From exclusive interviews, live performances, special collections and more, we’re celebrating music all month long. We talked to the bands and artists playing our upcoming UO Live in Austin shows about their musical beginnings and the places they’re headed next. Click here to read more from our favorite musicians.
Amber Bain, known on stage at The Japanese House, now has three incredible shimmery and emotional pop EPs to her name. Her most recent, Swim Against The Tide, released in late 2016 and recorded in both Los Angeles and across the pond in London, is four sweet tracks that lodge in your head long after the music has stopped. With a supporting slot on The 1975’s 2016 stadium tour and upcoming U.S. shows, including a stop at Urban Outfitter’s own SXSW showcase, Bain’s introspective and heartbreaking tunes adapt to make any sized audience feel intimate. Her electronic, synth-driven songs should be staples in any music lover’s collection. Before hitting the road for tour, Bain caught up with me via phone from sunny Los Angeles, California, to talk about inspiration, tour, and what she’s been spinning on her stereo.
Lead image by Danny North, interview by Kat Harding
Above: photos by Ro Murphy
Your new EP is at times crushing or uplifting. What did you use for inspiration for the record?
Oh! That’s a question I should probably know instantly the answer to, but I actually don’t. I definitely use personal experience, that’s kind of a given, I guess. And I think that's what I draw most of my inspiration from. In terms of music, I’m obviously a big fan of music, I think you kind of have to be. The artists I love are Fleetwood Mac, Bon Iver, Kate Bush, Electric Light Orchestra. I don’t really sound like any of them, but I guess subconsciously I’ll get inspiration from them. I think being on tour and playing, for example, “Face Like Thunder” is definitely the most upbeat song I’ve written, the song with the most pace, I’d say, not upbeat. I wrote that song ages ago, but the way that I produced that song was definitely subconsciously influenced and inspired by playing lots of shows. You want to make people dance, specifically, when you’re playing a show. Sometimes it's not very fun for people if they just have depressing song after depressing song after depressing song, so i think subconsciously, that was an inspiration.
Congrats on your tour last year with The 1975! What was that like?
It was really lovely because they’re really close friends of mine for so long now. And it was the first American tour I did for them. Yeah, it was my first ever American tour and we shared a bus with Wolf Alice and it was just really fun. It was such cool crowds because their fans are pretty loyal so they’ve definitely done their research and they all knew the songs and they’re singing along and all that jazz, which is fun. They’re the best guys and I’m sad I’m not touring with them anymore, but also I’m so happy because I get to do my own shows.
Above: photo by Aysia Marotta
You’re playing our showcase this month while on a whirlwind U.S. tour. What are you looking forward to on your U.S. spring tour?
I’m definitely looking forward to South by Southwest. I’ve always wanted to play that; I think everyone wants to play that! Definitely looking forward to playing the Urban Outfitters' stage. And other things I’m looking forward to going round to places I haven’t really been to. Obviously I’ve been to quite a few places in America now but like, before we kind of stayed in really weird places and we haven’t really been able to see any of the cities, so I’m really looking forward to getting super into different cultures of different cities and stuff, especially like, I’ve never actually been to Chicago, so I’m really looking forward to going there. I’ve been to Texas before, and it was really fun, it’s a very funny world out there. Once my bandmates falling into a swimming pool in a club because we didn’t realize that there was one there. They just walked into it.
Above: photo by Aysia Marotta
Speaking of touring, it can be tough to stay grounded on the road. What do you do to stay calm and centered while traveling so much?
I should probably have something to do so I don’t go mental. This tour, I’ve asked my drummer to give me drum lessons everyday, which will be fun because I figured like I should probably get good at drums, just for fun and he’s an amazing drummer, so I’m excited to learn things, I’m excited to be like, the best drummer in the world. And to be honest, I don’t really go out really late or go wild, but I do drink quite a lot. I also watch a lot, a lot of TV series. Mainly Game of Thrones. I literally finished Game of Thrones for the second time, just finished the last episode and started at the first, in one sitting. I was like “let’s go again!” This time I’ve actually planned it all out. I don’t know if this will actually happen but I’ve decided this year I really want to get into Greek mythology and the classics, so I’m teaching myself ancient Greek. Again, this is very early on, I don’t know if I’ll keep this up, but I want to be very knowledgeable, so there’ll be lots of reading and lots of ancient Greek teaching. Although I bet I’ll literally only get through the second editorial and I’ll be like “anybody wanna watch Game of Thrones?!” It’s so bad, but it’s so good.
How did you get started in music? Your dad was in a band, right?
Well my dad, he played guitar a lot. He was in bands in school and stuff like that, but he always played guitar and then I kind of just, I’d always been playing on guitar, because they were hanging around and I think as a kid it’s like, well for me it’s the coolest thing in the world if you can play guitar. And I got him to teach me guitar. I specified that I wanted to learn rock only. I remember being like “Dad, I only want to learn rock!” He taught me some AC/DC chords and “Stairway to Heaven,” then I kind of just picked my own way, started learning some Avril Lavigne songs, writing my own songs. Pretty heavy into rock as a child.
Above: photos by Ro Murphy
What do you want to say to people through your music?
I think, if I’m completely honest, there isn’t a specific message in my music. I’d love to be one of those bands that has like, an agenda and is like “this is what we’re about and we want to do this.” But actually, I think I’m just very self-reflective in my music and reflective of relationships that I have and I suppose a byproduct of that is people connect and people apply the narratives to themselves. I guess there’s never really a super complex message, it’s just I write about what people can connect with. I hope they do, anyway.
Above: photos by Danny North
What are you listening to right now?
Oh! I’m super into Electric Light Orchestra right now. I’m actually like, addicted. I always go through phases of listening to their albums, but I’m going through it really hardcore this time. And what else am I listening to? I’m listening to my girlfriend, Marika Hackman, her new song. Well, actually listen to the new album, but it’s not out yet, so I can’t say that, but her new song, “Boyfriend,” which is really good! I was really lucky when I was on tour in England and America to bring lots of bands with me; I’m really lucky in the sense that I have lots of really talented friends who are also musicians, such as the band Our Girl, who's really incredible, and it’s got the guitarist in Big Moon, who are also great!
See Japanese House this month at UO Space 24 Twenty for UO Live in Austin. Click here for more schedules and information.