If you hadn’t heard of Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) a few weeks ago, and if you like the type of music I write about then how couldn’t you have?, then chances are you have now. The competition they ran online recently which resulted in them digitally giving away their entire discography was a roaring success spreading their good name far and wide and it’s no more than they deserve. Having been consistently releasing beautifully amazing music since 2006 Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) have become one of the most respected and revered bands of the current wave of emo. In just a few days they will be hitting the UK for an extensive tour with The Reptilian (dates are below) so I couldn’t think of a better time to catch up with the band, sling some questions their way and publish their responses. Here’s the results:
Is this thing on? – Congratulations on the success of your recent competition on Facebook/twitter/tumblr, are you surprised by the response you received?
Keith from Empire! Empire! – Very surprised! I know this might sound disingenuous, but we are still very humbled and wowed by the fact that anybody at all listens to us. We bought like 6,000 download credits thinking we would be more than fine, but very quickly realized that that wasn’t enough. You could literally sit at your computer and hit refresh and watch the number drop every time.
ITTO? – Giving away your entire discography made it feel like everyone’s a winner, has it given you an opportunity to reflect on the history of the band? Anything you would’ve done differently?
Keith – We feel like we got a pretty big takeaway with the support everyone gave us, so I think we feel that way too. As for reflection- it has, and there are certainly things I would have done differently. The main thing would be not focusing so much on doing splits, and instead getting a new full length (or two!) out. We never intended on that happening, it just sort of did. But every release is important to me, and I am proud to say we never gave something less than 100%. I don’t feel like there are any throwaway songs.
ITTO? – Is Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate) still very much a band consisting of the 2 of you, Keith and Cathy, or do you now have a permanent full band line up?
Keith – It’s just me and Cathy, and I very much doubt it will ever be anything more than that again. Don’t get me wrong, I would love a permanent line up, but it just wasn’t ever in the cards. There are a lot of reasons for that, but we have always soldiered on and been able to keep going. I think I was maybe a little too ideal in the few years in thinking that everyone else was going to give up everything just to have a shot at making this work, and after seeing a few members come and go, I sort of lost that ideal. It’s a lot of pressure on you if someone is asking or expecting that and you don’t feel the same way. Another problem we ran into was because this started out as a solo project, right off the bat the other members were playing songs they didn’t write. For some reason, it seemed like we would lose members right before we would record something and I would end up having to do a majority of the instruments on the recording. Which has advantages and disadvantages, but ends up being a lot more work on my part. The more releases we put out, the more songs that other members didn’t write and feel that connection to, so as we went on it seemed less likely to find someone to stick. Once Jon left, we just decided to stop looking and operate the way we had already been doing for years. It was far less stressful and we are just as productive, if not more.
ITTO? – What is the song writing process of the band?
Keith – It’s pretty strange, but mostly I can attribute that to the band only having two members, and one of them playing most of the instruments. Usually I will write my guitar part and recorded it on my computer, and then Cathy will write hers over mine. Sometimes we do it together before it gets to the computer. Then I write and record a bass part, and then drums. These are all to a metronome, but direct in and something that would never be worth showing anybody, haha. Then we go into the studio and record all the music. Once I have the rough tracks, then I sit down and write the lyrics. I never do it beforehand or as we go, I have to do it after. I like doing that for several reasons, but the biggest one is I like to know exactly how much space I have and how the vocals will fit over everything and not just my guitar part. I need a Point A to Point B to know when to wrap up the lyrics and effectively convey whatever story or theme it is I’m getting at. This is always the longest and most gruelling part of the process, and I admit to agonizing over it more than anything else.
ITTO? – You’re coming to the UK in November, is this the band’s first time?
Yes and no. We did a European tour in 2010 which covered mostly the mainland since we toured with a band from Hungary called marionette ID (shout out to my boys!). We really wanted to get a UK show in, so we took an extra flight at the end of our tour with them and played a one-off show in Norwich. We absolutely loved it; we met Andy from sncl and played with Pennines and What Price Wonderland? packed on to one bill.
ITTO? – Joie de vivre and Football,etc each received somewhat of a heroes’ welcome on their summer tour here in the UK, have they given you any idea of what to expect?
Keith – I really have no idea. It warms my heart to hear from you and from them that they were so well received, but we certainly aren’t expecting anything of the sort. I just hope we can meet some cool people and that we get to see a lot of the countries we are playing in.
ITTO? – Empire! Empire! Are considered one of the bands responsible for the current “emo revival”, being a fan of this music since the 90’s did you ever have a clue that there would be this resurgence of the scene and how much of a part of it that you would be?
I don’t think anybody had any idea that something like this would happen. How could you, really? But for some reason it did, and I am very proud to be a part of it. Ever since I really got into music at 14 or so, this was the style of music I loved, and that never changed. I don’t think I could play another style of music if I tried. It does make our musical lives considerably easier though, and I am willing to bet a lot of bands would not have been able to carry on as long of careers without it. Not me though, I’m stubborn as a mule when it comes to playing this style of music, and I would still be churning this crap out even if no one was listening. You should have seen some of shows when we started- we stuck out like a sore thumb at literally every show, haha.
ITTO? – Is it ok to now be in an emo band and accept that you are an emo band rather than trying to distance yourselves from that label? Or is there still a stigma to it like there used to be?
Keith – When I started listening to this style of music, I think I never saw the stigma attached to the term. I was the only person in my school who knew who Death Cab for Cutie, Mineral, Jimmy Eat World, Knapsack was, etc. and coming from a small town without the connection of social media/the internet, I don’t think I ever got why bands didn’t like the label until I was older. Of course, by then bands had shed that moniker like the plague and the media got a hold of the word and bands like My Chemical Romance and Hawthorn Heights became associated with the term. Goth became emo, and I still don’t fully understand that.
Anyway, to answer your question, I think we are re-appropriating the term, if you will. The stigma is still there, but we live in such a small world as far as our fans/community/venues we play in that those people get it without having it explained to them. So it’s ok by me.
ITTO? – Being in an amazing band and running an equally awesome record label (Count your lucky stars records) must take up a lot of time, do you sometimes have to sacrifice one for the sake of the other and if so which one comes first?
Keith – Ah, I don’t know about that, but thank you for the kind words! Yes, it takes up almost all of my time and they are both big enough to lose time and compete with each other. 9 times out of 10, the label wins because bands and people are relying on me for that. With Empire!, it’s just me so I can always push that back. That is part of the reason it has taken us so long to get a second LP done though.
ITTO? – Apart from the upcoming tour, what can we expect next from Empire! Empire!? Another full length?
Keith – Yes! We have two songs done, but the writing process (or rather finding time to write) has been slow-going at best. But it will get done, we are not planning on scheduling any tours or anything major until it’s done. There are also a few splits/comps we finished a while back that will find their way out sooner or later, so that should tide people over until then.
ITTO? – And finally, If CYLS records had been a label in the good old 90’s which record from that time would you most love to have put out? And why?
Keith – This is the best interview question I have ever had! It’s a tough question, and I want to cheat and say like 10 records. I’m going to cheat just a little and choose Death Cab’s We Have the Facts (it was 2000, but close enough) or Mineral’s EndSerenading. It pains me to only choose two, I had typed up all ten, but decided to not just list my favorite bands from that decade, haha.
ITTO? – Thanks so much for taking the time out to answer these questions and I can’t wait to see you on tour very soon x
Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)’s tour with The Reptilian of the UK and Ireland starts on monday, make sure you don’t miss out.
Here’s the dates:
05.11.12 UK Sheffield @ Tye Die Tapes HQ
06.11.12 UK York @ Stereo
07.11.12 Scotland Glasgow @ 13th Note
08.11.12 Scotland Dundee @ Club Kage
09.11.12 Scotland Edinburgh @ The Wee red Bar
10.11.12 UK Manchester @ The Bay Horse (matinee)
10.11.12 UK Leeds @ Wharf Chambers
11.11.12 Ireland Dublin @ The Twisted Pepper
12.11.12 Ireland Cork @ Cyprus Avenue
13.11.12 UK Bath @ Green Park Tavern
14.11.12 UK Falmouth @ Fish Factory Art Space
15.11.12 UK London @ The Blackheart
16.11.12 UK Southampton @ King Alfreds Pub
17.11.12 UK Brighton @ The Green door store
For more information check the E!E!(IWALE) website HERE
You can download/stream their songs as well as anything else on Count Your Lucky Stars HERE
In the UK you can buy their split with Rika from Strictly No Capital Letters HERE
Thanks for reading x