An Interview with Amber Arcades

Amber Arcades is heading to Glasgow for Independent Venue Week

Well, hello Annelotte de Graaf – or should I say Amber Arcades. So, where did your stage name come from, what’s the back-story?
To be completely honest, I was just hanging out with my friend (Maartje, who played bass in my band waaaaaay back) and we wrote down a bunch of words that “sounded cool”. And these two sounded extra cool together! Then later I thought of what it could mean and I linked it to this story of Godfried Bomans about a man in the woods who thinks he lives in a castle. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but honestly I’m not fully against meaning being bestowed on things in retrospect. I feel like the meaning of many songs I write also doesn’t fully sink in until months after.

What are your first musical memories?
My mum playing a cassette tape of Koyaanisqatsi by Philip Glass. That super low voice used to scare me so much. Also a tape of Bhagwan songs, my parents had friends who were in the commune. I can still remember the lyrics: Bhagwan your love is an invitation, to live a life of celebration, on the wings of love we fly with you. At the time of course I had no idea what this meant.

Who has been your greatest musical influence over the years?
Oof… Too many! If I have to pick one I’d say Sharon van Etten. Her songs really helped me back when I was just starting out to discover a way of using my voice that felt very natural and easy.

So… desert island, solar powered CD player, 3 albums – what are they?
Elliott Smith – Either/Or for when I’m feeling sad that I’m on an island all alone.
Arthur Verocai – Arthur Verocai for when I’m chilling at the beach.
Mort Garson – Mother Earth’s Plantasia for when I am trying to befriend the local flora population.

How did you find, & then reconcile, juggling a legal career in Utrecht with your love of music?
I like being able to move in and out of both worlds. Both careers have given me so much in terms of knowledge, experience and insights. I’m very lucky that my job lets me take time off when I need to for my music so it’s possible to keep doing both.

Where do your songs come from & how do you shepherd them into existence?
It’s a very associative process. Most of the time I start with a small piece of a melody that pops up in my head when I play a certain chord and see where it wants to go. Each added note implies some options for the next one. But anything can be a starting point and evolve in something else entirely. Sometimes I’ll take the chords from an already existing song, find a new melody for them, and then change the chords again, so in the end it’s a completely new song. I’d say it’s quite a playful process where I don’t really filter myself a lot, at least in the initial stages.

Ten years into your Amber Arcades journey, how have you evolved as a songwriter?
I feel like I allow myself to be more playful while I simultaneously have more control over the process. I guess that sounds almost mutually exclusive, but that is how it feels. Playful in the sense that there’s no taboos or constraints while writing, any idea is welcome. And more control in that I have a better understanding of and feeling for song structure and how to build and craft melodies.

You’re about to release ‘Barefoot On Diamond Road’, on Fire Records, next month – can you tell us all about it?
It’s the greatest record I’ve made so far! Although I think that of every new record, haha. And then in hindsight I love them all equally! But honestly, this one feels very special and “true” in a way, like I’m getting closer to myself and accepting what I’m finding there. It feels like I’m finally recognizing stuff that was a big part of me all along, like my love for nature and certain sci-fi aesthetics, and putting them at the front of this record, like, this is me, hello!

What’s it like being signed to Fire Records?
Wonderful! They’re truly excellent people who are so full of love for music.

You have a tour coming up with Fire Records, can you tell us about it?
As a part of Independent Venue Week I’m touring together with Hater and Thala through the UK. It’s going to be very special I think, I feel very lucky to be out with such a good group of people and musicians! Musically I think it’s a great match and who knows, maybe we’ll even find a way to do something special together for the shows.


You’ll be coming to Glasgow, have you been to Scotland before, & if so how did it go?
I’ve been a couple of times, to play shows in Edinburgh and Glasgow. I absolutely love Scotland. Even just driving through it. It’s just so incredibly gorgeous. One time we had a day off after a show in Glasgow and drove up to Loch Lomond for a hike, it was stunning. Also the cities themselves are amazing, such great venues and food.

How is the rest of 2023 looking on all fronts?
My record is coming out on February 10 and I can’t wait to finally share it completely with the world. It’s been a while in the making and like I said, this one truly feels very special. We’re heading to SXSW in March. Other than that I can’t reveal too much yet, but I’m confident it will be a year full of beautiful moments with music, nature, food and people.

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