It’s been a busy old year for British four-piece Empyre, and the band are gearing up to celebrate their debut album ‘Self Aware’ with a free gig at The Water Rats in London. Lead guitarist Did Coles filled us in on what punters can expect on the night, and the word “cake” was used!
28th November, the place to be is The Water Rats in London, and punters don’t need to worry about shelling out for a ticket as you guys are footing the bill! How are the preparations coming along? And what was the thinking behind putting the gig on and making it free?
You can’t call it a party and not make it free. Not in our book anyway. We do an early set at about 8pm, then we’ll have from around 9pm until midnight to enjoy the night with some of the people that have helped to make this a momentous year for Empyre. It’s free to thank those people mentioned above and to encourage as many people as possible to make the effort to come. London isn’t convenient for everyone, but we’ve picked a great venue in The Water Rats and it’s right next door to Kings Cross.
Preparations are going very well. We lined up a coach to take party-goers local to us there, and that’s already full.
We’ve produced some special ‘Empyre – Self Aware’ wristbands that we’ll be giving out for free. Rumour has it there will be Empyre cake! And we’ve even done a limited run of ‘Self Aware’ cover art canvases that can be reserved on our website for collection on the night.
You had us at cake! So is this the unofficial Empyre “office Christmas party”then ?!
Yes. It could get messy, but we’ll at least try to remain sober to do our set.
I believe that Jack J Hutchinson is kicking the evening off?
Yep, Jack graciously accepted our invitation to come and play which we are really pleased about. He will be doing a solo acoustic performance.
Nice! Now, although it is free, do fans need to register their interest on your social media channels or can they just turn up?
Everyone is welcome and they can just turn up. If people want to let us know they’ll be there the best thing to do is mark themselves as going on the Facebook event.
All the set times and details about the event are on that page.
You’ve also got an acoustic gig coming up at the Birmingham Arena, as a warm-up for the Alter Bridge/Shinedown gig, how did that come about?
Yes we’ll be bringing the Empyre acoustic set to Arena Birmingham on Wednesday 18th December. We’d made contact previously with one of the organisers for pre-show gigs on their Unsigned Stage. Our first appearance was when we had the great opportunity to play a set before Eagles played in the main arena. We cheekily slipped in a “Hotel California” cover and also a “Boys of Summer” arrangement alongside some Empyre tunes and the whole thing worked out really well. Since then we’ve performed before Australian Pink Floyd and as you noted, we’re particularly happy about the Alter Bridge and Shinedown show in December as they are the kinds of fans that may already be “aware” of us and equally in the same fan group, many might not necessarily have a clue who Empyre are. So it’s the right kind of exposure. It’s kind of surreal playing there and being one door away from the main stage. Also very motivating!
One the subject of other bands, what band currently out there touring do you feel that Empyre would be the perfect band to open for?
Current touring acts that we’d love to jump on board with, sorry I know you asked for one, but there are so many: Theory of A Deadman, Alter Bridge and Shinedown (for more than one show), Five Finger Death Punch, Halestorm. Avril Lavigne is touring next year in the UK so Empyre acoustic for that!
Venues really need to do more of this kind of thing, put on a young up and coming band to entertain the punters before the main event starts, the costs must be fairly minimal?
I would think so, we don’t get paid, we do it for the opportunity, the exposure and because we love playing live. Certainly the very positive feedback we’ve had from doing the shows so far suggest it’s a great way of introducing those people that perhaps only go to big events to some of the smaller up and coming bands. Several people we’ve met there said they wanted to see us play in the main auditorium, so we can only hope that feedback gets back to Arena Birmingham.
There are some music fans out there, however, who cannot see past the big names and will not give new bands the time of day, I know a few myself, what can Empyre do to combat that attitude?
Keep playing live, keep releasing music and keep trying to get radio and media outlets to feature our music so that it gets served up to people who don’t know us.
Your debut album,‘Self Aware’, was released earlier this year, to great critical acclaim I might add, have you re-visited it at all from a personal point of view? Or are you like an actor that never goes back and watches their own work?
Thanks for the kind words. We’re tremendously enthused with the album reviews and coverage “Self Aware” has received and is getting. We’re seeing Spotify streams for example rising internationally, recently the album has been getting more and more attention in South America for instance, so it’s great to see the music spread far and wide.
I think once an album is released it can be more refreshing to see how others react to what you have produced, what their interpretation of the music is and what a song, or lyric or guitar solo means to them as it can be something different entirely to how the song may have been conceived by the artist. The process of recording an album is a lengthy labour of love: hours of songwriting, rehearsing, arranging, testing songs live, studio time and then releasing singles and the final thing goes out. By that point you want to see what people think and what resonates with them.
People tend to forget about the amount of sacrifice, both personal and financial, that go into producing an album, and the subsequent touring cycle, how do you manage to juggle everything? Do the rewards outweigh the hardship?
All of the above is a succinct summary of the passion and dedication required to be in a band, juggling everything is hard and can lead to working under quite a bit of pressure. However, the rewards do outweigh any hardships and what makes it cool for us is at the heart of it, we’re a bunch of good friends and we’re making music that we want to not based on trying to fit a trend or niche or to try to be anything that we’re not. We collectively self-fund Empyre and we justify our efforts by thriving on creating and performing the music we want to make and that we believe people need to hear.
You could consider performing for Bob Harris in one of his world-renowned ‘Under The Apple Tree Sessions’ as a reward. I was curious about how the session came about as Empyre are a tad different from the Americana/Country artists that normally appear on it? Whispering Bob is held in such high regard by so many legendary artists, I could listen to him recite the phone-book!
We do incorporate some darker ‘Country’ elements into some of our Music and for me, Country Music both in the traditional sense and modern styles are influential. The whole storytelling aspect of “three chords and the truth” at the heart of Country music is very inspiring. The lyrics, and songwriting within Country resonates with fans so strongly and I think we’re trying to encourage that in our own songwriting with Empyre.
Country has had a monumental resurgence in recent years and I was on guitar duties with a UK country band a few years ago that had Bob Harris as a major supporter. He really is a force for good in the music industry, championing new artists and musicians alongside meeting the biggest names in music. The UTAT session was a pleasure to be a part of, and Bob was very positive about the acoustic tracks we recorded with his son Miles, who produced the videos too that you can check out on YouTube.
What was it that made you become a Fender man? For you, what makes them the preferred choice over Gibson for example? Gibson has Slash of course, Angus Young, Paul Kossoff etc, but Fender has – Buddy Holly, Jeff Beck, Hank Marvin, Eric Clapton, David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler…and Blackmore! That’s some fantasy line-up right there!
I am completely a Fender guy! My very first guitar was purchased at “Patrick Reed Music” in Kettering and was a Fender Squier Strat. I remember my Dad asking Paddy advice on what amp would be good to pair up with the guitar. His advice was as follows… “I think one of the best guitar sounds ever is a Fender guitar going through a Fender amp”. I’ve pretty much followed that advice since my formative years and have tried a plethora of other guitars and amps over time but for me, nothing comes close and that combination allows me to produce the sounds I imagine in my head.
Fender’s have the nuances of tone, the perfect playability and the versatility for me that no other guitar has. Leo Fender hit a home run with his instrument and they are just so iconic. This isn’t to say I don’t use other guitars. Some of my parts on “Self Aware” feature a Gibson guitar to fatten up a part of a song for example.
How soon does your thoughts turn to album number two?
It’s in our thoughts at present, and a plan is forming, but we have another plan to execute first.
2020 is already looking like a busy year for Empyre, I count six festivals lined up so far? What else have you got lined up?
We have the last single from Self Aware being released in January. Then we release a cover version. Then we have something else planned which is quite different to any other band we know large or small. In fact we tried to find examples of other bands doing it and couldn’t find that many. It could mean no-one is doing it because fans don’t want it and therefore it falls flat on its face. We hope not. We’ll see. Cryptic we know, sorry.
Leave us on a cliffhanger why don’t you! Cheers Did!
Check out Empyre online and see why Classic Rock Magazine called them “the next great Midlands rock band”.
Interview – Dave