In Conversation with Amber Fly

Amber Fly is the Massachusetts-based punk/alt rock band comprised of Kai Daniels Freyleue (guitar, lead vocals), Nathaniel Swanson (lead guitar), Andrew Howard (bass, backup vocals), and Connor Williams (drums). Their sophomore release, the EP Knit Fabrics, is a revitalizing reaction to the horrors currently facing America. Their chaotic songwriting process manages to produce the most amazing songs, voicing clever ideas without pretention and dark thoughts without despair. Recently the band’s songwriter, Kai Daniels Freyleue, took the time to talk to us about the band’s history, their music, and the difficulty they have coming up with names.

How did Amber Fly begin?
I’ve been writing songs since I was in the eighth grade. I started playing music with Nathaniel, and the two of us have been the only constant members of the band all the way through high school. We played together and with other bands.

Tell us about your musical background.
I’ve always been into music. My dad played guitar a lot when I was growing up. (My dad is a trans-woman, so I’ll use “she.”) She taught me a lot of guitar stuff. We used to listen to music together a lot.

What got me really into playing rock was that Green Day album, American Idiot. Then starting in middle school and high school I got into choral stuff and musical theatre. I’ve listened to a lot of different kinds of music, including rock, hip-hop, death metal, classical, and show tunes.

How did you come up with your album’s name?
We tried and tried but just couldn’t figure out what to call the album. So we went out and started taking some pictures. Nathaniel took a picture of the Lawrence Knit Fabrics building in Lowell, and we decided to call it “Knit Fabrics.”

What about the band’s name?
We have a history of not being able to decide on names. We went back and forth about band names all through high school. Connor, who’s a big beer drinker, mentioned the word “Amber,” because It’s the colour of beer. That word stuck with me. A short while after that I hooked up with a girl named Amber, and the band’s name literally came to me as I was unzipping her fly. (There was a bit of cannabis influence there.)

How did you write the songs?
These are songs that have really long histories. We’ve been sort of developing them since high school, and they’ve gone through all sorts of crazy iterations, “Overkill on Overtime” in particular; the lyrics were just total nonsense I scraped off the top of my head. Eventually I turned it into what it is now.

Any weird stuff happen during recording?
My bassist, Andrew, and I went out for drinks with our girlfriends and got hammered the night before recording. When we woke up to record, I said, “Andrew, I’m not putting on my clothes?I’m going in my pajamas.”

After I got there I kept piling on clothes. There’s a picture somewhere of me wearing a British shirt, my pajama pants, a Seattle hat, and a Blink-182 hat on top of that.

We recorded the whole EP in one day. Andrew’s roommate recorded it for us for one of his school projects.

What’s the story behind “Life Force Dry?”
I wrote the original in middle school, during the Bush era. I was like, “Fuck George W. Bush?what a piece of shit.” We weren’t going to record it, but then last year’s election happened. We were all so pissed off at the happenings inside the DNC and what Donald Trump was up to. I said to them, “Guys, this is way too messed up?we gotta record “Life Force Dry.”

Tell us about “Daddy’s Girl.”
I’ve had a very happy life. My childhood was perfect?couldn’t have asked for a better one. But a lot of my songs are really dark, and a lot of that comes from things friends and family members have told me about their lives.

“Daddy’s Girl” is based on the story told me by a girl whodunnits’d never met her father. She’d wanted to meet him when she turned 18 but he died before that could happen, so she was absolutely furious with her mother for a long time.

What’s on the horizon?
Nathaniel’s getting married this weekend, but after that we’re going to try to record one more EP before he moves to California to start his fancy new bio-tech job. It’s gonna suck because I’ve been working with him for such a long time. we’re looking for a replacement guitarist for live shows, but we want to keep him in the band in case he wants to record more stuff with us in the future.

I want our music to be heard by as many people as humanly possible, but of course I want to do that on my own terms; I’m an artist first and foremost. I don’t care so much about fame and fortune. I just want my stuff to be heard. And I want my stuff to affect people the way other artists have deeply affected me.

Can you name someone who’s deeply affected you?
Jimmy Eat World’s 1999 album Clarity is the greatest album of the nineties. Be patient with the final song?It’s worth it.

Wanda also writes the blog The Mindful Bard:The Care and Feeding of the Creative Self.