Following an exceptionally busy and productive 2013, Fiona and JP from Antrim’s Amidships sat down with our Peter Cinnamond to talk about all the things which made this year great for them and shed a light on what might be round the corner for the band.
► You’re a band who has stirred up a lot of positive noise about your live shows. Particularly in how you freestyle some instrumental sections. Do you plan these out or are they more of an ‘in the moment’ affair?
JP: We’re conscious that we have some songs which are very tightly structured. While we also have quite a few expansive songs, and it’s on these tracks which we have a bit more creative licence with live. It depends on the gig really. But we’re quite specific with our instrumentation. Sometimes Fiona’s violin will take over, then at other times it will be my guitar or vocals. Regardless, we’ll always aim to have a strong sense of melody.
► When writing, is it a challenge to balance the sounds of the violin with the rest of line up?
Fiona: Because the violin is such a lead instrument it can take over some songs if it’s over done. Plus we want all our songs to sound unique. I might be plucking the violin at times and then I might be strumming
it. It’s more about the formation of the song rather than worrying about each instrument. It’s interplay between the band, like myself and JP. If he is able to feed off what I’m doing
JP: Fiona does a lot of percussive stuff on the violin as which adds alot. And you don’t want to be a one trick pony, you want to try and utilise all the musical aspects your have in a different way.
► You released an extended EP ‘Friendly Fire’ in 2011. How do you feel the band has evolved since that release?
JP: I think we’ve found our sound more than anything. We’ve spent a lot of time playing live and it came to the point that in Belfast everybody had hear those seven tracks, so we needed to get out and tour. We got a lot of legs out of that EP, earning us various support slots. Then the time was right to release a single in March this year – ‘Lost’ – which is going to set us up for a brand new five to six track EP next year which will also feature our recent single ‘Oceans’.
❝ A Battle Of The Bands is a bit Bill and Ted. There’s nothing wrong with Bill and Ted, in fact, they’re excellent! ❞
► You recently played a UK tour in Autumn and from checking the dates there were a few interesting road trips you mapped for yourselves.
JP: It’s always hard to book a tour and sometimes if you’re lucky you’ll get a nice path evolve from the first to your last show. But in October we booked an Inverness gig and then a Brighton show for the next day. It was over nine hours driving, from pretty much the top to the bottom of the UK! It was a nightmare.
► Irish bands tend to develop favourite haunts while on tour. Is there a second home out there for Amidships?
JP: Scotland has really taken to us during the times which we have played there. In fact, if you take a look back at the last twelve months of our support slots in Belfast – Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Glasvegas – literally every Scottish band which has come to Northern Ireland, we’ve supported them. We’ve been lucky to play those shows as they are all great bands. Scott from Frighten Rabbit ended up helping is book our Scottish tour, so we’ve had some great promoters book our shows because of his recommendation. The Highlands (Inverness) was a particular highlight of the tour. We always get a captive audience up there. It might be incredibly windy, but the whiskey is strong!
► You have even played a brief acoustic tour at one point. Does preparing yourselves for these shows different compared to a fully plugged in show?
Fiona: Our acoustic shows come quite naturally for us, but I do get nervous about them. The stripped back nature means there is nothing to hide behind. The raw nature of those shows can be daunting.
JP: Our songs begin on an acoustic guitar, then it grows into the final souped up version of the song. It’s always great to return to the core of what makes up the song.
►Who says the old ‘Battle of The Band’ is dead, eh? After the band won the Guinness Versus competition in the summer your stock has only been rising. Do you feel as though that competition has benefited your reputation?
JP: We didn’t tend to call it a “Battle Of The Bands”. A Battle Of The Bands is a bit Bill and Ted. There’s nothing wrong with Bill and Ted, in fact, they’re excellent! But our main motivation for that competition was to hone our live sound even further. They only wanted a twenty-five minute set for each round, so it made us think about the craft of our performance and how our songs meshed together.
►Your song ‘Lost’ was featured in the promo for BBC NI’s ‘6degrees’. How did that come about?
JP: That advert came about through a random e-mail actually. We got a message one day from a BBC Producer saying he’d written an advert based on the song and wanted to know if they could use it! Suddenly we were getting calls from big wigs in London and now our tracks are being put forward for TV shows, adverts and movies. We even have somebody contacting Dreamworks! We know that nothing will probably ever happen, but it’s really encouraging to have these people backing the band.
►You’re well known to move around the stage with impressive vigour JP. Who inspires your guitar playing choreography?
JP: I channel the ghost of Prince while I’m on stage occasionally. When it begins to take over me I hear a mix of ‘Purple Rain’ and ‘Raspberry Beret’ in my head. Haha.
►Finally, what is your favourite nautical pun which has used by the press in relation to Amidships?
Fiona: ‘Amidships Ahoy!’ is an obvious one but I quite liked the Antrim paper… ‘Amidships Push The Boat Out!”
JP: There was somebody in the press who was amazed none of us were sea-ferring folk. But there has been various references to me being the Captain.