“Do you ever think of showers as like a new beginning?” 20-year-old Leeds-based songwriter Amber Strawbridge asks on the opening track of her new EP, Sometimes I Forget You’re Human Too. The project, out today via Clue Records, indeed marks a kind of new beginning for the dream-pop artist, who was born in Whitehaven, Cumbria and started making songs on GarageBand while literally bored at her grandmother’s place. After releasing a series of singles on SoundCloud as well as Isolation Tape, in her words a kind of “random release” that nevertheless allowed her to further explore her sound, her latest finds her refining her approach with help from producer Alex Greaves while retaining the lo-fi, bedroom pop charm of her early productions. Nowhere is this more evident than on opener ‘Showers’, which conjures the kind of soaring hook you’d expect from any of the big names in shoegazey alt-rock, while the title track swirls in a melodic haze and ‘Skin’ cuts through the messiness of human relationships. With the addition of live drums and gauzy layers of guitars towering above her, it sounds like watching someone beginning to open up to the immensity of the world around them as they reflect on things either lost or forgotten, but no longer completely out of view.
We caught up with Amber Strawbridge aka Bored at My Grandmas House for the latest edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and talk to them about their music.
How are you? How has your day been so far?
I’ve not done much today. I went for a walk, that was fun. I’m at my parents’ house at the minute because of lockdown.
I just noticed – what does the poster behind you say?
It says, “Animals are my friends… and I don’t eat my friends.” It’s by Bernard Shaw, who’s a really great writer.
Are you interested in veganism and animal rights?
Yeah, I mean, I’m vegan, so.
Me too actually, which is why that caught my eye. This isn’t how these interviews normally start!
Yeah, I was raised veggie, so it’s kind of always been normal to me. And then I went vegan around five years ago.
That’s really cool. And from what I understand, you also grew up in a kind of musical family and around many instruments? Do you have any early memories of being drawn to music?
My parents used to just take me to loads of different little festivals. They were just really weird hippie festivals with like, gypsy jazz, folk music, that kind of stuff. So I was just always surrounded by loads and loads of different types of – we went to, like, Austria, and went to festivals there, so I had a really good childhood in that sense. And my dad plays loads of different instruments like piano and violin. I think he just kind of let me do whatever I wanted, like I can’t even play piano or violin, but just having them there and just him playing stuff, I think it probably subconsciously affected me.
What types of music were you exposed to at the time, and what did you find yourself gravitating towards?
I feel like when everybody’s younger they kind of just listen to whatever their parents are listening to, so like, Pink Floyd, The Police, David Bowie, that kind of stuff, but also just weird folk bands who I don’t even know the name of. And I have an older brother, so then I progressed into liking what he liked, and he just liked loads of indie bands. And when I got a bit older, I just found my own niche, I guess, I went more into shoegazey kind of people.
I got my guitar because I saw Ellie [Rowsell] from Wolf Alice with her guitar and I was like, I want that. And then I just taught myself.
What was it that drew you to shoegaze?
It’s actually kind of weird, because I was listening to shoegaze before I actually knew what shoegaze was. So I was listening to bands that were probably influenced by like, Slowdive or Jesus and the Mary Chain, like bigger shoegaze people. And then I started to make music and people would come up to me and be like, “Oh, I like how you’ve got that shoegaze sound” and I was like, “What? What is shoegaze?” I didn’t even know what it was, and then I started to get more into it.
When did you go from uploading songs on SoundCloud to deciding you were going to make this EP? How did the idea of the project come about?
For this EP, I did the songs in the first lockdown, so all of them were just recorded when I came back home. And I don’t know, I think it was just like, I’d been at uni for so many months and at uni it’s just very fast-paced and like everyone’s constantly doing stuff and then when I came home, it was kind of a calmness that I could get in touch with my thoughts and everything, and I just wrote a lot.
It’s interesting that you mention that, because I’m curious about the title of the EP, Sometimes I Forget You’re Human Too. You’ve said that’s about the realization that not everyone has got it together all the time. Where did that realization come from?
I think I started writing that song at uni, because it was kind of around a time when everyone was just – I think for me, I’m always like, “Oh, I should be doing more work” or like, “I should be doing better,” like I’m quite self-critical. And I can’t put my finger on it, but just one day I was like, everybody has their own kind of faults or demons that they’re dealing with or whatever. I think it was kind of good for me to know, because the song’s kind of me reassuring myself that it’s okay if you’re not 100% amazing all the time. Because, you know, everybody else isn’t.
Do you feel that relates at all to being a perfectionist? Is that something that informs how you approach music?
It’s weird, because with songs I don’t really like to go back to them. I do them as a whole product and then I find it difficult to go back – I have a kind of flow of thoughts so I find it difficult to then get back to the same headspace that I was in when I was writing it. So I guess that would be not perfectionism, but I just think in day-to-day life I’m quite a perfectionist. I just like to achieve things. [laughs] I’m just like, “Oh, I can’t watch TV because I should be doing this, which is more productive,” that kind of thing.
To change the subject a little bit, throughout the EP, I noticed there are a lot of references to water, from ‘Showers’ to ‘Summer’, where you sing about hanging by the lakes, and of course the closing track, ‘Safer at Sea’. And I know you grew up in a coastal town as well.
Yeah, that’s where I’m at.
Was there any particular reason you found yourself returning to that kind of imagery?
You know what, I’ve never thought about that, so that’s a good point. It wasn’t a conscious decision, maybe subconsciously. Maybe it’s just a safe space or what I’m used to, maybe, or have always been surrounded by. I live by the coast, and then I also like 10 minutes out of the Lake District. And I guess in a way, because I came home from uni which is like a city, which is the opposite of my hometown, coming back from somewhere that’s busy and just big lights and all that kind of stuff to, like, nature, maybe I was just reconnecting with that. But it wasn’t deliberate.
To get to ‘Safer at Sea’ specifically, which stands out to me lyrically. It feels like quite a vulnerable moment on the record. Do you remember what was going through your mind while writing that song?
I think what it was was, I started writing it during lockdown and there was just lots of things happening. There was something to do with the refugee crisis and like, one of the MPs said something really just horrible. And I was just so angry about it, and I think the line “safer at sea” – it’s kind of like there’s these people who are like, “We’re gonna travel across the sea to try and come to a safe space,” and then they’ve been met with horrible bigotry and it just contradicts what they’re hoping for. So the sea in the middle is like the safe space when there’s not that, and none of society. And then I just kind of thought, maybe everyone’s safer at sea, like there’s no racism, sexism, anything, it’s just peaceful. And then in the verses, I was kind of expressing how I feel a bit distant from society sometimes.
Could you talk more about that feeling?
I think it’s when things like that happen, like when I hear somebody say something that I just do not understand at all, I just don’t understand how people like that can exist. And then because you live in a bubble, like I live with people who are on the same wavelength and we all have kind of similar opinions, I think it’s easy to get trapped in the thought that everyone thinks like you, whereas if you watch the news you can easily see that not everything’s the same.
That’s interesting, it sounds like you feel strongly about injustice in general, and maybe that relates back to veganism as well?
Yeah, definitely. During the time I was writing, it was the comment about the refugees that really pissed me off, but the thing as a whole is like, you know, if everybody was vegan, if everybody wasn’t racist or xenophobic, it would just be a better place. And obviously, that’s not what it is at the minute, so the sea is kind of a better place. I think that’s what I meant at the time.
I know you recently put together a band – do you have any plans that you’re excited about in the coming months or anything that you’re working on currently?
Well, my band is just going to be my live band, so I’m still gonna do everything myself and record it all myself. But I really, really wanna do gigs, that’s my main thing. I’ve got a catalog of songs now that are ready, so hopefully that will happen soon.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.