THE AMBER HERD: Creative Way of Working

The Amber Herd

Most of you heard for The Amber Heard from the first physical Progstravaganza compilation entitled “Beyond Frontiers,” which was released in November 2014. UK band released their debut album “Our Only Eden” last year, and we talked with acoustic guitarist and singer Neil Beards about the creative process that informed the album, music business, and more.

How did you go about forming The Amber Herd? 

I was part of the Neptune Pink Floyd web community back in the mid 2000s and at that time they were doing a series of collaborative CDs featuring forum members. Their current project was a full version of The Wall and as I had been messing around with a home studio for a few months I decided to ask to do a track under the name The Amber Herd, which was a name I used for a solo project some years before. I was allocated The Thin Ice and duly recorded a version of this for inclusion on the CD which featured bands from all over the world, including, as I recall, The Future Kings of England, amongst others. As the album proved to be a success the organiser, who is now a great friend, decided to run two Floyd tribute marathons in 2006 over two consecutive weekends- in Brighton and Glasgow UK. The Amber Herd were chosen to play and at this point it struck me that I needed both a band and a few more songs to play! Thus the full version of the band were formed featuring 3/5 of the current lineup.

What is the concept behind your debut album “Our Only Eden”?

In a nutshell, Carpe Diem- or seize the day. As we were writing the songs an overall feeling of positivity came through. Whilst there are songs of heartache and despair on the record and a general dark quality to some of the lyrics, the songs are notable by offering a little redemption and as I say, the sense that one is here only once and needs to grasp the moment- hence the title Our Only Eden. In a way it’s a paraphrase from Richard II where the new king is told by his father to get on with things in his new kingdom- this sceptred isle, this other Eden. It struck me that, in the absence of proof, which I do not have, there is in fact no “other” Eden. The here and now is the only one so let’s not let it go to waste.

The Amber Herd - Our Only EdenWhat was the creative process of the album like? How long did it take you to complete the album?

A few of the songs were written prior to the start of tracking in summer 2013 and a few were written during the last year or so. Our very good friend and producer, Mark Rolfe, very kindly offered to steer the ship for us on our debut and we recorded in two main chunks of time- in summer 2013 and spring 2014. We took the opportunity to revisit a few songs from earlier independent single releases which were not recorded as well as we would have wanted. It was nice to be able to mix these up with the new songs and create a unified whole. Both sonically and thematically we really thing that this record hangs together well. It’s not a concept album as such but it is certainly a journey and is meant to be listened to in two side- long sections.

What types of change do you feel The Amber Herd’s music can initiate?

As a band we try to get people thinking a little. Our music is both for the head and the heart and whilst not overly complex is hopefully full of little signposts to help our listeners navigate their way through the turbulent seas that form the human condition!

What drove you to shape “Our Only Eden” the way it turned out to be?

Unless a band has a deal to cover several albums, which is most rare these days, one’s debut album may possibly be the only chance one gets to make a statement and with that in mind we wanted to ensure that Our Only Eden was as good as it possibly could be. I mentioned earlier the thematic links throughout the album and I hope this all ties in with the artwork and the full package. We were brought up in an era of proper vinyl albums rather than stings of digital data and so wanted to reintroduce the concept of something that is designed to be properly listened to and that had a beginning, a middle and an end.

Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed by during the creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed drastically?

Our writing process has remained pretty constant throughout the band’s life and tends to start with a basic idea brought in by one or other of us and then fleshed out in the rehearsal room and on the road with the rest of the band. We have established a very democratic and creative way of working and it is a particular joy to hunker down and get a new song fully realised. As we have done before, we used a few outside collaborators in the process of this album and have added extra layers of viola and backing vocals together with electronics.

Tell me about the complexities of creating this album.

The main issue was one of time, really. We’re all busy working our respective day jobs and it was hard to find the time to get the record tracked and mixed. We did quite a lot of work at Psyrex Studios in Nottingham UK and this helped craft the sound. Mark Rolfe put in far more hours than we had a right to expect and deserves a massive thanks.

Describe your working relationship within the band.

As noted above, we work very democratically and all of us have ideas which we bring in. In the vast majority of occasions we reach a happy consensus on what serves the music best. We all get on really well and have done for years and have the best time on the road!

The Amber Herd

You had quite a few opportunities to promote the album live. What is the reaction of the audiences on your music?

The first post- release show we played was a headline at a lovely theatre in Chesterfield in the north of the UK and we were pleased to sell this show out and also sell a lot of CDs. The theatre tech was amazing and we had a fantastic series of back projected films to accompany the songs live. Following this we played a couple of big supports- with the incredible Knifeworld in Leicester and then with the 90’s rock band Jesus Jones at a big show in Nottingham. We finished the year with a full live run through of the album, in order, at a smaller headline club show in Nottingham. Our aim now is to play this material and our new songs to as many people as possible as the feedback and reviews we have been given so far have been very flattering.

Which bands or artists at the first place influenced the material you showcased on “Our Only Eden”?

As noted earlier, the Floyd were an initial inspiration for the formation of the group but between us we have many different influences, from metal to folk to shoegaze to prog to rock. Difficult to pigeonhole. This can sometimes be a curse as well as a blessing.

How would you describe what you create with The Amber Herd to someone who didn’t hear your music before?

Again, it’s hard to give what we do a label but we tend to refer to ourselves as trippy post- punk or proggy alt- rock but you’d really need to listen to us to make your own mind up!

Neil BeardsWhat is your viewpoint on the struggle bands are facing today as they try to monetize their output?

Forget it! There is no money in this game. Our goal as a band is to break even and until we can find a nice little label or distro to push this or the next album that’s the best we can hope for. We’re slowly starting to see a return to the days when bands were paid to play gigs but there’s never a guarantee. Selling CDs and merch at gigs helps of course.

How do you see your music evolving in the future?

We’re staring to think about the follow up to Our Only Eden and are expecting this to be different but still unmistakably The Amber Herd. Quite frankly, whatever we do in this group sounds like The Amber Herd so give us a few months and we’ll be able to share with you what we’re doing! In the meantime we’re headlining a major show at The Borderline in London on 7th March and are currently looking at booking some festivals for summer 2015.

Visit The Amber Herd online at:

Cover photo: Steve Rowe

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.

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