Amber Run's Joe Keogh Talks How to Be Human and the Search for Happiness
Today, Feb. 24, marks the release of London trio Amber Run's fourth studio album, How to Be Human—and we happen to think it's their best yet.
With a title inspired by an irritating self-help email, How to Be Human consists of 13 evocative and introspective new tracks that dive deep into the human condition, with the band opening up about their vulnerabilities and struggles with mental health. Driven by the group's signature indie rock sound, the songs range from slow and moody to upbeat and triumphant, showcasing all of the ups and downs we all face from day to day. Ahead of the release, we had the pleasure of jumping on a Zoom call with lead singer and guitarist Joe Keogh, and he told us all about the album and its inception, as well as the brand's viral TikTok hit, "I Found," in the interview below.
Sweety High: What does the album name How to Be Human mean to you? Why did that title track feel like the perfect summation of this group of songs?
Joshua "Joe" Keogh: Well, it's a pretty big title, and it needs a pretty arrogant person to fill it, so I thought, that feels very fitting, as nothing but pure arrogance. We got an email into our inbox about "How to Become a Millionaire in Six Weeks," and I just remember getting really pissed off, because I was like (sighs). For one, this is just a joke and a fad, and it's never going to work, and two, I just need someone to write me a manual on how to get me through the next two weeks, because I think I was really snowed under.
And it kept coming back, that feeling of, it would be really good if something could do a how-to manual on just being a person—on how to find some happiness, how to deal with the pains and the traumas of life. And I'm not pretending we've created a how-to manual of, if you're having a s*** time yourself, listening and engaging with this will fix it. We just wanted to encapsulate that full spectrum of what it's like to be a person, just trying to get by. That's all we're trying to get at with How to Be Human.
(How to Be Human via Tripel)
SH: What do you feel are the overarching themes of the album? What kind of feel do you hope fans take away from it?
JK: I don't know if you're aware of any of our past work, but we do have a tendency to be a bit morose and a bit somber. But that's not our only experience. I feel like we're all really down and really up at the same time, a lot of the time. There's this pendulum effect of your feelings and where your head goes at any given point. We're all all of it at the same time.
When we were thinking about writing songs, thematically, it was important for us to touch on the lower moments but then also to really do our best to find those optimistic and forward-thinking moments, as well as some of that grey stuff in between. That's what we were trying to do when we were writing the songs and engaging with them. We wrote them over a very specific amount of time, and so I think that we managed to encapsulate how we were feeling at that moment, and it's just lucky that there were some low bits, and there were some big bits, and just getting through.
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SH: And in writing songs about the lows in life, there's also an aspect of empathy, and showing people they're not alone in their lows.
JK: Yeah, I think so. I mean, this is our interpretation and understanding of our own lives. I think we're all pretty similar. The only differences are just on the very surface. In reality, I think we all want very similar things. Hopefully, people can see a little bit of their own stories in some of the things that we're trying to say. If they don't, then fair enough! But I would suggest that we're all pretty similar, really.
(via Amber Run)
How would you describe the album's sound? Production-wise, how did you go about bringing these tracks to life, and follow those highs and lows of the subject matter sonically?
JK: I would say so. I mean, we're all music fans. We listen to a lot of kinds of music. Just as much as in our everyday lives, we all go through lots of different emotions and lots of different situations. We did our best not to be too guitar-heavy in some places, to not be too ambient and electronic. We just tried to follow the feeling and the themes of the specific tracks. We followed that same motive of honesty, integrity and trying to put across the emotion of what we were trying to say. I hope that we achieved it. I really enjoyed making it.
It was really cathartic just not to try to have to fit a square peg into a round hole. We just followed our first interpretation, and that was a real kindness. There was no smashing our heads against the wall trying to make it fit. I was really grateful for that.
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SH: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
JK: Ooh—making me choose between my children! I really like "Hope It's Not Like This Forever." I really like "The Beautiful Victorious," and I really like "The Last Dance."
SH: Your 2015 song "I Found" has also been making a big splash on TikTok lately. What has it been like to see the song explode? Did you ever anticipate it could have that kind of virality?
JK: I don't mean to sound, well, old—we've only been in this band for like eight years—but when we started it, there was no talk of "virality." Isn't that mental? Like this stuff just turns up, and it's so quick. So no, we weren't thinking about it. But it's cool. I love it. Because people are so creative on those platforms, on TikTok and stuff, and people come up with such amazing stuff to put alongside it.
It's a privilege to be able to soundtrack other people's creativity and emotions, and it just blows me away how funny people are on TikTok, because I've tried my entire life to try and be funny, and I just never quite achieve it. They just go on the internet and it seems effortless. Oh my god, these people are hilarious. I think it's cool, and I love that song. We're really, really proud of it. I'm just really pleased that people have found new inserting ways to use it and be part of the narrative of it. It's wicked.
@edenvonweiss #minivlog #dayinmylife #pnw #twilight #hike #journaling ♬ I Found – Amber Run
For even more interviews with our favorite artists, click HERE to find out what Nessa Barrett had to say about her single, "BANG BANG!"