The United Nations prevents conflict and maintains international order – but it isn’t exactly renowned for spawning talented musicians. Amber Arcades is the exception.
Amber Arcades – a.k.a Annelotte de Graaf – only considered music ‘‘as a viable career’’ a few years ago, and she initially felt that she had left it too late. But after one self-produced album, two well-received EPs, a tour with rock veterans Grandaddy and befriending ex-Coral member, Bill Ryder-Jones, the Dutch singer-songwriter may have timed her ascent into the music industry just right.
“I never really saw it [music] as a viable career option,’’ says the 28-year-old. ‘‘I played in my first band at 21 and thought I’d already missed the boat by then, since I had all these friends who’d already released records when they were 21 and I was just starting out.’’
Undoubtedly, in today’s music industry, the general opinion seems to be that if you haven’t achieved a certain degree of success by your mid-twenties, the possibility of forging a career in music after that point is very unlikely – and for Amber, that was the case. Initially, Amber put her music on the back-burner, in favour of higher education, and as a result ended up with a master’s degree in law and a job at the United Nations.
She also worked in the Netherlands Immigrations sector and saved money in order to fund her debut album.
‘‘I was always saving, ever since I got my first job. My Mum was a single mother on benefits so we never had a lot of money.’’
After years of savings, she eventually had saved enough to afford to up sticks and travel to New York to record her debut album, Fading Lines, with a budget of $12,000 and producer, Ben Greenberg. The result was a bold, adventurous and creative album, which was reflected in the fact she travelled from her home in the Netherlands to the Big Apple to record it.
“I wanted to work with Ben Greenberg and he just happened to be based in New York. I could have asked him to come over to the Netherlands, but where’s the adventure in that? I must also admit I am kind of America-obsessed. I guess I’ve kept that association between adventure and a sense of freedom with that country.”
Before its release, her debut album quickly grabbed the attention of indie label, Heavenly Records, and before long the Utrecht-native’s gamble was looking like it was going to pay off. Heavenly released the album on her behalf and the label and Amber Arcades have since teamed up again for the release of her most recent EP, Cannonball.
“As a Dutch artist I feel very lucky to have found a way into the UK scene through them, as it can be quite a difficult thing for non-UK bands. The UK is such an island, like literally, but also figuratively as in it’s hard to get in there as an outsider.’’
When asked about how she’s been finding the UK, it was lovely to see how enthusiastic the self-dubbed “guitar-pop music” maker was about little ol’ blighty.
“I’m down with the UK. I like playing shows here because I feel people get the music and generally people are very attentive at gigs.’’
After spending some time in the UK, Amber Arcades ended up touring with American-rockers, Grandaddy and honing her own artistic skills by spending time with Bill Ryder-Jones. The pair worked on a track together called ‘Wouldn’t Even Know’, which featured on Amber’s, Cannonball. It was interesting to hear how Amber found these intuitive experiences.
“With regards to Grandaddy, it’s always inspirational to meet people who have been in the business for so long. It can be a pretty mean and killing business in some ways. Bill Ryder-Jones is just an amazing person overall. I got to hang out with him properly when we recorded the video for the track a couple of weeks ago and he’s just one of the most direct, honest, no filter, no bullshit people I’ve come across. He’s an inspiration for sure in how he approaches being a musician and being real about it.’’
When asked what’s next for Amber Arcades, there was only sheer positivity about the singer’s future endeavours.
“I’m playing some shows over the summer, finishing up writing for my next record and then recording this autumn if all goes well!”
WORDS BY CAMERON POOLE
FEATURED PHOTO BY NICK HELDERMAN