[Originally posted on UK Arts Directory 23/12/15]
I recently came across a great new band, Empyre. They released their debut 3-track EP this year and will soon be releasing a follow-up EP.
You can listen to their music on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/empyrerock
I was keen to find out more about them so invited them here for a chat about their music and current plans.
Interview with Empyre
Empyre was formed last year but I understand that the band members have been in other bands before. Introduce us to the individual members and tell us a bit about your musical backgrounds.
Empyre performs and records as a four piece band, but is led by just two people, Did (Lead guitar) and Henrik (Lead vocals and guitar).
We have drummers and a bass player we call upon for recording and some live work but all of us prior to Empyre were in at least one other band, some of us spreading ourselves between 4 or even 5 cover bands. The spread was too thin and the two of us decided at the start of this year to focus our attention on Empyre and make that our 100% priority with or without the other members onboard. We are presently trying to find a drummer and bassist who are as committed as us and are willing to put in the work required to make it a success.
Even with it being for the most part just the two of us we haven’t been held back from funding and recording two EPs this year and we have a third written and ready for the finishing touches on drums and bass.
Did – In terms of background I’m a graduate of Guitar X and have played in bands since I first picked up the instrument, I’m familiar with most popular musical styles and rock is my primary passion.
Henrik – I was formerly in a band called the The Stolen for a few years, then when the band went their separate ways I went back to being a bedroom musician before getting too frustrated at not gigging and that’s when I responded to an advert Did posted to set up the rock covers band that Empyre grew from.
How did the band get together, and who came up with the name ‘Empyre’?
In the rock covers band we performed songs from many of our musical influences. We loved performing live, often adding our own arrangements or making our own interpretations of classic rock songs. That lead to jamming our own ideas, melodies, riffs and lyrics and Empyre grew from that.
Creating an original band name that you feel strongly about that also suitably reflects the style without giving people too many preconceptions proved difficult as I’m sure a lot of new bands find.
Empyre is an adaption of Empire, a word we liked and toyed with the idea of using. However Empire is already a brand and the word has various connotations, some positive some possibly negative that go along with it. We wanted to create our own brand to attach to a more unique name.
You released your debut EP this year and are about to follow that up with a second EP. Have you noticed any differences in your style or musical direction with the new record? What can fans expect?
The new EP is another 3-track and it definitely shows 3 contrasting sides of Empyre, we don’t see it as a change in musical direction because we always wanted to play a range of music not just plain rock and a couple of the tracks were written around the same time as EP1 (which is the imaginative title we gave it). “Something remains” on the new EP is most similar in style to Drive from the first EP and might be the sort of song people would expect from us, it’s a punchy sub-4-minute rock track, however the next release “Only way out” might surprise a few people. It shows the Empyre “dark side”, it’s a slower, deeper introspective song, the lyrics narrate a desperate situation, it’s more atmospheric and emotive building to an anthemic climax. It’s not something you’re going to slow dance to though. Then the final track on there is “Homegrown” and is a seven minute epic that goes from an acoustic dark country feel into some heavy guitar riffage and closes with a grandiose extended guitar solo.
What have been some of Empyre’s highlights so far?
Did – Getting positive feedback from people, for instance the first few times we played “Only way out” live we’ve had a number of people say how haunting they have found it and that its hit home with them. That’s great when people have a connection like that with our music and it resonates with them.
Joe Satriani, Stu Hamm (Bassist for Steve Vai), Mike Keneally (Guitar and keys for Frank Zappa) and Bruce Bouillet (Bassist for Racer X and Paul Gilbert) have heard and given great feedback on the first EP. We’ve had airplay all round the world and now we’re getting some great feedback on the Something Remains EP.
We also made a limited run of hard copies produced and it was great to see how eagerly they were anticipated and snapped up. We weren’t expecting that.
Henrik – Highlights are the positive feedback and this year I’m really happy with how the two EPs have turned out. I think 2016 could be a big year for Empyre’s real emergence.
What are your favourite Empyre tracks to play live?
Henrik – My favourite at the moment is Homegrown, I love singing it and playing it, it pretty much has all the elements I want in a song. We’ve also played it a few times acoustically live and it works well like that too.
Did – I double Henrik’s comment on Homegrown and not just because it features a significant role for lead guitar! I love the theme and the lyrics of the song (Henrik’s) and how it tackles issues people are often quiet about in conversation or scared to talk about but maybe think about personally.
I also love performing Just a ride which similarly has a deep contemplative nature about it.
Who writes the songs?
We both write them, sometimes a song will be a real 50/50 contribution from both of us and we’ll write the whole thing together from scratch, that is especially true for some of the new stuff coming up on EP3, but most often one of us comes up with the music or some lyrics and we exchange ideas and do demos for each other that gradually get tweaked to make the final track.
Who were your musical heroes when you were growing up?
Henrik – My first musical heroes were Shakin’ Stevens and Abba I’m not embarrassed to say. But in my teens when I started playing the guitar and singing it was people like Eddie Vedder, Scott Weiland and Axl Rose as vocalists and Nuno Bettencourt, Slash and Richie Sambora as guitarists.
Did – My musical tastes range from “You really need to hear this!” to “Please don’t judge me”. Initially they were Mark Knopfler, Jimi Hendrix, Richie Sambora, Slash, Billie-Joe Armstrong. Throughout my teens I became a slight hermit and indulged in mostly instrumental based music e.g. Satriani and Eric Johnson but went full circle and moved back to traditional bands with a lead vocal. Recent years have been more Dave Matthews and John Mayer than Yngwie Malmsteen!
What was the last album/EP you bought and would you recommend it?
Henrik – The last album I bought was Lightning Bolt by Pearl Jam, yeah I know that’s not that recent but admittedly I jumped on the Google Music bandwagon to get as much music as I want for a tenner a month. Not what a lot of other musicians might want to hear. With regard to the album I’m not keen on the opening tracks, I don’t like all of Pearl Jam’s more punky songs, but most of the album is good, but I think I prefer Backspacer that came before it.
Did – Pretty Reckless “Going to Hell”, catchy modern rock fronted by a female vocalist with an authentic signature style and the image to match. Great to see the someone new really nail the rock vocals authentically. I’d recommend the album and seeing them live which I did at Rock City, Nottingham earlier in the year.
What do you think are some of the challenges facing bands that are just starting out at the moment?
Did – I think with the music climate continually changing due to newer technologies emerging all the time it’s difficult to navigate any kind of specific plan for your music. You have to be constantly learning methods of getting your music out there to people, it’s challenging, but fun.
The Internet has redefined the music industry and opened up new avenues like Facebook, Soundcloud, Youtube, etc., to present your music to people that may never had got to listen to it otherwise.
Henrik – Working out the music industry, how to get found, how to get known, how to get a fan base, how to find gigs; those usual problems that bands have always had to tackle. Along with what Did has said, how does a band know what is the best platform for them, do you stick to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter i.e. focusing on just a few social media sites, or do you try to be on everything? Do you pay for some promotion? Do you need a website, or will Bandcamp or Facebook do? There are no clear answers and what works for one doesn’t work for all. The learning curve is steep and there is so much competition.
Do you have any gigs planned?
We will be booking gigs and we can’t wait to get out there and play EP1, EP2 and the latest material for upcoming EP3. We are going about things a bit differently from most other rock bands trying to make it today, that is partly because we have actively decided that we wanted to establish ourselves online from the off and have music that people can listen and buy as soon as they find us there. The first EP will be available to buy from January on Spotify, Google Music, iTunes and about 10 other online stores for instance.
We have also been held back from regular gigging anyway due to the search for a permanent bassist and drummer. Once that is resolved then gigging will become the top priority.
If you could tour with any other band who would you choose, and why?
Did – Slash, Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators. They are carrying the flag for rock music internationally and I’d love the opportunity to be on the same bill as one of my heroes and hopefully get up and jam with Slash on stage. They do passionate, filthy rock with substance, and that’s not a common trend in music today.
Henrik – Pearl Jam or the same as Did said, Slash and Myles. I still remember when I heard the album “Ten” by Pearl Jam for the first time and Eddie Vedder’s voice, it took 15 years before I got to see them live and that was very special, so to be on the bill with those guys is a dream. I remember a story that in the early days of the band Ash turned down a touring support slot with Pearl Jam because they were doing their A-levels and didn’t like them anyway, I couldn’t believe their luck and stupidity, that is not the sort of opportunity that I would be prepared to turn down!
What are the band’s plans for 2016?
Securing a permanent bassist and drummer
Getting a good run of gigs including some festival slots
Develop our online following
More footage for YouTube
Any other news for your fans?
Yes, along with the final tracks of the Something Remains EP (which will be available to buy from March 1st) we’ll be releasing a series of acoustic videos on YouTube from January/February time. We’re starting with acoustic versions of ‘Drive’ and ‘Just a ride’ from EP1.
For updates on everything else as we announce it, fans can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and also sign up to our mailing list through those sites too.
Thank you, Did and Henrik! I’m looking forward to hearing the new music and wishing you much success in 2016! 🙂
[Originally posted on UK Arts Directory 23/12/15]