2014 is proving to be a big year for Empress AD, from being signed to Roadrunner Records, to extensive tours across the country with the likes of Kvelertak and Arcane Roots, to playing Reading Festival this weekend and finally to releasing their début album later this year. This weekend the guys are down in Kent to play the return of Hevy Festival, we sat down with bassist Alex and Guitarist Tom and here’s what went down.
So just to kick things off, you guys are playing 2nd stage today, are you excited for the set later?
Alex: Yeah definitely, we haven’t done outdoorsy things for fucking ages.
Tom: Actually it’s our first festival of the year.
Alex: Yeah so it’s been pretty quiet as far as things go.
Obviously in terms of festivals, you’ve got a big one coming up in Reading and Leeds Festival coming up next weekend, how are you feeling about that, are nerves running high or are you all pretty chilled?
Alex: I am a bit nervous actually, because when we did Download last year that was the only time I was nervous for a gig, like we did some big gigs last year but we didn’t really get nervous for it, it felt good, like stepping up to the plate and just enjoying it, but Download I was shitting it for but then you get out there and you relish it.
Tom: Yeah, once you play the first song I think you’re fine.
Alex: The thing is with Reading and Leeds though it’ll be a bit more special, because I’m sure bands say it and twist the truth a little bit but literally we have been going to Reading every year since I was like 14 years old so now it’s just like crazy. I’ve had mates been messaging me like “I can’t believe it man!” and I’m like you don’t have to tell me, we’re kind of pinching ourselves so yeah, it’s going to be a special one I think.
Are there any bands in particular that you’re excited to be playing on the same bill as next weekend?
Alex: There’s shit loads on our stage because we’re on at The Pit, there’s Red Fang although they’re playing on the Friday but if we could get in I’d watch them, Queens are playing on the Friday as well, that’s very up our street. Hold on I’ve made a list of bands to see so bare with me for a minute, Marmozets, Arctic Monkeys, we’re kind of like we don’t actually listen to that much heavy stuff and the heavy stuff we’re into kind of goes back to what we used to be into.
Tom: Some of the Arctic Monkeys stuff is really interesting now, especially stuff with like Josh Homme.
Alex: Sme, I love all that shit and then also like, well a guilty pleasure but it’s not really a guilty pleasure at all but I’m quite into While She Sleeps, like the production on that album is great, I don’t know what day Don Broco are on but they are a guilty pleasure band, erm Lonely the Brave, I’ve been following them for ages, I remember showing Tom being like “ah check out this band” because I’d randomly heard the track ‘Black Saucers’, it’s like super emotive cool rock and I’ve never had the chance to see them live but I’ve heard they’ve got this thing where their lead singer is kind of reserved on stage, he just stands next to the drum kit with his mic stand and doesn’t really do anything, but it’s supposed to make it cool and more endearing.
It seems that Empress have no real set genre of band that you regularly tour with, I mean earlier this year you somehow managed to tour with Kvelertak and Arcane Roots within the same month, do you feel like you go into different tours with almost different state of mind depending on what other bands are on the line up and the type of people in the crowd?
Alex: We’re conscious of it, we’re definitely conscious of it.
Tom: I think it’s more because of the fans reacting differently to different songs and different bands.
Alex: We did that Arcane Roots tour and then had two days off and was straight onto the Kvelertak tour, but they were the two best tours we’ve ever done, which is cool because the way we see the band is not that we’re stepping out of the heavy music circle but opening people up to this kind of music.
Over all these tours through the bands career, have you at all developed a favourite type or genre of band to play with?
Tom: I don’t think we’ve done enough to develop a favourite but we’re getting there.
Alex: Yeah, we’ve compiled a big list of bands that we would want to tour with ideally would want to tour with at the beginning of this year and it was like Kvelertak, Arcane Roots, Mastodon, Red Fang, Baroness, it was all anything like that, music that’s just a bit weirder, proggier but still heavy but on the other hand we’d totally love to do things with non-heavy bands too.
Tom: At the same time we love the headline shows too, we just did 3 headline dates and even though it’s small crowds it’s great.
Alex: Yeah just doing it off your own back and having fans still turn up and the people who talk to you after shows, I think they understand that we’re a band in our own right and although there are never two bands exactly the same, we will never find anything that perfectly fits us.
So onto the obvious things now, not too long ago it was announced that you guys are joining Roadrunner Records, and you soon after announced your debut album “Still Life Moving Fast” being released in September, how has it been releasing the record with Roadrunner compared to your previous releases?
Alex: We don’t even consider us to have released an EP really, it’s all just various singles and things but like the infrastructure of Roadrunner is amazing, that’s really why we joined, we would have put the album out ourselves if we hadn’t found somewhere like Roadrunner, but the infrastructure and the heritage of Roadrunner makes it. There’s tons of great bands on that label too, even just Kvelertak, Mastodon, Opeth, three bands that we totally love.
Tom: The guys we’re working with are so passionate about the music too.
Alex: Yeah, we see the UK guys quite a lot and we fucking love them as blokes, it’s great that you can make friendships with people who are basically working your campaign and it’s great to have that closeness.
You aren’t the only rising UK band to have been signed to Roadrunner recently, do you think that the label signing these bands and releasing your music in America could start to create a link and help promote other upcoming UK bands in places such as America and possibly further?
Alex: I think so yeah, Marmozets definitely they’re like us, they have a different way of thinking about music but when people say they sound like Paramore? Fuck off they sound nothing like them!
Rock Sins: Definitely, like any band they have small parts that could be seen as influences from others but as a whole there is not a single band that they sound like right now.
Alex: Exactly! They stand out in their own right, like it’s not that we feel obliged to but when asked any bands to check out by press we’ll always say Marmozets, like they’re new stuff people may argue is a little more melodic or poppy, but I fucking love it, the album is really cool. It’s great because 2012/2013 it felt like Marmozets and Empress were both building up and up and then when the Roadrunner thing happened for both of us, it was just such a good feeling, we’ve put so much time and hard work into our bands and we’ve reached this point where we can understand those feelings between each band, it’s so cool, I definitely think Roadrunner is going to push us both in the right direction.
Returning to the new album, you released the single “Invisible Conductor” last month, you’ve been playing it live for a while too.
Alex: Yeah it was the first song we wrote on the new album and we’ve actually been playing it since 2012.
Rock Sins: What sort of reception do you think you get from that song live?
Alex: People definitely think it’s a powerful song, we definitely see people getting into it but we’re one of those bands we don’t really expect people to be pitting and moshing to our music, we’ve always got little extra elements and weird noises and fuck loads of pedals and reverbs and all the weird stuff going on.
Rock Sins: I’d agree there, theirs moments in your music that can have great bits, like certain moments during ‘Deeper in Disguise’ but I feel majority of your music just makes you want to stand there and appreciate it.
Alex: That’s exactly what we want! With bands like Mastodon when you see them at festivals obviously people are pissed and some want to pit because a lot of their music is heavy but when we doing this small run of headline shows back in November 2012, we asked our booking agent if they could sort us out some last minute Opeth tickets and we went and just like no one’s pitting or going mad but you’re stood there and you hear this heavy riff and you have to look across to someone and just be like “yeah, you heard that”.
Tom: You just make eye contact and it’s this pure appreciation of the music.
Alex: It is difficult being in a band in that style, sometimes we play with bands and the crowd is going mad but we’re just stood there like “hang on, listen to this” and these chords just humble you.
Can you tell us maybe some things to expect from the album next month? Any really strong themes or even influences that you feel have gone into it?
Alex: Yeah, a lot of lyric themes and I don’t want to give too much away but when you see the track listing, it’s all sort of eluding to an idea and it’s not for us to fill that information in for people, it’s there to be interpreted how they want to interpreted it. Even in my own head, the way I interpret my brother’s (Ollie, vocals) lyrics and the themes between the songs, everything starts to make sense, it’s as if there’s one building block but you take a step back and there’s more and there’s more and there’s more. Even the album artwork is so cool, if you look at the artwork really closely there may or may be two people standing deep into this cave, it’s not for me to say but that’s what we’re all about, being suggestive about these things but that’s 70’s prog through and through.
Finally thanks loads for chatting today guys, we’ve got one last question we’re asking everyone this weekend, if the band were any animal or animals in the Port Lympne Animal Park, what would you be?
Tom: Something sick, like a bird of prey or something cool.
Alex: That or a jaguar or something, it has to be weird, it’ll be like a weird shape shifting crossover of all these mad animals, so sorry but we’re going to cheat here, we change our form like the dude in Terminator 2, there you go, beat that!
Empress AD’s debut full length album Still Life Moving Fast is out on the 1st of September (UK) and 2nd of September US on Roadrunner Records. Empress AD also appear on The Pit stage at Reading & Leeds Festivals this coming August bank holiday weekend. You can follow Empress AD on Social Media such as the official Empress AD Twitter account at @EmpressAD.