Interview Project #14: The Ambience Affair

Photo by Pete Conway

Photo by Pete Conway

The Ambience Affair are a two-piece from Meath and Dublin who craft layered but snappy indie rock out of an acoustic guitar and a human voice fed through a guitar loop pedal, complemented by drums and completed by an emotive and evocative lead voice. Their debut EP ran through two homemade, hand-painted editions and it’s gone now, but you can still get it digitally from Indiecater. Marc Gallagher plays drums and Jamie Clarke, who took the questions, is responsible for the guitar and singing.

The Ambience Affair – Fragile Things

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Q 0.5 How are you?
I’m good thanks.

Q1 Nowadays, when everybody has a decent computer and gear is more available, it’s much easier for anyone to make music and have it heard quickly – does the bedroom music explosion devalue music at all by making it so easy to do?

Well I guess we’re pretty unfortunate when it comes to this aspect as because the songs are based on loops, not much can be done with a simple 8 track or recording system. Also, Marc and myself are pretty useless when it comes to that aspect of our work so even if there was a way, there’s no chance we’d know about it. Others aren’t, and I guess it can devalue music to a certain extent.However, my overriding feeling is that people are now making high quality music in their bedrooms and don’t need a multi-million euro studio to do so and that’s an incredible thing.

Q2 Is downloading a good thing? Does the fact that it’s possible to get so much music so easily and for free make it more disposable at all?

I’d say yes to both. After a gig of ours a month or so ago, a person came up to Marc and excitedly said something like, “We ripped all your songs from myspace, they’re really great!” This confused us quite a bit. Why would he openly come up to us and tell us he’d stolen our songs? But on the otherhand we were
just excited that someone actually went to the bother of stealing them. Marc and myself were talking about this the other day actually and we came up with the opinion that the whole downloading thing will affect the bands who are shit live more than anyone else. People will steal their songs and then pay to see them live. If they’re then disappointed then the band is screwed, which is probably the way it should be anyway.

Q3 Is there anything that makes your music quintessentially Irish? Is it intentional?

People have said that I sing in an Irish accent, which I guess I do. It’s not really a great accent for singing in theory but it’s my accent and singing other way would not be me. I’m not a mad fan of people not singing in their accents anyway (that’s another days work) and I’d like to think it’s an identity for us in itself. It’s not intentional.

Q4 Do you find it difficult to self-edit, or to take a step back from your music and look at it objectively?

Our lack of recording or demoing makes it hard to step back from the music. The first time we heard a song of ours was when we watched a video of a live performance and that was a weird experience. For us, playing live is so challenging that we never really get to enjoy the music, let alone look at it from another point of view. I think it’s an aspect of our writing process that we should definitely take a closer look at in the next few months.

Q5 Is there a Dublin scene, or even smaller genre-based scenes? Are you a part of one?

My feeling is that I don’t know enough bands or musicians that share alot of our influences as well as our musical ideals. Also, I can clearly see genre-based scenes in Dublin and would like to think that we aren’t part of any particular one due these ideals and because of the type of music we write.

Q6 Name a non-musical influence on your music.

I’d say my ability to never be actually happy for a long period with many different aspects of my life.

Q7 Take one of your songs and explain the process of writing it from the beginning to the finished article.

‘Fragile Things’ originated the morning after a night spent not being sociable so I decided to take a good look at myself. I just sat at the bottom of my bed with my loop station, small amp and guitar and kept tuning my guitar into different tunings and kept playing around with riffs until something stuck. When it did, the first three riffs came almost instantly after each other and the vocal melody soon followed. I then formed the melody into lyrics I had partially written a few days previously. The next day I played the idea to Marc and his original drum sequence seemed to come almost instantly. So we played what was to be the song in its entirety and I actually remember being really excited about it afterwards. Then we played it a dozen more times but it essentially hasn’t changed much from that day.

Q8 Has music criticism ever influenced your music, or at least made you think about it differently? I mean proper reviews, but also blogs or even just hearing someone you don’t know talk about you.

We’ve been lucky in that we havent been criticised that much yet. I can remember sending a shit demo into Hot Press when I was 17 and the resulting review of it made me not want to play anymore. I know now they were right and it was pretty shit but I think it’s actually bad that a person’s music can be critiqued at that age as I was very impressionable at the time. I still take criticism of our band pretty badly though as it’s probably highlighting a deep-rooted fear/issue I have of us.

Q9 Have you ever felt guilty for trying to get other people to take an interest in your music, if you aren’t making the effort with new music yourself?

Well i’m addicted to new music and constantly love hearing of new bands that are doing something that I admire. I honestly believe we’re doing something good with this band and therefore I won’t let myself feel guilty about getting other people interested in what we do. My genuine enthusiasm and confidence hopefully doesn’t come across as arrogance or pretentiousness. I’ve seen a few musicians who have fallen foul of both of those characteristics.

Q10 Would you call yourself a traditionalist with regard to music, either as a listener or in how you go about writing/recording/performing?

I think our on stage set-up is non-traditonal but the songs themselves are generally comprised of the verse/chorus pattern. However, since i’ve neglected to listen to a lot of 60s, 70s and 80s music (again, another days work) I think my approach to writing and song structure is pretty non-traditional. Although many songs are verse/chorus, I’ve become obsessed with finding a 4-8 second guitar/keyboard line that can have various different root notes but the original line must remain a constant. It’s sometimes frustrating limiting the song to loops but when it works I get incredible satisfaction. It’s like solving some kind of musical puzzle.

Q10.5 What’s something you’re listening to right now?

Right now as I type this it’s Wye Oak. I like them a lot. Every time I listen to Menomena i’m just blown away by how wonderfully creative they are. I stuck the Wild Beasts new album on the stereo yesterday and it really is a beautiful piece of work. I also don’t think i’ll ever stop listening to Veckatimest by Grizzly Bear.
There’s loads more that i’ve forgotten.

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10 responses to “Interview Project #14: The Ambience Affair

  1. Hey, this was cool…I’ve not found much personable stuff about Ambience Affair band online and they’re a pretty curious pair. Interesting to hear where Fragile Things comes from. I seriously need to go and see them live, soon as.

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