Our writer Thomas Neil chats to Progressive hard rockers Ambivist about the band, the music, the future, and more... check it out!
Sean Murtaugh - Vocals/Guitar
Michael Todd - Drums/Vocals
Paul Miller - Bass
Ross Elias - Guitar
Progressive hard rock band
So first of how did you all meet?
SM: "Declan (originally a perspective member of the band) approached me in the corridor at school and asked if I wanted to join his band."
PM: "I'll elaborate on that a bit. I'd been involved in a few things since I was about fourteen but hadn't been able to find anyone seriously interested or that played instruments. I'd heard about Sean just around school so we approached him and he was interested, so we formed a school band and it evolved from there."
SM: "Two other members had left (Rob and Matthew) for various reasons and Toddy joined after his old band had broken up. But we really solidified the lineup about a year ago when Ross joined."
Where are you all from?
MT: "We all grew up around Ayrshire and thereabouts."
SM: "Myself and Paul are from Kilwinning."
MT: "I'm from Troon and Ross is from Erskine so yeah we're basically all from Ayrshire."
How long have you been playing your respective instruments?
SM: "I've been playing the guitar for about six or seven years. I came to the guitar from the game guitar hero and I actually found it a lot easier because I don't have to remember all the colours. I also played the flute but found it wasn't for me and so happily moved on to guitar."
MT: "I've been playing drums for about ten years. I grew up with music and playing an instrument. I've been playing pipe bands since I was about ten. I took a few years off from playing drums then came back to it and got told I wasn't half bad at it."
PM: "I was also a guitar hero convert. And I swear this interview is not a cleverly disguised promotion for Activision. I got my first guitar out of Argos and I remember my mum saying "why are you buying that you'll play it for a week then just forget about it". I think I remember her saying that was probably the real motivation for me sticking with it. So I learned to play guitar. I got a bass for my Christmas one year and because my uncle also played bass, I was interested in learning that so I gravitated towards it more than the guitar and that's what got me here."
RE: I've been playing guitar for about four or five years and unlike the others cannot play guitar hero to save myself. I struggle on easy....
SM: (about Ross) He can solo to Alterbridge like a boss but apparently four buttons are just too many. Before I became involved with a band I was never really that interested in music, I mean I listened to a lot of it but never really played that much. In third year I picked music as a bit of a skive and started doing guitar lessons and that's when I really found a passion for it.
What genre of music do you consider your work to be?
SM: Post Modern Slimecore....
MT: Post Hardcore Jazz Funk...
SM: I think we landed on Progressive Hard Rock
RM: Yeah on ITunes we’re classified as progressive hard rock.
SM: Although I think we fall a little more on the Hard Rock than the progressive at the moment. And sometimes we just do whatever we like.
What are your influences?
RE: Let's get my one word answer out of the way. My influences are Tremonti in particular and Alter Bridge overall. Also Dire Straits. Mark Knopfler is the man who got me started. The rest really came when I first heard Alter Bridge.
PM: I originally picked up a guitar because I was listening to bands like Avenged Sevenfold and Black Veil Brides and without them he wouldn't be here. Those aren't my current musical influences but they are what shaped my interest in music. Currently it's alot harder to nail down it comes from whatever I listen to which can range from Metallica to Avicci. A big one that did come to mind was probably Tessaract though.
MT: I'd also agree with Tessaract as an influence on my music. I'd also say Avenged was an influence and in particular the Rev who's style was insane. I'd also say Mike Portnoy was an influence, in fact for an entire summer all I'd listen to were a Change of Seasons and The Count of Tuscany from Dream Theatre which are over twenty minutes long apiece until I could play them back to front. I also takes inspiration from Jay Postones from Tessaract who I mentioned earlier.
SM: "anything and everything" I tend to listen to whatever comes up. But from a progressive stand point I takes influence from Steven Wilson and Michael Akerfeldt because "they are on the right side of strange". Although their influences don't come across boldly I try to fit them into my music. I also take some influence in playing style from Tessaract and Tool (Adam Johnson) and The Lone Tree in the Woods that Killed Us All. I take influence on stage presence from Steel Panther and the lead singer of Protest the Hero.
Do you do covers and if so what’s your go to?
PM: We do a few covers for example at the last gig we did the song White Knuckles by Alter Bridge.
SM: I think that's a lot to do with finding something that fits a set, with our wildly differing style and tone finding something that slots neatly into a set and doesn't sound completely out there is difficult I think.
What if anything does your name mean/why are you called that?
SM: We were originally Subtext and then As Shadows Fade for about five minutes before we arrived at Ambivist.
PM: The majority of the band don't actually know what the name means but we've agreed it's pretty cool.
SM: I've told you about a hundred times...
PM: (answering) Yeah but we forgot.
...Well we were discussing on the group chat on facebook about how the current name didn't suit us and that we needed to change it. So I was talking to my girlfriend at the time and we were discussing ambiverts (someone who is sometimes an introvert and sometimes an extrovert). Well that's where the “Ambi” part of the name comes from and the “vist” part comes from the words optimist and pessimist. The name basically sums up someone who can sometimes be like "Yeah this is great we can do this" and other times "nah this is ridiculous, this isn't gonna work"
Do you have a process for writing your songs? /Which of you writes the songs?
As a group: No
PM: To elaborate, we use the group chat to develop ideas.
MT: Quite often we'll write instrumental parts first and then structure comes into it and then we'll get confused. A recurring problem is where the songs will keep slowing down and then we'll need to speed it up before we can carry on. Often though someone will write a riff and then we'll begin to write a song around it. Eventually lyrics will come into it. We tend to collaborate and put our own bits in to a song to create something.
PM: We don't write with the thought of "what's this going to sound like on the radio" or "what's the song before and after going to sound like" we write it and structure it however feels best and what feels natural. We also tend to shy away from setting deadlines and just work on something till it's done. For example our single took eight months to produce.
RE: I rewrote the solo for the single six times including once on the day of the recording.
SM: I'm constantly surprised by the shocking amount of riffs I write half naked.
What are your rehearsals generally like?
MT: "Every time we’re trying to get something done Sean and Ross end up playing random endless crap!"
PM: it's a shame this is just a written interview because it's one of the only times we're smiling and being productive around each other"
SM: The rehearsals can be a little chaotic but we'll make an effort to play our set at least once before we get distracted.
MT: Usually we'll just be getting started and someone says something like "Hey guys I can play pink panther on my guitar"
PM: We did make an effort coming up to our first gig to focus and pull it together because people were going to be there to hear us.
Do you have any interesting/funny stories about gigging or touring?
SM: Well as you know Tackety bit was our first gig but I did mess up the name of the other band we were playing with. I'd heard someone say we were playing with a band called serpent kings but looked them up and realized that they probably weren't playing at Tackety. A few weeks before the gig somebody told me that it was serpent suns so I looked them up and they were a French band who were touring in the UK and I thought that sounded right so I didn't question it. Then on the night I saw a poster that said serpent sons and so I tried to keep that in my head but I didn't quite manage it. I also forgot Ross's name at the gig called him something else...
MT: wait that was real? I thought you were kidding?
...yeah it was in fairness I've only ever seen it written down. So yeah there was that as well.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?
SM: Our biggest challenge has been finding members that actually stick around.
PM: We go through the process of working with someone only for them to say that they can't commit to the band right when we're ready to start performing.
MT: There's been no hard feelings everyone that left had their own reasons for leaving and we completely understand.
PM: There have just been so many setbacks in terms of that and now we've finally got to the point where we are ready again.
Have you released anything yet/if you have how has it gone down and are you planning anything for the near future?
SM: We released our first single "A Drop of Thunder" on the 29th April and we have plans to put out an EP soon. We have enough material just now to release one but we feel a few songs could do with some tightening up. So right now the plan is just to get a few more gigs under our belt so that we can build up a decent audience before we release anything substantial. We released the single so that we were out there and so that people could look us up and get a taste of our music. We might change our plans for putting out an EP and instead get a few more songs and just release a full album but that depends upon on our writing speed and fan interest.
How can fans-to-be gain access to your music? Do you have a website with sample songs or a demo CD?
SM: it's up everywhere. On Spotify, Sound cloud, ITunes
PM: I actually put it on Tidal...
RE: (To Paul) Jeez. Who are we Jay Z?
...maybe he could be our next sponsor. Activision and Jay Z.
SM: so yeah basically anywhere music can be found.
What's your outlook on the record industry today?
SM: (To Paul) I think we'll let you cover this
PM: It's a very dog eat dog industry where it's more about making money than anything creative. I mean have you heard about Five Finger Death Punch and 30 Seconds To Mars being sued by their own record companies? I mean, the record industry has been in a critical state for a long time. There's a thing called a 360° record contract where basically the record label get a cut of everything you, as a band do apposed to traditionally, making their money from record sales. If you want to sell lemonade out of a stand and the band is involved, the record company gets a cut.