The Scotsman Sessions #235: Midnight Ambulance

Welcome to the award-winning Scotsman Sessions. With performing arts activity curtailed for the foreseeable future, we are commissioning a series of short video performances from artists all around the country and releasing them on scotsman.com, with introductions from our critics. Here, lockdown-formed duo Midnight Ambulance perform a stripped-back version of their forthcoming single, 5am

“Thank goodness for video call!” exclaims Midnight Ambulance vocalist Amelia Stokes a sentiment which we can all share after the last year-and-a-bit of lockdowns and keeping up with friends and loved ones only through the screens of our laptops and phones. But Stokes and her bandmate, guitarist Fraser Fulton, have even more reason than most to be grateful for Zoom and the like. Without these services the alt-rock duo wouldn’t be making music together at all.

The pair first met on the Edinburgh scene about eight years ago, lost touch for a long time, then randomly reconnected early last year. When lockdown hit, Stokes was living in Paris and Fulton in Scotland. “We began collaborating as a sort of creative and cathartic outlet,” Fulton explains. “We wrote a bunch of songs via video call and on Amelia’s return to Scotland, after eight months, we finally had the opportunity to jam live and decided to form Midnight Ambulance.”

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“It’s been a really crazy year,” adds Stokes, “very uniting and isolating at the same time. In a strange way it gave us the space and time to form Midnight Ambulance, something which probably wouldn’t have been possible due to other work commitments before the pandemic. I think the general stress and out-of-control feeling encouraged us to write too, as difficult situations tend to do. Classic ‘tortured artiste’ stereotype. It was something to focus on and work towards as everything else was so uncertain. Writing together created a very supportive space during this weird time.”

Midnight Ambulance

Fulton reckons the prolific video-call-collaboration phase of Midnight Ambulance’s genesis – which resulted in sketches for more than 70 songs – has done much to shape the nature of their writing. “Because of the way we had to record remotely,” he says, “we developed a sound that we probably wouldn’t have found if we’d been in the same room. We started each song on an acoustic guitar over video call which I’d then demo, and we’d build from there – going through each part individually. This meant that it was a truly collaborative process where each part of the song was really considered.”

Their Scotsman Session finds Stokes and Fulton playing together not just in the same country but the same room again at last, performing a stripped-back version of what will be their next single, the dark and brooding 5am. It’s a song which Stokes says “describes how lockdown life acted as a skewed mirror to the past, casting up old memories, both good and bad.

“It felt poignant as things start opening up,” she adds, “thinking about how things were before the pandemic and how things were during it – how things changed so much but also stayed the same.”

The next stage in the unusual evolution of Midnight Ambulance will be playing together, not only in the same room as one another, but hopefully with a live audience too. “Since we formed during lockdown, we haven’t had the opportunity to play live at all yet,” says Fulton, “so we are very excited. So far we’ve filmed a couple of online gigs which has been a great way to keep live music going, but nothing beats the excitement of being in the room with an audience.”

Midnight Ambulance’s new single 5am is available on digital download services from 11 June; find them online at www.linktr.ee/midnightambulance

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