Archive: Amusement Parks on Fire interviews

Amusement Parks on Fire
Originally appeared in the Event Guide, January 2009
By Aoife Barry
Young British band Amusement Parks on Fire formed around five years ago – starting off as a solo project of frontman Michael Feerick, and going on to become a five-piece band, with Feerick now joined by Daniel Knowles (guitar/production), Peter Dale (drums), Gavin Poole (bass) and Joe Hardy (keyboard). Although the band are influenced by the early ’90s grunge era, they’re frequently compared to shoegazer acts such as My Bloody Valentine, thanks to their sweeping soundscapes and epic tracks. This year the band are about to record not one but two new albums – and will be bringing out an EP in the coming months. Michael Feerick speaks to Aoife Barry about the year ahead.

It’s going to be a busy 2009 for Amusement Parks on Fire – not content with following up their last full-length release, ‘Out of the Angeles’, with one album, they’ve decided to record two – on separate continents. Oh, and there’s that EP to record before all that happens. It’s a typically energetic approach to their music that shows not just the youth but the enthusiasm of a band who are itching to get their new material out there.

As frontman Michael explains: “We’re recording the next album ourselves again but we have a different mixer – we’re going on tour to America in the summer and we’ve got an American mixer doing it, he’s worked with Beck and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a few other people. So that’s exciting – it’s a bit different this time.”
The album is set to be recorded in LA this summer, around the same time as the band’s US tour. “We’ve got a few tours coming up over there and we’ve got a few festivals so we thought we’d try and do it there, otherwise we might never record the thing. It’s been building up for two years or something now,” explains Michael. Then they’re going to decamp to England to record yet another release. “We have so much material,” says the vocalist. “I just wish we had more time to track it all.”
The decision to record in America was more deliberate than just being there for a few gigs, says Michael: “We definitely wanted to do it with a producer this time. ‘Cause I guess we’ve got two albums in the pipeline, they’re both going to be totally different but it was just a case of which one came first. This first one we wanted a slightly more American sound for it – not in terms of the band but in terms of production, the kind of stuff that’s going on there at the moment, because it’s a really exciting scene that we’ve sort of accidentally become part of.”
With the last album, ‘Out of the Angeles’, the band originally wanted to create shorter, poppier songs than on their debut – but things didn’t go quite to plan. “The record we were thinking about getting into ended up becoming quite big and drawn out but we wanted something a bit more…like the EP we’re going to release is a bit more direct and exciting and it’s taking a different turn, so we thought it would make sense to have a bit of sunshine, whereas the last album we spent a month in perpetual darkness, in the freezing cold, it was the complete opposite!” laughs Michael.
The curious thing about Amusement Parks on fire is how, while they’re frequently described as a shoegazer band, they’re influenced by a completely different era. Michael himself admits that although the band set out to create Grunge-influenced songs, when they got to the studio something rather different happened. “We consider ourselves to be quite influenced by the early nineties, bands like Nirvana and bands that had these poppy songs. So it was funny when people talked about the album as being these long drawn-out soundscapes, it was kind of like ‘Oh, how did that happen?!’” he laughs again. “We want to sort of re-establish what we wanted to do with the first album I guess, because the idea was to just to have these short little poppy songs and have interludes as well but have the songs contained. The way the next album is looking is it will just be like 9 or 10 really intense pop songs. So hopefully it will work out this time – that’s exactly what we said before the first album and it ended up being the complete opposite. So we’ll see how it goes!”
Part of the reason for this is perhaps Michael’s approach to creating a ‘flowing’ album. “I can’t help it, when I do an album I always set out to do lots of different songs and make it really listenable but I can’t help but try and make it a flowing piece of work,” he outlines. “It’s really hard to get away from that. So they’re always linked in some way. I try to make albums to flow – not like a musical or a concept album, but still tying everything together.”
And regardless of the comparisons, what’s important to him is how the listener feels about the music. “People can appreciate it on their own level,” he smiles.”In so many interviews we’ve gone on about shoegaze, that it doesn’t mean anything to us…but we shouldn’t really say that because if that’s the connection that people are making then that’s great. If people are saying we’re a post-rock band, that’s good as well, because it’s nice to be involved in all these things where people can enjoy it on their own terms”
“It’s funny,” he continues, “I was talking to a friend from Dublin about the song ‘Venus in Cancer’ and what the lyrics meant, and the reason it has that name is that it’s really self-referential. He had this whole idea about what I was talking about, and it was like, ‘well, that’s not what I’m trying to say but that’s cool as well’!”
When it comes to the lyrics of his songs, Michael tries to use them to explore his thoughts on the world around him, life, death and everything in between. “I’m a big fan of writing about everyday things but I never seem to be able to do that,” he says wryly. “It’s always thinking about the bigger, abstract ideas, about stuff but in a way that like a teenager would or something. I always end up writing about science or really boring things. I guess that’s probably why the music sounds like it does, because you want to talk about bigger abstract ideas. I suppose the whole point of music is this communication on a whole higher ethereal level. Lyrics don’t have to make sense in a grammatical way, they can be a turn of phrase or stream of consciousness kind of stuff. Trying to understand these bizarre abstract ideas is the whole point of it I guess.”
It’s clear though that fans of Amusement Parks on Fire also share his thoughts about the world. At the band’s last gig in Dublin, there was a moment where audience and band connected in way that still amazes Michael. “There’s one song from the last album we did at the last Dublin gig; and we all just like…we had this amazing moment, I don’t think we’ve ever had any gig like it,” he remembers. “We all just looked at each other, like ‘man that was amazing’… I really enjoyed that. It was just this really calm moment on stage, it was weird.” Let’s hope they experience something similar this time around. / /

Amusement Parks on Fire

From the Event Guide, August 2008

Amusement Parks on Fire are an English band that formed in 2004, when a then-16-year-old Michael (Mike) Feerick started a solo project that was influenced by a love of prog and a teenage interest in noise and grunge. After releasing a self-titled solo debut album on INVADA Records ( run by Geoff Barrow of Portishead) he went on to form a full band so he could start touring. Since then they’ve released another album, ‘Out of the Angeles’, three EPs and are working on their third album. And as Aoife Barry found out when talking to Mike and bass player Dan Knowles, they’re not too keen on being lumped in with the shoegazer scene.

Interviewing a band when they’re trying to find the right tram to get in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin to ensure they get to the airport on time, while they swig from a bottle of Rosé and recount their recent jaunt backstage at a Radiohead gig, should sound like the stuff of Spinal Tap nightmares. But in the case of Amusement Parks on Fire, the genuine enthusiasm and humour of members Dan and Mike makes for an unusual but unforgettable interviewing experience.

As they make their way out of their apartment to try to find a tram, Mike talks about the recent Radiohead concert which they attended on the night of his birthday, two days before. But next up for Amusement Parks on Fire is the slightly less A-list tour of their own, where along the way they’ll be playing Whelan’s. It turns out the gigs are a way of getting them out of the rehearsal room and onto the stage, as they’ve been holed away writing their new album for the past number of months.

“We kind of based [the tour] around the Dublin gig – we wanted to play abroad, we wanted to play Dublin,” explains Mike. “We’ve been writing for a long time for the new album, so we wanted to do a show just for fun, and do a really good show and just have some fun and just kind of I dunno…what’s the phrase,  dust ourselves off a bit!” he laughs.

So what can people expect from the gig? “Whelan’s is basically the biggest show we’re doing on the tour,” says Mike. “We just wanted to do it for fun. We’re practising a lot and doing a lot of stuff for the new album – we’re also really enjoying playing some old songs from our first album which we haven’t played for years. So Whelan’s should be kind of big, a big show.”

He passes the phone to Dan as he attempts to negotiate the direction they should be headed in. Dan elaborates on whether they’ll be road-testing some of the new tracks during the tour. “We’re thinking maybe half of them new – we don’t want to take the piss, but we want to get some new tracks on there,” he says. “Maybe sneak a few in and see how people respond.”

So how is the making of the new album going? “On the last album…we went with longer tracks and now we’re going with shorter ones!” he laughs. “It’s very similar – it sounds kind of similar, it’s just maybe half the length for each song. I think we always intended to make ‘Out of the Angeles’ a pop album, but it sort of grew and they got long, so the new one’s gonna be like two/three minute[long] songs hopefully.”

The phone’s passed back to Mike. “The new stuff’s very different,” he says, at odds to what his bandmate has just said. “I suppose it’s a bit more pop-y, it’s kind of a bit more classic sounding …It was kind of annoying that everyone considered us a shoegazer band…we’re not really…I don’t really like that sort of music. I guess the new stuff’s a bit more live…we’ve got Ken Thomas producing it, he did the Sigur Ros albums. So he’s producing it and it’s sounding very different. It’s pretty classic sounding and pretty basic.”
So who would the band be influenced by? “Radiohead are a big influence, My Bloody Valentine are obviously a big influence – they weren’t initially, when I made the first album they weren’t, but now they are a big influence,” says Mike. “Neil Young is my hero, he’s incredible, his guitar work is incredible. So I guess like Neil Young, Radiohead, Nirvana…I was a massive Pink Floyd fan.”

Amusement Parks on Fire are frequently referred to as a shoegazer band, but it seems, from what Mike and Dan say, that this couldn’t be further from their intention.

Dan takes up the explanation: “I think people can take it on their own terms. People will always try to define things in ways they understand. So we had a guy come up to us after a gig before and tell us he loved us and we reminded him of the Lost Prophets. We are the least like Lost Prophets band we know! But he likes it, so that was good you know? Whatever terms people like to describe it on, they’re just using their own frames of reference and whatever memories they’ve got to try and make some sense of what we’re doing at any given time. So that’s fine, you know? If people like it, they like it, and if they don’t they don’t.”

But why the distaste for the shoegazer tag? “I think the reason why the shoegazing thing is annoying is because most shoegazing bands were f*cking bad!” laughs Dan. “They were really bad you know! I mean genuinely, My Bloody Valentine were incredible but I like a lot of the American bands – I think we’re more interested in the American bands that maybe influenced them, or shared some kind of love, like Dinosaur Jr, and Sugar and Bob Mould’s stuff, Husker Du…the kind of melody with the fierce guitars.”

Mike elaborates: “People think we’re some weird, avant garde shoegaze band, but we’re really not, we just enjoy playing music. The new album sounds a bit like Neil Young…really kind of stripped bare, that kind of way.” This statement will come as a shock to anyone familiar with the band’s material, but it looks as though the gig in Whelan’s will be a good opportunity to see how their sound has developed, as Mike explains, just seconds before they board the tram that will take them on the first leg of their trip back home. “I guess in Dublin we’re just looking to do a really kind of straight down the line set, all the stuff we’ve wanted to do. We love playing in Dublin, Dublin’s always been lovely to us – we’re kind of excited really.”


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