The Amazons

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How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me?, The Amazons’ anthem-packed third album, is both a love letter and a rallying cry. Expansive, uplifting, sun-drenched singalongs produced with Jim Abbiss (Bombay Bicycle Club, Arctic Monkeys, Adele) find the Reading rockers emerging from the darkness of 2019’s Future Dust full of lust for life and post-pandemic optimism.

“It’s easily our most joyous album,” says flame-haired frontman Matt Thomson. “Sonically we’re celebrating the return of real life and the communal, spiritual experience of being back at gigs. Lyrically, it’s me longing to see my girlfriend again after seven months apart.”

Locked down in Britain – Brighton, in the case of a newly-moved Matt – a mere week after returning from a US tour, The Amazons thought they had their third album already underway. But the prolonged lockdown proved otherwise. Desperately missing his L.A.-based girlfriend, Matt started writing songs for her, assuming no one else would hear them.

“The gap between us was no longer being bridged by WhatsApps and Facetimes,” he says. “I sent letters but they didn’t do it either. By the summer, we felt further apart than ever.

“Writing songs about what we would do when we got together was my way of taking control. It allowed me to share something truly intimate with my girlfriend. Writing is how I process life. It’s the best skill I have and being able to use it to fix a problem gave me purpose again.”

In autumn 2020, with the band already cooling on the music they had previously written, Matt sent his bare-bones love songs, composed alone at home on acoustic guitar, to his bandmates to gauge their opinion. Straight away they sensed that the singer had inadvertently struck gold.

“They were more upbeat, with brighter arrangements than anything Matt had ever written,” recalls drummer Joe Emmett. “Even in their most basic form, we could hear their potential to change us as a band.”

The Amazons’ previous, riff-driven records – 2017’s eponymously-titled debut and Future Dust, both beloved Top 10 hits – began with band jams, with lyrics added later. How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? reversed the process.

A fistful of euphoric love songs – Northern Star, lead single Bloodrush, Say It Again and Wait For Me – were shared among the quartet to work on together, albeit each alone at home.

“Having a theme was a focus for us,” says Matt. “These are songs of love, of hope, of looking to the future at a time when the world was very dark.

“In the thick of it, I felt like we were stuck in a tunnel, wondering if we’d ever see the light at the end. For me personally, I worried whether my relationship would last. When we met again, would it be the same? My hope was that we would be stronger. Having hope is a huge part of the album.”

That hope was rewarded when, in late 2020, Matt and girlfriend were reunited in Mexico, one of the first countries to lift entry restrictions, where they quarantined together for two weeks. The next two months Matt spent in L.A., living his love songs for real.

“I kept pushing back my return date,” says Matt. “But the boys also made me work. Every fortnight I was booked into Hollywood Studios, where I’d hand in my homework. It was a tiny, dingy room with lots of Buddhas dotted about. I’d go in with an engineer and record lots of half-formed ideas.”

One song Matt sent back near completion was the mid tempo beauty Say It Again, thanks to his famous friend Maggie Rogers.

“We’ve been mates with Maggie since meeting her at Glastonbury in 2017,” says Matt. “We covered one of her songs for Radio 1, then kept bumping into her at festivals.

“In L.A., I went to hang out at her place in Echo Park. I played her a verse of Say It Again and said I was stuck on the chorus. It was the most Maggie thing ever when she picked up her guitar and knocked the parts together in ten minutes.

“The song is about someone telling you that they love you for the first time. You want to hear them say it again and again. I sent Maggie’s version back, Joe added to the lyrics and Chris [Alderton, guitar] bent the structure into shape at his home studio in Ladbroke Grove.”

On Matt’s return, work sped up. He went straight from the airport to a session with Jamie Hartman (Rag’n’Bone Man, Lewis Capaldi, Celeste) in the Cotswolds, where they completed the glorious lead single Bloodrush.

 “It’s not the deepest song, but it’s definitely the most instinctive,” says Matt. “The verses are about communicating with my girlfriend. I’d had enough of the monotony of waiting to see her and I was desperate for a release from the boredom, for our lives to return to the way they were.

“The chorus is about the ecstasy of being at a gig and really letting go. You can pick your poison when it comes to Bloodrush. It’s about whatever it is that you never want to live without and the joy of being given it back.”

The album’s intriguing title is taken from grandiose opener How Will I Know?, the only song to survive from The Amazons’ initial demos for their third album.

“Pre-pandemic, we’d written ten songs between tours,” says Joe. “Most were dark, in the vein of Future Dust, but How I Will I Know stood out. It had a widescreen sound that, when lockdown arrived, felt like the antithesis of sitting alone at home. Sonically, it became our compass.”

For ‘heaven’ read hope.

“We’re not religious,” says Matt. “Heaven means different things to different people. For us, as cheesy as it sounds, it means making music that is a force for good. Enough of the darkness, we want to hear joy. We never stopped dreaming of festivals, of their energy and community. With this album we set out to capture our heaven and hand it to our fans.”

There were co-writing sessions in a converted barn in Hitchin, Hertfordshire with producer partners Nick Atkinson and Edd Holloway (Lewis Capaldi, Tom Grennan, Jade Bird) where rowdy rockers Ready For Something and In The Morning, the spine tingling, acoustic love letter Northern Star and the funky, fast-paced, Wait For Me were completed.

Last summer, The Amazons took demos recorded at Chris’s home studio to sleepy Saffron Walden to produce How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? with an idol, Jim Abiss.

“Jim was top of our wish list,” says Joe. “He’s made so many albums that we not only adore, but which brought us together as a band, including records from Arctic Monkeys and Bombay Bicycle Club”

The Amazons arrived at Jim’s address to discover it was on an industrial estate.

“Then you walk inside and it’s this ‘70s Scandi interior-designed awesome studio,” says Matt. “It was fantastic for us because it’s so isolated. For eight and a half weeks we worked every day with no distractions, except for Wine Club, which Joe hosted on Wednesdays. During lockdown, Joe worked at a vineyard and got wine qualifications. Now we’re all wine snobs.”

Jim encouraged The Amazons to keep parts of their DIY demos.

“If he loved a weird sound or a vocal, he’d use it rather than ask us to re-record it,” says Matt. “He kept the acoustic guitar and the spirit of the love songs I’d recorded in my bedroom and the energy of guitar parts we’d played in Chris’s living room when we were first allowed out. The result is this beautiful Frankenstein’s monster of a record which captures the whole process.”

Jim also brought in Peace frontman Harry Koisser as a programmer and keyboardist.

“He’s a real English eccentric, wired very differently to us,” says Matt. “He’s in the corner at a laptop, headphones on, sprinkling strange magic on the tracks. Then he’d head off on an adventure and we wouldn’t see him again for four days.”

How Will I Know If Heaven Will Find Me? was mixed by Craig Silvey (Arcade Fire, Florence & The Machine, Sam Fender).

“The icing on the cake,” says Matt. “To work with friends and idols on an album about hope and joy was a dream. It’s the heaven we have to take to our fans.”