INTERVIEW: The Unit Ama | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Trends have come and gone, newborns have reached adulthood, and each of us has travelled almost 12 billion miles around the sun since The Unit Ama released their eponymous debut album. During that period, the trio of Steve Malley (vocals/guitar), Jason Etherington (bass) and Christian Alderson (drums) have never disbanded and always envisaged a follow-up, yet it’s only now, 20 whole years later, that this cult outfit have felt compelled to deliver a successor.

“I know a lot of people make albums then tour them and so on – because that’s what bands do – but we’ve never really worked that way,” Jason muses. “We’ve always written lots of new music. There’s loads that’s never seen the light of day, hasn’t been finished and that we’ve played live but never released, but we always felt like we wanted to record more.”

“We’ve always worked in chunks of time,” explains Christian. “We’ve probably only been active for about seven of those years. Life gets in the way and you do other things – but we’ve slowly managed to get a body of work together.”

Considering the inescapable timelapse, perhaps Toward’s most remarkable achievement is the apparent ease with which it reasserts The Unit Ama’s case. Beautifully rendered, repetitive in all the right places and awash with glorious pulsing bass, resourceful, innovative percussion and droning, feedback-laden guitar, the new record presents eight deconstructed rock songs which feel neither overwrought nor half-baked; imbued equally with an inspired sense of urgency and instinctive, unrushed spontaneity. In short, it sounds solely, unmistakably like The Unit Ama.

When you reach a certain age, you spend a lot of time looking back and considering what the life you’ve lived means

While two songs, Sycamore and Collector, date back some time and appeared on the band’s 2013 live release The Mason’s Mallet, the bulk of Toward came together following a rare tour of Spain in early 2020. “We came back fired-up with a ton of energy, then… obviously… yeah…” Christian rues. Undeterred, the trio reconvened the following year in a new rehearsal space. “That had a rejuvenating effect. Steve in particular had been writing a lot, and although we had no finished songs, we’d had the time to construct things a little more. We’ve played together for so long that we often have a pretty good idea of what the others will bring to the table, but even now the beauty of it is that we can surprise one another when we get together in a room.”

When you reach a certain age, you spend a lot of time looking back and considering what the life you’ve lived means,” says Jason, on the reflective allusions of the album’s title. “Obviously some of us have been through far more than others, but we all think about the mistakes we’ve made, what’s informed us in good ways, what’s informed us in bad ways, and about the best ways in which to move forward.”

As for the band itself, things by and large remain as they always have been: “We’re as happy as ever getting together and chatting, cooking and hanging out. Occasionally we’ll meet with the same aim in mind, but with instruments!” Christian jokes. “The relationship between us is the most important thing,” Jason concludes. “The music is just one element of that, and we’re really lucky that’s been the case for this long.”

The Unit Ama release Toward on 18th August via Gringo Records. The band perform at Star & Shadow Cinema, Newcastle on Saturday 22nd July.

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