New Music Monday: Empress
Empress are a new band – like, really new – and yet it’s clear that they’re already going places despite having barely played enough gigs to reach double figures yet. Citing influences as diverse as Mastodon and Elbow (and Metallica and Iron Maiden, of course), the Berkshire quartet have kept busy over the summer by writing material for their debut album and playing shows whenever they can. Two of those gigs have been supporting Baroness – an experience that has helped the band immeasurably.
“The gig we did before was The Face Bar in Reading in front of 30 people, and then [we went] straight up to 250. It was crazy but really fun,” laughs vocalist/guitarist, Ollie Loring. “In those Baroness gigs we thought we should do some interlude music and that really worked, for instance, but we learnt stuff even from just playing with a band who are so experienced with touring.”
They only had three songs prepared for those shows, but there’s more to come, and it’s ambitious.
“With our album, the big thing is, rather than individual songs, we want it to sound like a whole piece. Like Dark Side of the Moon, where you listen to it from start to finish,” he explains. “We’re not saying, ‘Let’s do a seven-minute song,’ but if it feels right, that’s fine. If that’s the journey of the song; we don’t want to restrict ourselves because it won’t get played on the radio. We want to do our own thing.”
Citing a Pink Floyd album as a target means that Empress are aiming high, and the way Ollie talks about writing without restrictions and boundaries is certainly something more readily associated with prog bands – but it wasn’t always that way. While they’re still young men, there’s still time to evolve into, say, a glam metal band. Wait, what?!
“That was back in school when I started getting into Iron Maiden. The harmonies are sick,” he says with passion. “We got really, really carried away [playing that material], but after a while it just didn’t feel right. The guitarist was really into those pop structures and then the drummer left and then Alex [Loring, bass and Ollie’s brother] and I just wanted to do something so we started jamming with Edd [Unwin, drums]. Eventually we met Tom [Meadon, lead guitar] and became Empress.”
“That first band and us not being happy in it… that’s what spurred us on to write this music for ourselves and not be influenced by other people.” Sounds fair to us.
Empress’ debut album will be out early next year.
Interview by Raziq Rauf