Electronic rock band This Is An Empire haven’t been around for very long and they’re unsigned but these guys, with rock star hair and humble attitudes take a “do it yourself” approach to touring and releasing their music. On May 18 they will release their debut album Wholly on iTunes and on Saturday (May 8) they will perform at Pure Nightclub on Chippewa for their CD release show. I got a chance to sit down with the guys, bassist Dennis Ferry, guitarist Matt Zych, vocalist Adam Curtin and drummer Matt Salzler to talk about their new album, their cross country tour and how they developed their sound.
How did the band get together?
Ferry: Adam and I were in a band together a long time ago called Inferis. We toured for a little while but over time we got tired of playing with the bands we were playing with and it was kind of the same thing. We wanted to do something new so we started This Is An Empire in 2007. We made the new record last summer. That was kind of the beginning of a new sound.
Talk a little bit about your new sound.
Ferry: When we started the band, we were playing a different kind of music, it still had the electronics but it was a little heavier and a little more rock and roll. Now the foundation is the electronics. Adam does the bulk of the programming. We just kinda found a happy medium eventually and I think it’s working.
How has being a band in Buffalo helped to shape your sound?
Ferry: It’s a blue-collar town; it’s very very “do it yourself.” We all grew up listening to rock bands and we still do. It’s kind of ingrained in the culture here. At the same time, you go to New York or Toronto and it’s so totally different. I think that has helped shape the electronic edge of the band.
Curtin: What has helped shape my musical palette and songwriting is being able to live here for dirt-cheap rent. We’re within an eight-hour radius of all these other places, New York, Chicago, Toronto. I’m in Toronto at least once a month checking out something, some DJ that will never come to Buffalo. It’s a really good home base.
Salzler: For me living in Buffalo has introduced me to all types of music. I’m from Arcade, which is an hour away. It’s in the country; there are cows everywhere so everyone listens to country music. In Buffalo there’s the hardcore scene, the pop-punk scene. I was just at the Anchor Bar the other night and there is a Latin group that plays there every Saturday. I’m going there every Saturday now.
For your new album you worked with producer Casey Bates. He’s produced some pretty popular alternative rock bands like Portugal The Man, Chiodos and Fear Before. What was it like working with him?
All (in unison): It was awesome
Zych: He’s a really great guy
Ferry: We had a short list of producers we wanted to work with and he was at the top of our list. When you’re in the studio working with him it’s just a good vibe. His studio is in his home in Seattle and he just opened up his house to us.
How do you think your music translates live?
Ferry: It’s different. With the album we tried to capture our live sound. When we went to record with Casey Bates, he had this way of combining electronics and live music. I like to think that the recording is a real interpretation of the band. It’s more real live though.
Zych: I don’t like to make comparisons but we’re really trying to create a sort of a Muse vibe, where it’s really kind of complex music but it’s being played by four dudes live.
Curtin: Right now our live set up is based around just being as simple as possible. If we all had another keyboard or something it would just be so much to set up.
You toured across the country in 2007. What was it like touring as an unsigned band?
Ferry: The really challenging part of a DIY tour is you’re really far from home and you’re always trying to find a new show and book new dates with really limited income.
Zych: Financially it was an issue but we managed to have fun pretty much every night.
Ferry: There were times when we’d have to hang out in a place we knew nothing about because a show was cancelled. We had a couple days off in Tucson (Arizona) and it was a reality check because you’re completely across the country in a place you’ve never been just waiting for the next show and the next payday. We hit pretty much every state in the union on that tour. It took almost two months.
Wholly CD release at Pure Nightclub, 75 West Chippewa St, Doors at 7:00pm $10 presale/$13 day of. Ages 16+ admitted with I.D.