Amber Run’s Joe Keogh Shares The Biggest Revelations Of Their Album ‘How To Be Human’ (Exclusive)
With AI advancing to the point that ChatGPT is passing law exams and David Guetta is making music with artificial Eminems, now is an excellent time to ask the question: what exactly does it mean to be human? For Joe Keoghone third of the indie rock band Amber Runthat question is woven throughout all the songs of their new album, How To Be Human (out Feb. 24 via TRIPEL). Marking Amber Run’s first LP since 2019’s philophobia, How To Be Human sees the band – guitarist and vocal Joe, bassist Thomas Sperring and keyboardist Henry Wyeth – approach the heavy topics of guilt, pain, death, dread, and joy, all while making some of the most engaging music of the band’s career.
With death being a fundamental aspect of being human, the theme is sewn through the album, both in the finality sense (“Funeral”) and in how one learns to let go and change as one grows. “Making this record helped throw off the guilt of decisions I personally had made years before,” Joe tells HollywoodLife in an EXCLUSIVE interview. “It helped me take responsibility and ownership of my mindset at the time. It was a pleasure and a privilege to jump into it all with my closest friends. I’ll be forever grateful for the care and support we all gave each other through the process of making this record.”
Making How To Be Human didn’t just help Amber Run reflect on what makes homo-sapiens tick. It also helped Joe remember why he started a band in the first place. When asked about the biggest revelation he took away from recording the album, he tells HL, “That making music should be fun. That you should be laughing the entire time. Either that what you’re saying is so true that it’s funny or that what you’re making is so good that you can’t believe it’s yours.”
This realigned focus is found throughout Amber Run. The music shines as a clear sonic presentation of the trio’s multitudes, all while showcasing who the band is, was, and will be. “We are all big music fans, and the taste is pretty eclectic. Our normal rule is if it’s good, it’s just good, regardless of genre or motivation,” says Joe.
There are elements of indie rock, dreamy bedroom pop, classic alternative, and post-punk How To Be Human (“Thank you for thoughts on ‘The Beautiful Victorious,’ Joe says when discussing the Peter Hook-ish bassline on the song, “That was pretty much exactly what we were going for!”) but the album is not a pastiche of influences. It’s a representation of the group’s experiences and perspectives.
“We grew up going to a ton of punk, hardcore, and rock shows and we wanted a track that took the sensibility that ‘the live show is all that matters,'” says Joe. “That four to the floor, dynamic thump in the chest. Artists like The National, Bon Iver, and Arcade Fire will always be important to the chemistry of what we do collaboratively, but we try not to follow their interpretations too rigidly, or we’d lose what makes our band our own!”
Although How To Be Human is the band’s first album since 2019, they haven’t been standing still. They released a trio of expansive EPs – The Search (Act I), The Start (Act II)and The Hurt (Act III) – along with a handful of singles. “We are enjoying making music, and it’s difficult not to do something that you’re enjoying,” explains Joe. “We aren’t thinking about release schedules, deadlines, or industry standards anymore. We are trying to write songs and then record and release them in the moment they were conceived. The whole project feels innocent again – like it did when we first started.”
However, the band isn’t as young as they used to be when they first started. Joe himself has grown, becoming a father in the time between Philophobia and How To Be Human. While these significant life changes might result in an emotional disconnect with the music he made when he was a fresh-faced twenty-something without a care in the world, Joe still finds value in those older songs.
“I personally don’t find it difficult to connect with the older music because: 1. I like it; 2: I’m proud of it; 3: They themselves are little mementos of moments in time,” he shares. “The past material helps inform and inspire the next bunch of stuff. What worked for us? What didn’t? Why? And fundamentally, we are trying to say stuff that’s important to us, but we are just pushing air. I find if you take it all too seriously then you’ll struggle to get to the real motive of what you’re trying to say. The ‘gravitas’ and the pressure stifles the process.”
What helps Joe still find value in those older expressions is that he doesn’t see music solely as a static preservation of a moment or an evergreen, timeless expression. “I don’t believe those two statements are opposite,” he says. “None of us are that different from one another. So what I’m experiencing now will probably not be that different from someone else in 50 years that is going through a similar moment. As previously mentioned, reaching for timelessness may inadvertently stop you from achieving it – because you’re so busy trying to make it great that you forget to sprinkle any humanity. But that’s just me and how we go about it.”
And so, with that exploration of “how we go about” being human, what is one of Joe’s lingering questions about this whole process that we call life?
“Is there more to all this?” he ponders. “Are we missing something?
Fans can deduce that for themselves. Amber Run’s How To Be Human hits streaming services on Feb. 24.
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