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Existentialist sentiments, we talk with Amber Arcades

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Responsible for one of the best debut albums of recent years ‘Fading Lines’, and signed to the fantastic independent label, Heavenly Recordings, Amber Arcades is the moniker of Dutch born musician Annelotte de Graaf. She’ll release her second record in September, but before that she’ll play The Portland on the 26th. Amber Arcades music is a shimmering mix of indie pop, krautrock and shoegaze. They’ve been compared to such luminaries as Beach House, Stereolab and The Cocteau Twins. Ahead of the Cambridge show, Annelotte took time to discuss the new record with us.

How is 2018 shaping up for you?
I mostly travelled around and ate many good things so far, so I can’t complain.

At the time of writing these questions the new album is finished but won’t be released for another couple of months, what is this period of time like for an artist, waiting for people to hear the record, reviews etc to start?
In a way it’s hard because it kinda feels like your life is on pause, but also it means I can do things that are normally hard to combine with touring, like going on vacation, and seeing friends and family.

How much of an indicator to the new album is ‘Simple Song’?
I’d say it’s a pretty solid indicator in terms of arrangements and lyrics. Plenty of string and horn arrangements all over the album, courtesy of Trey at Spacebomb. Also plenty of overly existentialist sentiments all over the album, courtesy of life.

Your debut album was great but when did work on ‘European Heartbreak’ start?
I started really inventorying and finishing up songs and writing lyrics around June 2017.

The focus of the album is Europe. How did this become a theme in the first place and how did you expand on this in the writing?
When I first started writing I was mainly obsessed about the nature of intersubjective realities we create between ourselves, like a sense of nationality, identity, or a sweeping love-story. I was finishing the lyrics during the recording process in LA, and was feeling particularly unhinged there. I had quite a hard time landing there, which I connected at some level to my “European-ness”. Those two things combined with many news stories around that time about right wing, anti EU parties doing really well in elections all over Europe kinda formed the basis of the lyrical world for this album.

What did you learn whilst making ‘Fading Lines’ that helped shaped the new album?
To tune into the universe and surf it’s waves.

What was the hardest track to finish on the album?
Probably Goodnight Europe, in terms of how explicitly politically I wanted to get. And how serious to be about it all. Like, will people get it if I kinda joke about it? And how seriously do I want take myself and my own thoughts about it?

Which song from the new record are you most looking forward to playing live?
Antoine, it has this slide guitar double harmony part which is my fav part of the live set currently.

How has the positive reception of your debut record affected you and work on new material? Did the fantastic reception to ‘Fading lines’ make making new music harder?
I mean I guess there’s a sense of pressure, but I’m generally pretty good at ignoring stuff that’s going on in the world outside of me / bad at noticing stuff that’s going on in the world outside of me.

Is the second album as hard to make as they say?
Not really, but maybe that’s also because this new record feels like a completely different world, so it kind of felt like starting all over again, with a clean slate.

Amber Arcades plays The Portland Arms on July 26th – Tickets here
New album, ‘European Heartbreak’ is out September 28th