For Sam Bambery a music journey that started small and modest has subsequently grown into a full-time thing, a personal commitment that’s recently seen him deliver a debut alt-country album, ‘Songs About Sailors’. Materialising from exhaustion, he says the album embodies the idea that “…we’re all kind of screaming for something” as he tells Jemilah Ross-Hayes.
Bambery was raised in Rakaia, on the path of one of the Canterbury plains’ famed braided rivers. Listening to artists like Pink Floyd further influenced the spacious nature of his style, which developed over time into something of an alt-country vein.
“I had a real fascination with things that sounded space-like and dreamy, and felt quite soundscapey. I picked up the guitar because of those reasons, and later that turned into a fascination with storytelling. I guess soundscape stuff is like telling a story without words.
“Growing up in mid-Canterbury I was raised with a lot of space to feel feelings. Since transitioning into adulthood, I certainly think that I don’t give myself to do those things, and maybe that’s why music is a very cathartic outlet for my emotions.”
‘Songs About Sailors’ is, he says, contextualised in Christchurch. Candidly inspired by locals like Delaney Davidson and Marlon Williams, he set out to write a folk, alt-country album.
“I feel like a lot of the music on this album was written mostly in a place of exhaustion about a lot of things, relationships, and my situation in the world. It’s this angsty outburst that I think is pretty personal to me.”
Bambery recorded the album in the lounge of a friend’s flat, the couches used as sound panels.
“The recordings came together because my guitarist in my band, Shaun, is pretty close friends with De Stevens, an amazing producer. He’s in Marlin’s Dreaming for a start, which is, of course, so influential to a lot of people my age. He’s worked with Asta Rangu and is doing stuff for Violet Hurst in Wellington.
“I just met him at a gig, and we said, ‘Oh, I want to record some music with you,’ and I think we have a very congenial, compatible mode of thinking when it comes to music-making. He gets really into the music as a producer, he resonates with it. I was having a pretty emotional time, so it just came together. It was like a square piece in a square hole. Everything worked as it needed to.”
The exhaustion he explains as a kind of curse of the Kiwi artist.
“Because when you’re creative of any kind, you often are working part-time, and then you have spare time to do things, so you just do all of the things, and maybe sometimes burn yourself out more than someone working full-time. I feel like a lot of people who work in this industry really resonate with that.”
Having written and recorded his music, he’s currently experiencing the next stage administrative challenge of self-releasing his album, but at least it’s now a downhill slope.
“Getting publicity, and doing all of those things properly have their own emotional weight to them, and sometimes it’s not the emotions that you want or expect, but it’s good.”
Recently on a peppermint tea kick, Bambery says he is consistently drawn to progression, embracing new musical opportunities and exploring as many avenues of his sound as possible.
“I want to keep changing. It will be really good to push it into some more alternative veins and maybe slightly away from that country schtick, but it’s important to know where you came from and reference that, I think.”