Interview: Amida

Amida - Photo courtesy of Amida

Amida - Photo courtesy of Amida

Lead singer and founder of British indie-pop band Amida, John Ammirati, is reluctant to talk about process, namely because he feels like what he has to say has already been said.

“What’s the German word for organic?” he asked, seated outside at Berlin’s second annual Indie Pop Days Festival late last month. “Bio, yeah…it’s biological pop. It’s bio pop…it’s basically what we’re doing.”

Of course, he can laugh off the overuse of the word organic, but as with most things that take time, Amida is, in all honesty, a band that has progressed organically.

The origins of the Manchester-based five-piece began to fall into place long before the actual band came to fruition, when Ammirati – an American with a British mother – moved from Arizona to England in 2002, in hopes of starting a band.

“I was pretty obsessed with…British music as a kid,” he said. “[So] I had it in my head that I wanted to start a band in England, ‘cause the scene in America at the time was awful.”

Within a week of relocating to Cambridge, Ammirati met guitarist Andrew Beswick, and began to think things were falling into place, however, it took another few years before the band finally settled into its lineup.

“We had many false starts…and it took fucking years,” he said, explaining how he and Beswick auditioned upward of 50 people in order to find a bassist and drummer.

In addition to Ammirati and Beswick, the current incarnation of Amida also includes Scott Challinor, James Aran Cooper and Sebastian Hood, a line-up that has been together since 2006.

However, the amount of time it took to get things going wasn’t entirely a bad thing, Ammirati admitted, because now he is making music he wouldn’t have expected – which is mostly a good thing.

“The idea of the kind of band that I wanted to start…was very different from what it is now,” he said. “I just remember wanting to make really weird music for some reason, and we don’t really make weird music.”

Instead, Amida makes catchy and quick pop tunes stocked with witty lines and jangle-y guitars. Yet when asked the songwriting process itself, Ammirati lightheartedly scoffed.

“It’s so hard to talk about this without sounding like a dickhead. ‘Cause anytime you talk about music and all this shit it sounds like magic or some crap,” he said smiling. “If it was like the Beatles, or something…then it would be kind of interesting, like their method. But Amida’s method is of no interest to anyone really. I mean, they all end up, I guess, just sounding like, just short kind of pop songs.”

The main struggle for Amida then is not writing the songs, but making sure each has a personality all its own.

“We want each song to have its own character, which probably sounds ridiculous when you hear it live and everything just sounds the fucking same,” he said. “That’s a fear of mine, is that, the songs will sound the same. Especially played live…you get into the same tempo and, like, you’re just hammering out bar chords and every song’s like a minute-and-a-half, [and] it does kind of sound the same. But on record I think it’s more important to get it to sound different, even though some great bands had a uniform sound.”

One thing Ammirati said he feels contributes to the variation in sound is the fact that the members all listen to different kinds of music which leads to a wider variety of musical ideas brought to the songwriting table. Additionally, he said that nothing is too forced, because restricting the music to a certain set of rules might stunt its growth.

“I think we always try to get out of the way of where the music is kind of going,” he said. “We used to be more kind of song-based…the music was kind of arranged around the song. Now we shift the focus to making it more music-based, so it sounds more like music coming from five people, instead of like one person wrote a song and we’re all kind of dancing around it.”

While he enjoys most aspects of being in a band, the one real complaint Ammirati has is the amount of time it takes to accomplish things.

“Everything just moves so slow. Everything’s just so slow,” he said. “Like, by the time you have a song and [are] recording it and releasing it, like, it’s just so slow. I think that’s probably been the hardest part.”

Yet whereas it used to frustrate Ammirati and stress him out, he admitted he has now come to terms with it, and even tends to appreciate it from time to time. In particular, the time aspect has forced the band to be more careful about its music.

“I think the slow thing has kind of helped us, like, in that…instead of, like, recording a song and releasing it right away and then six months later realizing ‘shit actually that sucks and it wasn’t ready,’ at least we’ve got fucking, yo, ages, before we’re like, ‘oh actually, that doesn’t work, we should redo it,’” Ammirati said laughing. “So at least the stuff that’s coming out now…like, I can’t speak for the band, but I’m very happy with how they turned out. Just ’cause we have so much fucking time to get it right, [and] I think if we’d rushed it, you know, we’d have regrets.”

To date, the band has three EPs out, on Plastilina Records, WeePOP! and Fika Recordings, with a fourth due out on Cloudberry Records by the end of the year. Afterward, Ammirati said the focus will be on a full-length.

And whereas recording is something that can bring out a lot of frustration for certain musicians, Ammirati said it’s one of the more rewarding parts about the whole experience, for him.

“I love when you have a really rough mix of a song and then you kind of mix it and you bring it out of the mist and it sort of starts making sense and it becomes clear,” he said. “And the best thing ever is if it sounds better than you imagined it could. That’s a really nice feeling. So I love recording. The repetition of it doesn’t bother me. The tedium doesn’t bother me. I find it completely rewarding.”

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