Amber Pacific lead guitarist/pianist/song writer Will Nutter spoke to us about the band's new album, the challenges of replacing a vocalist, and how Katy Perry saved the band.
First, can you introduce yourself and tell us what you do in the band?
I usually go by Will or William but never Bill. I play guitar, piano, and write the tunes for Amber Pacific.
Your new album, Virtues, comes out Tuesday. Tell us about it.
The band has gone through a lot over the past few years, dating back to the end of 2007. Following Warped Tour, we headed out with Sum 41 where numbers weren't as expected, then hit the road with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus where the last 10 days of the tour were canceled, and of course the Hawthorne [Heights] tour that winter where Casey passed away. After a month or so I spoke with Matt, and he decided the band wasn't for him anymore. The momentum we had came to a screeching halt, and the band went into an ice age of sorts. [laughs] Needless to say, I've had a lot of time to reflect and write new material. Virtues is something we're all proud of. In my opinion, I think we expanded our horizons as musicians but managed to keep a similar style to our past efforts which was something we held in high esteem.
You worked with the Seattle Symphony on a few songs. How was that?
I am a huge fan of string arrangements and always try to make room for them when I can, so naturally, having strings on the last two records I figured this should be no different. We had several players from the Seattle Symphony come in and track all of the arrangements for each song in an hour or two. These guys are so pro it's ridiculous. It never takes them much longer than a few hours, but it's definitely one of the band's favorite parts of making a record, being able to watch it all come together. It's really special.
A change in vocalists can be hard on a band. Tell us about how Jesse Cottam became the new frontman and what the transition was like internally.
This has been an ongoing issue from the moment Matt left the band. From the band's perspective, we were extremely excited about the opportunity to find someone new. I got a few instrumental tracks from our producer for "Gone So Young", "Fall Back Into My Life", and "Summer in B", set up a Gmail account and had anyone who was interested in the position send in an audition of them singing over those instrumentals. We received over 300 submissions and I thought to myself, "Wow, this is going to be great!" I was wrong. Out of those submissions, there were only a handful of auditions that had the potential to fill the spot, so I started looking into YouTube. I started searching for covers, covers of popular current bands, covers of massive singles, etc. I had even entertained the idea of a female singer. Why not, right? I came across a cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl", but it was done by Jesse. I initially looked into it thinking I'd get a good laugh, but he had such a unique voice I had to hear more. Once I started doing some research I learned he had been on Canadian Idol and had also performed in a cover band in Las Vegas when he was younger. To make an already long story short, it came down to three and we decided Jesse was the best fit in all facets of the band.
How do you react to fans who are apprehensive about the change?
There has been a lot of backlash against Jesse, more than I had imagined. At the time, it seemed that the majority of the people out there were always putting Matt down for one reason or another, which is why when we had the opportunity to change that, I was optimistic and excited. I completely understand if you were a fan of AP in the past and can't continue to support us moving forward. Change isn't usually something welcomed with open arms; it takes time to adjust, and sometimes it will never be as good as it once was. The band is 100% behind Jesse. We've grown to love him and decided to go with him for a reason. We didn't want someone to just replace Matt's voice; we wanted someone who would give the band the opportunity to grow, not to just stay stuck in one genre for the rest of our career. Now, that being said, I will make sure we never fully depart from what has gotten us here. We don't want to become "artsy" by any means. We're not that kind of band. We just want to keep it fun and write meaningful songs we love in hopes that some of you out there will grow to love them too.
How did your deal with Victory Records come about?
In February of 2009, we released a 3 song EP on iTunes. Behind the scenes, we were shopping these songs to majors looking for a new home. The response was positive. We had a lot of interest out there, but time was against us. At some point you have to realize the reality of the situation, and that was we had lost a lot of momentum and needed to get back into the swing of things as soon as possible. After many discussions with management, we decided a major wasn't the right path for Amber Pacific and started looking elsewhere. After several months had gone by, we weren't getting anywhere, so the band decided it was time to start with a clean slate, new management, new booking, new singer, etc. Shortly after finding a new manager, I had him approach Victory to see what the interest was, to say the least. Tony was ready to sign a deal the day we approached him. It took a few weeks to hammer out the details, but we signed with Victory in November 2009 and got back into the studio in December to record Virtues.
What happened with Ben Harper? He recorded an album with you a couple years back and then left the band only a few months later.
The common misconception with Ben Harper is that he recorded Truth In Sincerity with us. This wasn't the case; we were in pre-production for that record when we decided things just weren't working out. Ben is an extremely busy person. He's on his Blackberry more than anyone I know, and it was apparent that juggling the band as well as his record label was just too much to handle at the time. The band had to move forward without him, and we asked him to leave prior to recording Truth In Sincerity. However, I will say there wasn't any hard feelings. We love Ben and had a great time with him while he was a part of Amber Pacific and wish him only the best!
Now that the record is coming out, do you have plans to tour soon?
Touring is number one on the agenda for AP. It is a huge relief to get back out on the road supporting a new record. It's been a long time coming, but we couldn't be more excited to share the music with anyone out there who is willing to listen. Currently, we have a few headlining runs planned for the end of May through the beginning of June as well as the end of June through July. The band is definitely hoping to land something big this fall, but either way we plan on being out on the road as much as possible for the remainder of the year.
What else do you have planned for the rest of the year?
Tour, tour, tour.
Do you have any closing remarks?
The reason why Amber Pacific wanted to make music was to make a difference. That's always been the focus of the band from day one. We wanted to write meaningful songs that kids would hopefully relate to, and we wanted to set an example by being role models for the younger generation. We didn't have any expectations going into it. We didn't know where our music would take us, but we loved being in the moment. Being in a band is a privilege; it's a once in a lifetime opportunity, and it's something that should never be taken for granted because it can disappear in an instant. It would be easy to walk away from it all. We had the success and starting over isn't something that's going to come easy, but we still love what we do and we care about the fans who are still there for us. To anyone who has supported Amber Pacific in the past, thank you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Every band will say it, but it couldn't be any more true: the fans are what keeps us going. So please, even if AP isn't for you, support the music you love. If you're going to download a record, then take the $10 you saved and go to a show instead. It's no secret the industry has crumbled, but that doesn't mean it can't be saved. We look forward to seeing you all on the road soon. Thank you, and thanks to everyone at AbsolutePunk.net for posting the updates and hosting the threads!
As one who was upset with their choice in Jesse at first, I can honestly say that I really dig the new record...a lot more than I thought I would.
Props to them for keeping it up through all the negativity. I'll be buying this album for sure.
I'll say it, I didn't like their new singer at all at first. But after spending some time with the music they recorded with him, he grew on me. I'll always love Amber Pacific, they're good guys with a positive message. The music scene needs more bands like this.
Jesse is not terrible. They have to mesh the music with his voice, and that's going to take time. I have to say, "Three Words" had that Amber Pacific feel to it, I was worried with Matt being gone it would leave. It hasn't. Amber Pacific is still a band you can listen to and enjoy and feel like you've made a good choice by listening to it.
I think I'm in the same boat as the previous posters. For some reason the new singer didn't do it for me at first but now that I've heard the record a few times I 100% love it. For those old AP fans who only heard the iTunes EP and gave up, I encourage you to get the whole CD and listen to it a few times theough.
I can't help but feel dissapointed with this new record. It's a pretty decent pop/rock album but it's not the same old pop/punk Amber Pacific we know and love.
I guess Matts departure affected the music more than I thought it would. In my opinion they would have been better off calling Amber Pacific a day and starting a new band as Jesse just doesn't fill Matts boots period.
It's a real shame as I absolutely loved the first two albums!