I had the pleasure of talking to Annelotte de Graaf (a.k.a Amber Arcades) after her headline slot on the Heavenly Records stage at Sounds From The Other City Festival last month…
You’ve just played the Heavenly Recordings stage at SFTOC – how was your set? As a label, what have they been like to work with?
It was really fun! It’s been quite a long day so five minutes before the show I was just passed out on the sofa trying to save my energy, but I managed to get over it. I felt like a supernova, like a sun blowing up before it dies. Now I’m dead, but the gig was the supernova. Heavenly are a really small label so they’re really supportive of everyone they sign, they invest in artists and want to see them grow.
To begin with, I was very intrigued by the fact that last year you were working as an assistant for war crimes tribunals at the UN, “assessing the claims of refugees granted asylum in the Netherlands who are seeking to have their families brought over” – pursuing a career in music seems to have been a very drastic change in direction, what prompted such a change?
It’s something I think I’ll get back to eventually. I try to live my life in chapters, and I see this chapter of my life as one that’s dedicated to music. I studied law and now that I’ve got some work experience in that field, it’ll make it easier for me to get back into it later.
Since you’re from Utrecht, what are your recommendations of things I should do if I ever visit the city?
You should come in November when we have the best festival ever, Le Guess Who! It’s kind of like Sounds From The Other City in the way that it’s scattered across the city in different venues. I think I’m pretty objective in saying that there’s no other festival which even comes close to the kind of line-up they have every year. It was such an honour to play there last year after I’ve attended the festival for so many years as a visitor.
Witnessing the complexity of the refugee crisis from a legal perspective, how frustrating is it when you see politicians such as Geert Wilders and Donald Trump, who clearly do not understand the crisis properly?
He’s a total asswipe! He over generalises, his whole party’s program fits on one piece of A4 paper, it was something like closing all mosques, forbidding religious education, making the Qur’an illegal, all things that are not ethical or practical.
Your debut album ‘Fading Lines’ has received many positive reviews – including a 10/10 rating from Drowned In Sound, which is impressive. Do you ever read your album reviews? If you do, then are you ever surprised by things that reviewers pick up on?
Yes, I do read quite a lot about myself online, which I probably shouldn’t do… It’s better not to read it, but I do. I’m only human! It’s interesting when they compare you to bands you’ve never heard of, that way I get into a lot of new music! My music knowledge is pretty poor, I got compared to The Breeders and Liz Phair and that led to me discovering those artists who I’d never heard of before.
You recently finished a tour supporting Grandaddy – how did that come about and what was the tour like?
It started because I wanted to do more gigs in Belgium. We do a lot of gigs in the UK, which is fine because the UK is really cool but practically and economically, it’d be better to play more gigs closer to home. I found a venue in Brussels called Ancienne Belgique and saw that Grandaddy were playing there, so my manager got in touch with them and then they let us join them on the whole UK and EU tour! We got to play in so many beautiful, good-sounding venues on that tour, like the Albert Hall in Manchester and the Roundhouse in London.
You’ve got a few festivals lined up for the summer, such as Best Kept Secret in The Netherlands and Sea Change in Devon – which are you most looking forward to?
Best Kept Secret! Because last time I was there I got really drunk and made a fool of myself! It’s a festival I’ve been to a lot as a visitor, but it’s fun to be there as an artist and to see other people who I like. I’m excited to see Mitski there, and Chris Cohen too!
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of this year?
I have a new EP coming out on 2nd June, I’m mainly planning to just write in July and August, as I’m planning to record a new album in LA around October time. We’re going to try and release it before next summer, that’s my focus for now!
‘Cannonball’ is the new EP by Amber Arcades, out this Friday on Heavenly Recordings.