Around five years ago, enigmatic prog rockers, Dark Universe launched their stunning debut album in front of a sellout crowd at the Charles Hotel. The show was remarkable for two things. First, the love in the room for the headliners was palpable — shame they disappeared off the map for years after the show, but life has a way of intervening even in the best oiled of machines. Second, it was this writer’s first introduction to Perth alt rockers, Amberdown, who were on the undercard that night.
…when I’m on stage, I’m not trying to do anything I’m doing. I’m just doing what I’m doing. I’m not putting on a show.Daniel Connell
They walked on stage that night, four clean cut young men, short hair, and looking entirely out of place. For a moment I was expecting four-part harmonies, something sixties themed, maybe. I mean, why put an act on before the headliner that could blow them off stage? So, it felt like Amberdown might have been an astute choice. They then proceeded to play the fucking shit out of the room. Talk about hardcore. This band rocked!
I’ve been keeping my eye on Amberdown ever since. I’ve watched, from afar, as they’ve almost conquered America. I’ve seen them play on stages all over Perth with the hardest of hard rock line ups and always be the standout act. I’ve checked out their astonishingly good debut album, Four Years, first released in 2019 and, today, out on vinyl for the first time. I’ve reviewed their latest single, ‘Ember’s Song’, saying it’s, set to be an Amberdown classic that will be a staple of their live set for years to come. Like the rock and roll cool dudes they are, they ignored my accolades.
When we spoke, Connell noted that ‘Ember’s Song’ is different to most of Amberdown’s other output, saying, “I’ll go from James Taylor to Slipknot in a song”. And why not?
All the while, I’ve wondered about Daniel Connell, front man and guitarist with Amberdown, and that hair. First time I saw him he looked like he was at a Happy Days audition and not even going for the part of The Fonz. Next time around, admittedly a few years later, he had all this hair. And he’d grown, like about three feet, at least. I swear he was 10 feet tall. It was like he was a whole different person. So, when we spoke recently, about the latest single, the reboot of Four Years, the new Amberdown album and Connell’s plans to reconquer the world, first thing I needed to know was, why the hair?
“I had short hair for for so long,” Connell said. “I always wanted to grow my hair long, but this girl I was dating for four years — that’s what the album’s called, Four Years — it was a horror relationship…she wouldn’t allow it. As soon as that relationship ended, it was straight onto the hair.”
As for the growth spurt, Connell said, “I’m about 184 centimetres. I don’t understand what goes on there. I’ve had this a few times with people. I don’t know what happens. When I get off stage, people say, ‘I thought you were bigger’. My Mum said to me, ‘You have a lot of charisma on stage,’ but when I’m on stage, I’m not trying to do anything I’m doing. I’m just doing what I’m doing. I’m not putting on a show.”
On first read, that last bit from Connell sounds confusing, but read it back and you’ll see that here’s a performer who knows what he’s about and is as authentic as can be. As for namechecking his Mum, maximum points for that.
Talking more generally about life in a band, Connell gave a few insights into what sounded like the good old days of Amberdown, when they lived the rock and roll lifestyle a little more fully than perhaps they do now. Seems those days are gone, as Connell disclaimed that he’s not about “keeping it unreal” anymore, going on to observe that, “If you’re just having a good time all the time, you’re not going to get anything done. At the start, we almost used it (being in a band) as an excuse to have a good time, but as soon as we took it a little bit seriously, we enjoyed it on a whole new level. It became a different game.”
That different game, gave life to Amberdown’s debut album, Four Years, and currently sees them working on a new album, due for release in 2022. After that, Connell intends to take his 10-foot frame and his band back overseas to continue their quest for world domination.
“As soon as the new album is done, borders will be open,” Connell said, and we’ll definitely want to tour. We were hoping the new album would be done end of last year. I won’t go into what happened, but we got screwed over a touch. Now we’re trying to finish the album ourselves, hopefully by early to mid next year.
“If it’s received well, we’ll probably leave Australia. We did LA and Vegas a few years ago and jumped on some festivals. It was good to see how things work over there. Playing in LA, we were thinking, ‘This is the big league here’. We played the Whisky a Go Go and all these places and, to be honest, most of the bands we saw, put a Perth band next to them any day and they’d just swallow them whole.”
Amberdown have the sort of dark muscularity that could well make them darlings of the alt rock scene in the US and, if their past glories are anything to go by, they have more than half a chance of making it. In Connell’s mind, it all hinges on the new album. Based on everything I know, Amberdown’s sophomore album will deliver the sort of sounds that will have them dominating sunset spots on US festival stages over the northern hemisphere summer of 2022.
Then I head Connell’s dog bark, so I had to ask.
“I’ve got a chihuahua, that’s what that noise is,” Connell said. “I’m not into the whole, you’re a big man, you need a big car and a big dog. That just screams insecurity to me.”
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Listen to Four Years…