Issue 02: The Amazons
Photography: Peter Franklyn Banks / Words: Liberty Papworth
This article is an excerpt from The Amazons feature from Issue 02 of GAFFER: Heart & Soul. Available now from our online store now.
“BORN, RAISED AND NEVER COMING BACK.”
Riffs loud enough to start an earthquake fill the walls of Madejski Stadium. Thousands of Reading fans are sat. No-one cheers. No-one claps. Not even a smile appears.
Yet for The Amazons, this was a teenage dream come true. ‘Black Magic’, one of the biggest hits from the band’s debut album had become Reading FC’s walkout song. Why was this such an iconic moment for them? Because Reading was the place where it all began for Matt (vocals/guitar), Chris (guitar), Elliot (bass) and Joe (drums). It’s their home-town. Their club. The streets they know like the back of their hand. Reading is part of their soul, and now they are part of the club’s history. The first time they heard ‘Black Magic’ at the stadium was an unforgettable moment. “IT’S GREAT! We’ve seen it a couple of times now, and every single time I’ve got my phone out videoing it, sending it to all my mates. Then you’re looking around at the crowd to see if they’re into it. And no. Not at all. They really don’t care. Every-time I look it’s just old people who don’t give a fuck. It’s not like anyone is dancing in the aisles or anything. But we’re cool with that.”
Even though the Reading fans, nicknamed the “Royals” didn’t have much pitch-side charisma on the day. The lack of energy came as no surprise to lead singer Matt, “I’m from Reading so if anyone can say it, I can. Reading fans always need a bit of encouragement to show any passion”. A description he expands on for his hometown, “the thing about Reading is it’s kind of nowhere, but also everywhere. There’s not a lot about Reading, but it’s a lot like other regional towns. You walk down the high street and you could be anywhere in the world, which is sad but it’s also home.”
They may have found Reading uninspiring, but the lack of inspiration has never held them back – if anything it has only ever propelled them forward. They’ve gone on to catch the ear of NME, Radio 1 and MTV, to name a few. They’ve toured with The Kooks. Created two albums which have featured Top 10 in the charts; no easy feat for a new rock band. And they’ve seen their fair share of the UK, playing at over 40 cities in just 5 years.
But for Matt becoming a rock-star was never the childhood dream. It was always about football. “As a child…I wanted to be a footballer. The path, seemed clearer to me. Musicians were untouchable. Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, coming out of my speakers. It made them mysterious. But I could see Alan Shearer and David Beckham on the TV, and they seemed within reach.” The now musician spent his childhood watching his local team. He remembers the first Reading FC match that his dad took him to “I got the bus with dad. It was a home game, we sat in the North Stand. I remember it so vividly, the atmosphere was amazing – there was a lot of pent-up energy. It was just like a gig, from then on we were hooked.”
Then came the 2000’s. The early formative years of The Amazons, where separately each member discovered a genre of music just for them. Their childhood homes, became their teenage ones, and with that came a love for rock. A genre which was perfectly paired to their inner angst. As Matt tells us “If you were having a shit day at school, which happened more often than not. You’d just stick on Linkin Park or Slipknot. Young lads just want to tear their bedrooms apart.” And in a corner of South East England, they were doing exactly that. “Jumping around your bedroom, ‘fuck you I won’t do what you tell me,’ it’s like this amazing thing coming out of the speakers, and your parents fucking hate it. Rage Against the Machine and Nirvana are like something they can’t get their heads around”. For Matt and his bandmates, it wasn’t discovering rock, it was rock finding them. It became the escape – in more ways than one.
Later in 2014, the teenage boys became new adults, and “The Amazons” were born. Music now took priority. However rock and Reading FC were something they all shared in their DNA . Despite tours and relentless hours spent in the studio – they’ve always stayed tapped into their hometown club. “We were all just into football – everyone of us has owned a season ticket at some point in time. Reading is our baseline – we always know what’s going on with the club.”
The club’s mentality is something they’ve inherited throughout the years. It’s not always about winning, filling the flashiest stadiums or even having the loudest fans. It’s about them, as a band, as a team. “I would say the similarity between us and the club. We are the underdog – Reading have always been that for me. It’s kind of us against the world. And [The Amazons] have that aspect, especially now in terms of where rock and roll’s at. We are not riding any wave, we are almost against the current.”
Reading FC may have stolen their hearts, but rock music opened their eyes and swung open doors. But their strong team mentality has always kept them grounded. Something which was clear during the making of their latest album, “Future Dust”. As Matt explained what the creation process means to him, “I like the school of thought that albums are just a snapshot of time, a band that are making music, Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin said that. And it’s true. It takes the pressure off, that a new album needs to be more commercially successful than the last one. Instead we acknowledge; we are a band making music and this is just a snapshot of time.”
Whilst the world is enjoying their new album, the band are already busy, writing music and getting ready for the next. The focus might be on their future, but they are thankful for their roots. And even though Matt speaks about Reading like they’re an old married couple. It is clear that home to him, will always be more than a four-letter word. This was the town which left their future undefined. “For me Reading town represents a beginning. A starting point. I emphasise a starting point because I don’t want it to be the end point. I know this is morbid, but I won’t end my life here. There’s no chance. But also I’m glad for it’s nothingness. Because that meant as a band we were never defined because of where we came from. Reading is freedom.”
‘Black Magic’ is now the song which starts every match for Reading FC. Music, football and hometowns. It’s a coming together of future passion and past love. For these four men from Reading, this is a moment of everything. A combination of the things they love. Proving that for them, home is not a place you stop, it’s the place which starts it all.
Like this article? Enjoy all cover features and interviews in Issue 02: Heart and Soul – available now from the GAFFER Online Shop.