Durham Cathedral and the Baltic art gallery are worth a visit.
What would you prefer: a worldwide and large, but fickle fan base or a very dedicated but much smaller number of followers?
Quality above quantity any day. It’s the people that buy the music that make this band what it is. We appreciate anyone who takes the time to listen to our music or get in touch with us. Without them we’re nothing.
Who are some of your favourite groups out today? And are there any other local North East bands we should listen out for?
I love the Futureheads, Field Music, The Chapman family and the Little Comets. They’re all from the North-East- buy all of their music now!!
Do you adhere to a pre-gig routine?
A couple of brandy and cokes and maybe a couple of cigs. We tend to just have a chat to the other bands and have a laugh. Nothing out of this world, just normal banter.
What’s each band member’s favourite drink?
Dave (Bass/Vocals)- Rum and coke
Andy (Keys)- Red Wine
Phil (Drums)- Continental lager
Ben (Guitar)- Sex on the Beach
Do you get any backstage privileges?
What does that mean? You mean like hand jobs and fruit? Do we hell! We sometimes get some free booze but that’s about it. The days of ‘just blue smarties’ are a long way off. Think we’ve had towels before and we were impressed at that!
What would be your dream venue to gig at?
Anywhere massive. We suit a bigger stage as we have a massive sound. Would really love to play somewhere like Brixton Academy or Earls Court. Obviously Glastonbury and the festival circuit would be ace.
What does the future hold for Ambershift?
More gigs, more writing, harder work. We’ve got a lot to do and we’re really looking to get on a good support tour. The debut single is released digitally on 12th July and the debut album ‘Ambershift’ is released on 19th July. Anyone can download a free copy of ‘Heartbreaker’ – a track from the new album @ www.ambershift.net Hope to see you down the front!
Thank you for your time!