The best way to examine the talent of Empires is to discuss their growth in both sound and process. This group has been building their success steadily over the past few years, and now, a few months after the release of their most recent LP, Orphan, the Chicago-based band joined Geographer on their tour this month. Speaking with the group’s drummer, Mike Robinson, it was easy to see that the team put a lot of value in maintaining the quality of their music without muddling the sound.
This group is so energetic they don’t need to lean too heavily on bells and whistles. In fact, there appears to be more focus on removing what doesn’t need to be present than on adding more to any given track. During the recording of Orphan, Jon Congleton, the producer, “wouldn’t let us think about things too much,” said Robinson. The focus was more on pulling from the band members’ instincts to create great music without adding in too much outside noise.
Speaking of Congleton, this was Empires’ first time working with an outside producer.
“It was definitely a learning process, but everyone clicked with him, so it was easy,” said Robinon.
When comparing this new record to their previous, Garage Hymns, it’s easy to pick out the differences in production. A pop element manifests itself in the chorus of many songs on this new album, including songs like “Honeyblood” and the title track, “Orphan”. Each track is layered with sound that fully envelops the listener.
With this album, Empires really took their music to another level. While they certainly put more emphasis on their work in the studio, they still maintained their base-level rock and roll sound. It’s a great example of how a band can develop and change without losing what defined them in the beginning. The energy of the album, while still apparent, is slightly more restrained than their previous record. During the process of creating the album, some songs underwent a lot more production than previous endeavors.
In the end, though, the finished product reflected the effort put into the album.
Now that their path has brought them to a tour, Empires has the opportunity to showcase their evolution alongside fellow indie rock band Geographer.
“As openers, we get the opportunity to play for a lot of new faces.”
Although it differs between members, Robinson admits that his favorite songs to perform are “Hostage” and “Glow,” the second of which “we don’t do too often. It depends on the set and the crowd that night.”
Check out the full interview with Mike Robinson for more on the band:
Blast: Thanks for taking the time to talk about Empires. To start, I have to ask: what were your major takeaways from your new album, Orphan?
Robinson: This was our first time working with an outside producer. Everything just seemed to work with him, so it was an easy transition. The entire process was a learning experience, and it was entirely different from previous records. He approached the production with an old-school demeanor, and wouldn’t let us think too much about what we were doing.
Blast: What made Empires decide to go with an outside producer for this record?
Robinson: It really just felt right. We all enjoyed some of his previous records. This was a great opportunity and somehow everything worked itself out. Everyone had a great time, and he was a great fit for us.
Blast: Which songs from Orphan changed the most during production?
Robinson: The amount of change varied from song to song. “Glow” changed a lot from what we had in the beginning. It took a bit to figure out what did and what didn’t need to be in the song. Other songs didn’t need as much change.
Blast: What’s the best part of performing?
Robinson: As openers, we get the opportunity to play for a lot of new faces and seeing new crowds.
Blast: What are your favorite songs to perform?
Robinson: That changes a lot. Lately my favorite has been “Hostage.” I like “Glow” a lot too. We don’t perform it too often; it really depends on the energy of the crowd. The favorites vary between team members too.
Blast: Is there currently anything you’re really looking forward to?
Robinson: We’re just starting our tour now with Geographer and we’re looking forward to playing with them. In addition, we’re working on some new songs, and we’re definitely looking forward to playing some festivals this summer. Those always bring a lot of cool bands and new fans. We’ll also probably be touring throughout the summer and into fall.
Be sure to check out Empires at http://weareempires.com, or connect through social media at https://www.facebook.com/weareempires and https://twitter.com/weareempires