BBM Interview by Paul McNamee
By rights, Tracer AMC haven’t earnt it yet. By rights they should still be out paying their dues. They should be rehearsing daily. They should be hawking their demo from pillar to post, scraping for every single support slot and five minute karaoke singalong in any barn that will have them. They should, in effect, be doing what every other unsigned local act have to do.
Tracer AMC have only been together since Christmas. They have only ever played three gigs, two of which were to friends and acquaintances at private parties. Their demo has only two tracks, both recorded live, both tripping with mistakes. So why are they here?
Because their rough, raw, flawed, tinny, concise and purely instrumental tracks offer more invention and talent than pretty much all of Northern Ireland’s disparate unsigned.
“Jonathan (Ashe) and I had been playing together for about a year. We wanted to work with different people but we couldn’t find anyone interested in what we were doing,” explains Alex Donald. Alex is bassist and sometime guitarist and Jonathan is guitarist and sometime bass player. They are both students at Queens in Belfast, the former studying Geology, Physics for the latter.
What they have been doing is busying themselves experimenting with noise. Taking their lead from those they admired – Mogwai, Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Sonic Youth – they spent months trying to thread ideas together.
Realising that working outside the parameters of conventional meat and two veg trad/punk/metal outfits would not see prospective band members flocking to the fold they instead went looking. A notice board advertisement caught the eye of Stephen Ennis, a nineteen year old South African presently studying in Ireland. He was a drummer but didn’t own a kit. He did, though, like the idea of what they were doing. He got a kit and Tracer AMC were born.
“We went into a church hall in Bangor,” says Alex, “and recorded the demo. There was a mixing desk and a four track recorder. One night and it was all done live. That’s why there are some mistakes, we hadn’t time to re-record.”
Now, it would be easy to pitch Tracer AMC as self-indulgent miserablists, as post-sixth form smart-arses who have read too much Camus and only listened to records they think they ought to. The bands and artists Alex lists as influences run all the way from JSBX to Blur’s lo-fi apologist Graham Coxon. Indeed, Alex proudly asserts that they are a lo-fi band.
“It makes it a problem getting gigs,” he says, “places that book new bands don’t want to know. They hear the tape, say they like it but claim not having a vocalist makes it lack appeal.”
The thing is Tracer AMC are as keen to gig and present their sound to as many people as possible, as any more conventional act. They are free from pretension, and although a little green, recognise the necessity of promotion.
If they fail, if they are exposed as charlatans, as frauds trying it on, it doesn’t matter. Because of what they are doing, because they are prepared to be so belligerently different, Tracer AMC may just be one of the most important bands we presently have.