Interview: Amber Arcades on Fading Lines and Port Eliot

© Nick HeldermanIn April 2015, Dutch artist Annelotte De Graaf flew to New York alone to begin recording her debut album as Amber Arcades. The result, Fading Lines, is a shimmering musical mosaic, a mixed bag of rock, pop, and dance elements coming together to form a whole.

This collage style was more out of necessity than design, as De Graaf funded the record with her own savings.

“At first I was scared that the six days we had to record all the instrumentals would be too short and that we wouldn't be able to try enough different things,” she says. “But in the end everything went really smooth. We were able to record the instrumental basic tracks for two to three songs a day and were able to add a lot of organs, keys, synths and other texture things in the time that we had left. I don't think that the record would have turned out better if we would have had more time in the studio. The time pressure also forces you to act kind of spontaneous and go with your gut instinct to some extent, which can be a good thing.”

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De Graaf knows a few things about following her gut. A tendency to stick with her instincts has seen her through from her earliest musical forays. While on university exchange in Philadelphia she branched out in her music, pursuing what felt natural rather than what she had been taught. As she tells it, she “saw the exchange as a good opportunity to break old patterns and create new ones and I had decided that I wanted to do more with music. So I bought a mandolin there and met some friends of friends who were just starting this bluegrass band and I joined them. We played mostly on the streets, busking. We didn't even really get to the point where we had a name. But it was formative in that it got me out of the comfort zone of my bedroom and made me discover that I actually really like playing music together with other people.”

The record was something of a process of self-exploration. De Graaf immersed herself in the concepts that mean the most to her, drawing on her preoccupations with existential concepts and the trajectory of her own life: “I’m kind of obsessed with life and death and fitting every piece of my life into a big story that will work in the end,” she says. “I’m always trying to feel connected to life in the bigger picture, trying to see where certain lines in my life are pointing towards, so a lot of the lyrics are about that... I did write a lot of the lyrics for the songs in the period right after my grandfather passed away so in that period those themes were probably on my mind even more than usual. I found the way he approached his death with so much calmness and almost with a sense of ease and lightness very inspiring.”

She was also inspired by the fairy tales of her childhood, infusing the record with a vivid sense of fantasy: “My parents were total hippies, really involved in the new age movement in the 80s. We lived in communes, I was sent to a Steiner school. My Mum told me about fairies and I believed her till I was like eleven or so. So they definitely instilled this sense of magical realism in me and I guess I’ve never outgrown it fully. Although I have become more realistic of course, through my job and studies, watching people fleeing war zones every day. I don't see it as a conscious influence in my music but it is the way my mind is wired so naturally that sense of magic realism finds its way to my music, as it does every other aspect of my life.”

There is certainly something magical about Amber Arcades. We look forward to catching her show in person at Port Eliot this month.

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