Earbuddy recently got the chance to talk with Sam Harris of Ambassadors. We had a nice chat concerning the new album among other things. Sam and the rest of Ambassadors are hard are work perfecting their music for the big day in your life where they get to rock your bleeping socks off.
Earbuddy: Howdy! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your role in the band? How long have you guys been playing music together? Did you guys play in a lot of bands before this one?
Sam Harris: My name is Sam Harris, I sing lead in the band and play a bunch of different stuff as well (drums, keyboards, bass, guitar). The band in its current form has been together for about 3 years now. Noah, Casey and I grew up together in Ithaca, NY and had played in bands together for most of our lives, but we didn’t meet Adam (drums) until college. We weren’t able to really start taking things seriously until after we all graduated in 2010, but after we did we started making our album right away. It took us about a year to write, and about 6 months to make.
EB: On your debut album, Litost you’ve employed the use of an orchestra, right? That’s incredible! Can you tell us what that experience was like? Were you able to record live with them or did you have to track it seperately? How do you translate these parts live? Do you bring more musicians with you on tour to help out with the other instruments? If not, would it be a benefit for future performances?
Sam Harris: We were lucky enough to have the multi-talented Max Drummey from Chester French do some of the orchestrations on the record for us (specifically on the title track), and all the strings were played by our guitar player’s girlfriend Meredith Reilly who is an INCREDIBLE violinist. We were really lucky to get both of them involved in this project, and they’ll definitely be working on the next one with us too. The strings were all tracked separately, but it was still incredible to hear what it sounded like while it was happening. We all get a thrill out of hearing orchestral instruments on our songs; for the live performances, eventually it would be nice to get some players to tour with us, but right now it doesn’t seem to take anything away from our live sound. If anything, we think of it like, you’re coming out to see a band play their music live, not to listen verbatim to their album. It’s cool when it sounds a little different.
We’re getting back into our r&b soul roots on this next record.
EB: What has you experience of touring been like since releasing Litost? With the momentum you’ve had it doesn’t look like you guys are slowing down nor stopping any time soon. When do you get a break? Is this where you saw yourselves going when you sat down to record Litost? How are the crowds different from New York? What is the most interesting thing that’s happened to you since you’ve left home?
Sam Harris: This is exactly where we knew we’d be when we started making this record. If anything, we thought it would all be happening faster (haha). We’re all very proud of the album and are excited that people seem to be enjoying it. We aren’t on tour now, but we’ve been on the road pretty consistently since we put the record out in February, and sometimes for months at a time, so right now we’re enjoying having a little time off to write and keep working on our new record, which will be a real full-length LP this time (technically, our first LP). But being on the road is so much fun and we hope to be back on the move in the new year. The crowds are all great in their own ways everywhere we go, though I’d have to say we had a blast playing down south and on the west coast. Europe is cool too, but it’s easy to feel like a bit of an outsider when you first play there. And by far the craziest thing that happened to us on the road was when Noah (our guitarist) impaled himself trying to jump over a wrought-iron fence. Crazy and super scary. But he made it out alive, thank fucking god.
EB: Have you been able to work out some new material since you’ve left? What does/will it sound like compared to your last album?
Sam Harris: We’re getting back into our r&b soul roots on this next record and also experimenting a bit with these beautiful orchestral arrangements that Casey has been composing. We want the record to feel like a film score in a way… I’ve been listening to a lot of Vangelis (blade runner soundtrack) and a lot of old Disney film scores, so that’s where we’ve been drawing some inspiration from. I’d like to mix in a bit of 90s r&b with some of that, as well as some of our tribal drum sound that we were working with on LITOST. This album will be much different on the surface, but if you’re familiar with our whole repertoire as a band then this should seem like a very predictable step in the right direction.
I’ve always wanted to do a Destiny’s Child cover.
EB: Your music has been featured on One Tree Hill and your new music video for “Unconsolable” costars Zosia Mamet of HBO’s Girls and Mad Men. What was it like to record such a thrilling music video? The story in that video is gripping and I wonder how you came up with that concept, especially with the geometric shapes that come alive. Can you explain a little bit about the symbolism in this video? Any plans to release more videos for the album?
Sam Harris: I can’t really take much credit for the concept — a lot of that goes to Gabe, our director — but I do love what he did with the visuals. I love the juxtaposition of those delicate, beautiful white lines with the gory mess they become a part of. And the fact that we had an actress as baddass as Zosia working with us made the whole thing even better. We’ve got another video in the works (that’s just as bizarre) for the song “Weight/Lightness”, which is coming out in the next couple months. I won’t give too much away, but it’s definitely a good one. After that, we’ll start work on the music video for the first single off our new record which I will most likely direct or co-direct with someone.
EB: You used to release a cover every week on youtube right? Do you tend to perform covers at your shows? Would you ever consider publishing an album of covers? Is there a song that you don’t think you could cover right now but would love to be able to play eventually?
Sam Harris: We are really proud of those covers we did and will definitely do more in the future. But for right now, we have a lot of our own material to be working with so no plans to put any more out anytime soon. Maybe we’ll pull a few out of the woodwork for some shows, but most of the time we’d rather play our own material. That said… I’ve always wanted to do a Destiny’s Child cover.
EB: It’s been said you have a “mainstream” sound. I disagree in that I think you guys sound like a garage rock band with legs. I imagine as your band gets more attention your fan base must be growing as well. Do you notice your audience changing at all? What’s your favorite story from a fan being able to finally meet you?
Sam Harris: WE LOVE OUR FANS. Everyone who has hopped on the Ambassadors train has been so supportive and excited about us as we continue to do more and more in the world. It’s incredible to meet people who own our record and know all the words to it who we’ve never met before. It’s a very humbling and eye-opening experience that we will never ever take for granted. We just heard the other day that people are calling in to radio stations requesting our songs, saying they got MARRIED to them. People are walking down the aisle to our music. How crazy is that?? And in terms of us having a “mainstream” sound… To me, that’s just another way of saying that more than a specific niche market of people will enjoy listening to our music. Which, in my mind, is not a bad thing at all. While on the one hand we won’t ever compromise our artistic integrity to make something that’s more “marketable”, on the other we wont intentionally alienate anyone just for the sake of our bullshit indie rock credibility. Not to say that we have any to begin with… haha.
EB: What do you like to do outside of the band? Do you guys all hang out together on a regular basis when you’re not practicing? Do you guys have families, with kids and stuff?
Sam Harris: No families yet.. We’re all still in our early twenties. Plenty of time for that. We all live on the same block as each other, so we probably hang out an unhealthy amount for a group of guys who are constantly working together. When there’s downtime, we usually fill it pretty quickly with music stuff. There’s always work to be done.
EB: What’s the future look like for Ambassadors? Where are you going before the end of the year?
Sam Harris: Grinding. Everyday. Finishing our new record, hopefully, and playing a few one-offs on the East coast: We’ve got a show on November 29th with Hellogoodbye at Webster Hall in NYC, and another show in Norfolk, VA sometime before the end of the year.. That’s gonna be a real special one. Can’t give too many details yet, but we’re opening for a kickass band, and it’s going to be an AMAZING show. We love VA beach and the surrounding area… 96X, their local alternative rock radio station has given us a lot of love since the record came out and have been our biggest champions so far. So, we’ll keep you posted on that one!
Thanks so much to Sam Harris of Ambassadors to give us a moment of his time. Be sure to check out his band’s debut album, Litost; it’s HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.