Spotlight On... Midnight Ambulance

We catch up with Midnight Ambulance, and bring you a first listen of their latest single Alice via its amazing music video created by award-winning animator Em New

Feature by Tallah Brash | 23 May 2024
  • Midnight Ambulance

A rapidly ticking clock introduces Alice, before Amelia Stokes' dream-like vocals eerily loop. A maelstrom of sounds gradually enter, getting louder; smashing glass, riotous street chatter, and emergency vehicle sirens create a tense and chaotic backdrop, before a school bell sounds out and the rabble stops dead. Was it all a dream? ‘Alice was beginning to get very tired’, Stokes interrupts, signalling the true start of the latest opus from Midnight Ambulance. 

An exemplary piece of compositional work, Alice stretches, tightens and bends fluidly over the course of its four-minute runtime, with its structure and chord progression so meticulous it's practically screaming out for the main stage. It’s the first new music from Midnight Ambulance since their 2022 EP Smoke and Sweets, and an exciting start to the pair's next chapter. Alice is set for release on Friday 24 May, but we’re delighted to say we have an exclusive first listen for you below, alongside the premiere of its accompanying music video. We catch up with Amelia Stokes and Fraser Fulton to find out more.

Alice is very theatrical – can you tell us more about the ideas and inspirations behind the song and the desire to blur the lines between fantasy and reality?
Amelia Stokes: Alice was inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and my work in public relations. I’ve always loved the book, but found parallels to our modern world unnerving… Nowadays, it’s hard to escape the noise (whether that’s social media, news, ads, technology), and it’s increasingly challenging to tell what is real and what isn’t. Information can be contradictory (a scene of Alice lost in the woods with 100+ ‘this way’ signs springs to mind!), and disinformation is widespread. It can be difficult to know which sources to trust, or how to combat deceit without falling into the rabbit hole. When I was young, Wonderland was an extraordinary fantasy; however it seems to be growing closer to our reality.

You used vintage equipment paired with modern, experimental techniques when recording the song – can you tell us more about this?
Fraser Fulton: We have always tried to create honest sounding music, less shiny, more earthy. Our producer and good friend Paul Winton is brilliant at indulging our crazy ideas and we have a lot of fun in the studio trying to come up with weird sounds.

Most of the guitars I used on the record were old, pre-lawsuit era Japanese Fender copies with microphonic pickups. These guitars play and sound mental, and if you really want, you can shout into them! We also used a bunch of vintage guitar amps (including a very rare Marshall Club and Country from 1979), and for the bass a Matchless Thunderchief through an 8x10 cab. In the age of digital amp modellers, it’s become more and more common to just use amp simulators when recording. I love tracking with Paul, because we get to make an absolute racket and turn the amps up to 11.

We have also used digital synths etc, and some more modern vocal processing techniques, but at the core it’s a pretty old school style of recording that’s really fun.

Alongside the single, you’re launching the above music video, directed by yourself, and animated by ECA graduate Em New. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?
Stokes: Em is an incredibly talented animator – they won Best Animated Film at Zepstone International, were the 22-25 Winner at INDIs Film Festival, won Best Debut Fantasy Film at Genesis International Film Festival, and got an honourable mention at Tatras International Film Festival. 

We began working with them for our debut EP Smoke and Sweets when they were studying at the ECA. We reached out to the college to see if any students would be interested in collaborating as we wanted to highlight upcoming talent in Scotland. Em’s work blew us away. We asked that the videos take inspiration from our visual artist Ritchie Collins; Em managed to create an animated world which incorporated Ritchie’s style but upheld its own identity.

In this video, it’s been great to work together on a different style (Smoke and Sweets used stop motion) and see another side to their art. They are also a fan of Alice in Wonderland so it was really fun coming up with ideas together. We didn’t want it to be too close to the novel and instead have more subtle references (e.g. the crowd in the subway are different characters from Wonderland). My favourite character is the politician who becomes increasingly bizarre throughout the video. When showing it to friends, the feedback was “...very creepy”, so I knew we were onto a winner!

You’re launching the single with a headline show at The Mash House on 24 May – what can people expect on the night?
Stokes & Fulton: A better version of the single, haha! We really love recording, but we’re definitely a live band. We put a lot into the show’s production and try to create an immersive experience. Fraser is a backline technician so it’s great having his expertise, and we’ve an awesome live team, including FOH Peter Fergie (Sam Fender, Bullet For My Valentine, Liam Gallagher) and our fantastic lighting engineer Sam Jones (Wolf Alice, Primal Scream, KT Tunstall). The stage is really where the songs come alive.

What does the rest of the year look like for Midnight Ambulance?
Stokes: New music, shows and (hopefully!) travel. We’ve been taken on by Helix Management and are really looking forward to the year ahead. We’ve got shows coming up (look out for announcements) and will be getting back in the studio with new music coming soon. Fraser is also away on tour with a few bands so might manage to actually see some gigs too!

Alice is released on 24 May; Midnight Ambulance play The Mash House, Edinburgh, 24 May

Follow Midnight Ambulance on Instagram @midnightambulance