Interview by Natalie Kuchik
April 23, 2010

Estrella: Can you please state your name and what you do in the band?
Max: Max, I play guitar.
Ryan: Ryan, and I play drums.
Tom: Tom, and I play guitar.

Estrella: Briefly talk about how you guys formed Empires.
Tom: It started in the beginning of 2007 I guess, because Sean and I spent a good year figuring out songs and figuring out who was in the band. Ryan joined a few months later, Max joined in the fall and we spent most of 2007 developing the best we could. Then we started playing shows and put out full length Howl for free and got a great response. We just put out BANG about a month ago, and here we are now.

Estrella: What was the recording process like for BANG?
Max: I recorded BANG, I recorded the drums in Kansas.
Estrella: Why in Kansas?
Max: We wanted the drums to be pretty big and this place in Kansas is a really old building from the 1800’s and the live room used to be a dancing ballroom. So it is gigantic and cool vibes. A lot of cool bands have recorded there, we heard good things, and have been there before. It was a good experience, and defiantly a good catalyst for the record.

Estrella: Max recorded, engineered, and mixed BANG; was that something you were always interested in doing?
Max: I got started doing that kind of with the band. I did it a little bit and I had a little bit of gear and Tom approached me, ‘Hey I got this new group together do you mind recording some demos’ and that’s seriously how I got started with it. I slowly just started building up but basically my start with recording was when I started working with the band. I actually was just doing it to record this band.
Estrella: Did you teach yourself?
Max: Yeah, I just learned from being in other bands and being around other studios.

Estrella: Tom did the artwork for BANG, what was your inspiration behind that?
Tom: I think originally with BANG I wanted simplistic, I was trying to go with something that captured people’s vices but on a smaller level. Something more than a common, daily routine.
Estrella: Did you get a matchbook printed up with BANG on it?
Tom: No, a lot of it was put together shots.

Estrella: I know on BANG you have seven tracks, then a bonus track, did you have more songs that were not used?
Ryan: Yeah, we actually had a lot more songs. When we first went to go do drums we had 15 songs and the one’s that made the album are the one’s we felt most strong about. We are always writing stuff and we always have stuff on the back burner.
Estrella: The other songs that were not used, do you think it could go on another album?
Tom: Probably not.
Estrella: No.
Tom: Nope, not at all, probably not (laughs).
Ryan: We wanted to do a full length but we felt very strongly about those seven. We are not a band that goes back and salvage things, it is keep moving forward. There are always new things being brought to the table so the older stuff gets lost in the mix.
Max: Actually “Voodooized” and “Hello Lover” on the record (BANG) were actually recorded after we released “Damn Things Over” and “Bang”. Those singles were already out before the songs were even recorded. We had written those songs and recorded them in a week and were like, ‘You know what let’s put this as the opening track on the record.’ We are always writing and recording.
Estrella: Did you guys shuffle two songs out to fit those on?
Ryan: We actually went and recorded five, but ended up with two! (everyone laughs) That is kind of the name of the game though, you have got to be writing and see what words and doesn’t work. You are not going to come up with great songs every time.

Estrella: You were unsigned and now your under History Records, what is that label?
Tom: It is more of a vanity label that our band has already accomplished everything with recording, releasing, art work so we took it a step further and make sure we slap a label on there.
Estrella: So, that is you guys?
Ryan: Right, it’s a brand.

Estrella: Empires played SXSW, how was it?
Ryan: SXSW was fun. We went down there last minute and played in a place called The Trophy Room which was right in the middle of 6th street. We had a great response, a lot of people were there and we played by these big open windows so people off the street were coming up and checking it out. It was just a really cool crowd, people were there to have fun so that was defiantly one of the highlights.
Estrella: Did you only play one show?
Ryan: We played twice at The Trophy Room.
Estrella: Since it was last minute, how did you guys end up getting there?
Ryan: Just through a friend of ours – JBTV, and they had a stage there.
Estrella: Was that the first time Empires played in Texas?
Tom: We have been there before but that was our first time doing SXSW.

Estrella: You guys are going to tour with TV/TV, how did that happen and where are you going?
Tom: It was set up through friends, we have never really met them. They had an opening in their schedule and we did too so we tagged up to do it. We are heading out east then back to Chicago.

Estrella: What are your plans for after?
Tom: We have another east coast tour with Lights Resolve and Harvard. Then there are some summer festival stuff we have going on around Chicago and the mid-west.

Estrella: Empires has played all over Chicago, are there any shows that stand out over others?
Max: Lincoln Hall.
Tom: We just played Lincoln Hall last February and it was awesome.
Ryan: It is a newer kind of venue, it is really cool.
Estrella: I’ve been there, I liked it.
Ryan: Ah, you know? (laughs)
Tom: We always liked playing the Beat Kitchen back in the day, but we have not played there in a year and a half.
Estrella: I was just there for Foxy Shazam.

Estrella: What’s a song you never get sick of hearing?
Tom: “A Change is Going to Come” Sam Cooke.
Ryan: Yeah good call, we listened to that one the way here. We listened to some Sam Cooke on the way here.
Max: Never get sick of hearing, probably some Beatles or Beach Boys. We were listening to “God Only Knows” last night.

Estrella: If you could see any band or artist perform any song live what would it be and why?
Ryan: This is easy, Zeppelin, Led Zeppelin. I would love to see John Bonham play, that would be insane.
Estrella: Any particular album, song or anything?
Ryan: Just to see, yeah anything, would do for me. (laughs)
Tom: Jeff Buckley, I don’t know.
Ryan: That would be sweet.
Max: There are so many I don’t know. Spice Girls?
Ryan: Spice up your life, no.

Estrella: What is something you have always wanted to do but have not done yet?
Tom: Skydive.
Ryan: I was going…
Tom: Get my M class liscense.
Ryan: Skydive.
Tom: Max, how about you?
Max: Record a record in a church.
Estrella: Really?
Max: Sure, why not? (everyone laughs) Just something crazy.

Estrella: What’s one of your favorite lines in one of your songs?
Tom: Ryan, you got this one.
Ryan: I got this one. (everyone laughs) There was this song that we didn’t use on Bang called “Darko” and the line goes, “In my hands was the time of you life…” Sean Van Vleet (everyone laughs).
Tom: I love it.
Ryan: That’s who said it, I thought it was a good line.
Estrella: Why didn’t you guys use the song?
Ryan: We might use it one day but it didn’t fit on BANG, just didn’t fit on BANG.
(Tom is shaking his head as if no they will not use it.)
Max: I like the lyric off of..off of…Off of the second album…(everyone laughs) Off of “Voodooized” it’s, ‘Pull out my soul put it in your mouth to make you whole’. You know that line in “ Voodooized” I like that line a lot, I thought Sean did a good job.
Ryan: That line was actually done on the fly, he meant to say something else but that just came out more organically.
Max: Really?
Tom: Well, mine if off of “Midnight Land” the lyric ‘I bet it burns’. (everyone laughs)
Max: I think that gets a badabum cchhh.(end of joke drum noise)
Tom: I bet it does burn, Sean.
Estrella: Oh my goodness, you guys are awful!

Estrella: Any final comments, anything else you want to add?
Ryan: BANG
Ryan: weareempires.com
(Singer Sean Van Vleet walks into the room)
Tom: Sean has a comment, anything you want to fit in.
Sean: Nope.
Tom: Such a simple man.

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