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"We Were Both Behind and Ahead of Our Time": Amusement Parks on Fire Return

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

When a teenage Michael Feerick completed the first Amusement Parks on Fire record back in 2004, he achieved something quietly remarkable. It was an ambitious and ethereal rock project that renovated ‘90s shoegaze for the 21st century.

Thirteen years later, that style has never been more popular. Pioneers such as Ride, Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine have returned to more acclaim than they enjoyed in their heyday, while a raft of imitators have ensured feedback-drenched guitars are well and truly back in vogue.

And yet the contributions of Amusement Parks on Fire, who expanded into a five-piece for subsequent records, are frequently overlooked. That’s strange, because they certainly pressed the right buttons: their stunning second album ‘Out of the Angeles’ was recorded in Sigur Rós’s Icelandic studio, and they moved to Los Angeles in 2010 to collaborate with Silversun Pickups for its follow up, ‘Road Eyes’.

But the stars never quite aligned. After a stuttering American tour, members drifted apart, and the band were officially on hiatus by 2013. “We were both behind and ahead of our time,” Feerick says. “We probably couldn’t have picked a worse time to release those initial albums.

“It was a bit frustrating because we were compared to ‘90s bands I don’t think I’d even listened to when the first album came out. I thought it was this amazingly original sound somewhere between Nirvana and Sigur Rós.

“We were compared to all these bands, but for a point of reference, I only heard ‘Loveless’ when I was in the studio doing the first album. A lot of people just went ‘Yeah, brilliant, but it’s been done’. Ironically, I’m now more into a lot of that stuff now I’m older.”

Feerick’s youthful talents haven’t faded, but his expectations have inevitably changed with age. Now in his early 30s, he’s moved to London after years of hopping between Nottingham and LA. He’s kept his fingers in different pies over the years, working on solo material and collaborating with other band members on lighter projects.

But now Amusement Parks on Fire are back with a new single, new label, tour dates and an upcoming EP, and the reception has been anything but low-key. “It’s been surprising,” Feerick says. “We first built our fanbase in the early days of the internet, so I found it hard to gauge looking at Facebook – I just thought all the attention was just the algorithm – but when I checked the ticket sales I was really surprised.

“It feels like we’re starting all over again. We were just going to plan a London show but now we’re doing a full UK tour. We’re relaxed, though. The plan is to put out the EP in April and then work on a new album. We want it to be somewhere between the three albums we produced as none of them were definitively representative of what we’re capable of.”

Contextualising Amusement Parks on Fire’s sound for newcomers isn’t easy. The band created a distinct palette that persisted throughout their work, implanting angsty and emotive vocals amid an intense and overwhelming wall of sound. They also drew heavily from post-rock acts such as Mogwai and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, with many tracks stretching towards the 10-minute mark.

But there were subtle developments, such as the introduction of orchestral arrangements on ‘Out of the Angeles’ and the shift towards ‘70s-inspired widescreen production on ‘Road Eyes’. Feerick feels the more intricate components of his songwriting were often overlooked by critics, who tended to revert to shoegaze clichés at a time when it wasn’t yet seen as commercially viable.

“There was also definitely a paradigm shift in the mid-2000s,” he says. “I never felt we were really part of a scene, but we were about at a time when a lot of guitar bands were finishing up. It’s funny – we used to say to our pals Silversun Pickups that we were trying to rip off the Smashing Pumpkins but compared to My Bloody Valentine, whereas for them it was the other way around.

“We’ve introduced new elements over time – the string sections, more jazzy chords – but no one seemed to pick up on it. I thought our last two albums were entirely different, but people just went ‘new shoegaze’. Will that change? The new stuff still sounds like us, but now I’m in my 30s I’m listening to Jim O’Rourke and Harry Nilsson a lot – even the Beatles for the first time.”

It might be a little late for Amusement Parks on Fire to rebrand themselves – not that their new single Our Goal to Realise suggests that is their intention – but they return at a time when the underground music terrain is more flexible and more forgiving than it was a decade ago.

Signing with Texas-based Saint Marie Records, a label that specialises in all things dreamy and gazey, the band have the chance to connect with a generation of fans who missed their unique strain of noise rock the first time around. This week, they head on tour with psychedelic duo Misty Coast and Feerick says it’s a perfect opportunity.

“We’re ready to just go in and have fun this time around,” he says. “When we were younger, I think we were scared to let other people get involved. We did things like go to Iceland because it was epic and it looked cool, but we could have made the same record for a fraction of the cost.

“We’ve gone full circle in a way. When you’re young there’s this awe about the process and the music industry. There’s a hyperbole to the rock and roll stories and stuff. But who cares? These days we don’t care about being grouped with other bands or being labelled a certain way or whatever. We’re older and wiser, but we’re having fun and it feels fresh again.”

Amusement Parks On Fire Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Fri November 17 2017 - LEEDS Lending Room
Sat November 18 2017 - GLASGOW Hug and Pint
Sun November 19 2017 - NEWCASTLE Cluny
Mon November 20 2017 - MANCHESTER Gullivers
Tue November 21 2017 - BRISTOL Exchange
Wed November 22 2017 - OXFORD Bullingdon
Thu November 23 2017 - NOTTINGHAM Bodega
Fri November 24 2017 - BIRMINGHAM Sunflower Lounge
Sat November 25 2017 - LONDON Borderline

Click here to compare & buy Amusement Parks On Fire Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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