Tag Archives: interview

Interview: Empire! Empire! (I was a lonely estate)

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

www.facebook.com/isthisthingonblog

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Review Plus Interview!!: State Faults – Desolate Peaks

Band – State Faults

Album – Desolate Peaks

Label – Tiny Engines

I imagine, anyone that writes reviews of music will have a different process by which they work by. Because this blog is quite specific to the type of music it covers, a lot of the music I get to review is something I’m very excited to listen to. Therefore, I like to give each new release about a week of listening and appreciation before I commit pen to paper, not that pens or paper are used in the creation of these blog posts but you get my drift. Sometimes though I need a little bit longer. In the case of State Faults debut record, ‘Desolate Peaks’, I received this just over a month ago and only now do I feel ready to write this.

State Faults hail from Santa Rosa, California, ‘Desolate Peaks’ is their debut full length album following on from their 2010 EP ‘Head in the clouds’ and is being released on the consistent and fantastic label, Tiny Engines. A fair amount of buzz for this band had been noticed by myself on various social media platforms, so it was with eager anticipation that I first played the record. And I wasn’t disappointed.

The record opens with ‘Sleepwalker’ and with it the sound of birdsong, quickly accompanied by a sweet guitar melody lulling you in to it’s warm sound. The, almost choir-like, backing vocals that follow build atmosphere with help from some huge sounding drums. Just when you start to wonder where State Faults are going with this, the piercing screamed vocals slice through like a bolt from the blue and with this you see a showcase of what State Faults will offer on the next 11 tracks. Juxtaposing often tender melody with the heaviness of the sound and extreme desperation of the main vocal. State Faults pack a lot of power into their music, raw energy and emotion which really engage the listener. You do, kind of, feel exhausted together with the band by the end of the 11 songs.

It’s hard to put a label on a band, especially when the use of a term like ‘screamo’ or ’emotional hardcore’ can be frowned upon and off putting to some. State Faults are certainly one of a few bands who are bringing a credibilty back to the term. Playing this type of music as it should be played, where the songs are equally compelling at their quietest as they are at their heaviest, like Funeral Diner did or Pianos Become The Teeth do. ‘Hallways’ is a good example of this, it’s full of hooks and melody backed up by their intense power. Other standout songs include the superb ‘Arrowhead’, ‘Wayfarer’ which starts off as a hardcore blast and finishes in a minimal post rock way and the last song ‘Skeletons’ which is a perfectly emotional end to what is a really great record.

It has taken me this long to write this review because, sometimes, when I review an album and move on to the next one to write about it can fell like i’m letting that album go. It may sound dumb, but I didn’t want to let ‘Desolate Peaks’ go and I still don’t. I’m sure this album will stay with me for a long time, It is definitely one of my favourite records of the year so far.

You can download/stream ‘Desolate Peaks’ at the Tiny Engines bandcamp page, click HERE to go there. I urge you to do so.

State Faults were also kind enough to answer some questions the Is This Thing On? had for them to give some background to the band and the record. Enjoy:

Is this thing on?: Desolate Peaks is coming out on tiny engines, how did working with those guys come about?

State Faults: Will Miller is one of the guys who runs Tiny Engines along with Chuck Daley and Will was the one who hit us up about working with them. He used to run a music blog called Sound As Language and I guess he managed to come across our EP Head In The Clouds and liked it enough to ask us if we were interested in having TE release a record for us. We sent them a bunch of demos of songs we had been writing which they were really into so they decided to make things official. They’re pretty rad dudes! Considering they had never even met us or seen us play before they hit us up is kinda crazy! They really put a lot of faith in us and we’re totally grateful for it. Hopefully this record made them proud.
How long did it take you to write/record the album?
We started writing for the album pretty much right after we put out Head In The Clouds. So from late 2010 through the summer of 11. By the time Will got in contact with us, we had about 4 or 5 songs written and a few skeletons of what would eventually become songs. Once we finished those and officially started recording for the album, the process took about a week. We set up a little recording/drum booth in Chip’s brother’s spare bedroom and had our firepod hooked up to our computer in the living room. We pretty much did everything from there. It was a lot of fun! It was our first legit DIY experiment as a full band. Mixing and mastering took a couple months afterwards
Desolate Peaks is quite a bleak record, does this reflect how you see things at the moment?
I wouldn’t say so. Jonny definitely writes his lyrics from a very personal place but as far as our general outlook on life goes, we’re a really positive bunch. Believe it or not, a good chunk of our material comes from a very positive place as well. I think what’s fun about playing a more bleak and aggressive style of music is being able to channel all of the frustration, sadness or whatever else is bothering us into the songs we write so that when we finish a set, we can let go of that weight and focus on all of the wonderful aspects of life that we sometimes take for granted. A good deal of the lyrics also come from different things we’ve learned about each other as a band. Finding opportunities to work together to reach our individual goals, even when times get tough and when going it alone seems easier. We’re all best friends and being able to experience everything that comes with being in a band really helped give life to the album. So for me it’s a very positive record. Very therapeutic.
You’ve been compared to Thursday and Pianos become the teeth, who do you count as influences on this record?
Pianos and Thursday are two of our favorite bands so even being mentioned in the same sentence with them is very humbling! But we also draw a lot of inspiration from bands like As Cities Burn, Thrice, Trophy Scars, Suis La Lune and even more indie/rock bands like mewithoutYou, Copeland, The New Trust, Radiohead and Not To Reason Why. And of course, Michael is and will forever be a huge Depeche Mode fan and he and Jonny both enjoy a lot of classic rock/metal. We just love listening to all kinds of music and absorbing whatever we can from it. Being new and different as cool, but art wouldn’t exist without other art to inspire it.
What is your local scene like at the moment? Do you feel part of it? Do you think it’s changed much in the last few years?
With bands like The Velvet Teen and Ceremony coming out of our area and making such a big name for themselves internationally, it can definitely make you feel incredibly small. But the local scene is currently going through a major rebirth and it’s very cool to watch! Not To Reason Why, No Sir and Strike To Survive are some awesome bands that are doing great work and it’s inspiring as hell to watch. We just feel incredibly blessed to be such good friends with all of them. Hopefully we can help bring some more attention to the north bay.
What new bands can you recommend to people who love your album?
All of the bands we mentioned before are incredible! Also our best buds in Ruptures from the LA area. They are one of the most hardworking bands we know and they make incredibly powerful music. Check out their song Junebloom. Insane.
Will you be touring the Uk and Europe at any point in the future?
We hope so! Tackling the West Coast is on our agenda right now. The rest of the US is next. Then Europe (fingers crossed)!
Thanks for reading, feel free to share and comment etc.. of come bother me on twitter (@alextb3). More reviews and interviews coming very soon x
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