By BRUCE DENNILL
Amersham recently released two new songs, Happy Face and Cute As A Button. Singer Adam Lomas, guitarist Sasha Sonnbichler, drummer Tim Trotter and bassist Nathan Waywell, now a globally scattered collective, reconnected and reignited a musical flame that never truly went out. Happy Face is filled with unapologetically in-your-face confidence, while Cute As A Button confronts man’s fundamental flaws. Nathan talks about their music, past and present.
“Influence” is a loaded, often misunderstood concept. An artist may sound similar to another but have no knowledge of them, or be a super-fan of someone whose output is completely different to their own. Who or what was the artist, album, song, era or scene that initially mapped out the road to you becoming a musician?
It was my family really. We used to have braais almost every Sunday. The guitar would ultimately come out after dark and we’d all sit around and sing songs. It seemed so natural to me. At the time, the South African songs that had my ear were Ag Please Daddy by Jeremy Taylor, Substitute by Clout and Man On The Moon by Ballyhoo. There were obviously massively influential international acts in my head too, but I distinctly remember thinking, “if these South African artists can do it, then so can I.”
Has that changed over the years? If so, how and why, and what are you currently exploring?
I was a teenager in the 80s, which meant that the electronic era was a big influence. But there were bands like The Cure who bucked that trend, so they really stood out for me. Then the seismic shift into grunge was perfect timing for a young band like ours. Currently I’m listening to as much new indie rock as I can to remind people around me that rock is certainly not dead. Have you heard of a band called The War On Drugs?
Name one song you wish you’d written or one you’d like to be known as the definitive interpreter of. What makes that song so important?
There’s a ton, but I heard Learning To Fly by Pink Floyd recently and it struck me how timeless it sounds. Those are the best songs. In fact, thinking about Pink Floyd, I wish I’d written the entire The Wall album, because it’s possibly the first time “pop” songs delved into psychology, which I think is important for the mainstream to not shy away from.
In production and arrangement terms, what are facets of your music and the music you love most by others that you feel are crucially important in terms of creating the mood you’re after or supporting the message of your song?
It’s important to capture the live essence of Amersham, which has proven to be a massive challenge with Tim being in the UK. But we opted to keep it as real as possible and didn’t use any samples, which is a massive temptation nowadays. In fact, some producers don’t even use the live kit anymore at all. The result we’ve achieved actually startles me a little because it almost sounds like the same band from the 90s. It’s possible we might have had to call the project by another name if we didn’t somehow find “our sound” again.
Which aspects of your music do you prioritise? For you, would you rather have that your lyrics, your melodies, or your vocals or instrumental work are the are the most memorable parts of your songs?
It’s the magic of the thread that knits all those things together that, if it’s not there, the song either gets trashed or put on ice until some further inspiration comes along. We won’t let it out the bag until the magic is there. It’s an incredible feeling when it all comes together. In fact, that’s the goal and the drive to keep going. This will be somewhere in the region of my 11th release and I haven’t gotten bored of it yet.
What’s your favourite piece of gear?
My live bass pedal. It changed my world, as I no longer had to lug a huge bass rig everywhere I went!
What is the story behind Cute As A Button – the genesis of the song, the people involved, the muse behind its creation?
It’s a song that best fits the explanation above about the magic thread. Initially, Adam only wanted the drums coming in right at the end as a sort of outro and then we put the song on ice because we felt something was missing. I suggested we try a different approach recently and suddenly the whole song came to life. Sasha’s guitar playing is stunning on it too. The other great thing about that song is that original member Marc Bentel agreed to lay down some Hammond organ and piano, which was amazing, because all five of us hadn’t worked together since 1995.