Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview: Red Empire

Red Empire launch their "Strange Philosophy" EP in The Village this Saturday (18th) We caught up with lead singer Craig Cahill and multi-instrumentalist Gar McCarthy as their d├ębut release is about to be unveiled to the world. We discover how they didn't let a little thing like the Liffey, get in the way of making music. How hometown dreams are about to become true and how they owe it all to the fans.

How do 5 guys from the 4 corners of Dublin come to form a band?

It was mostly through a mutual friendship. Myself and Gar had been playing together since we were 15 and similarly Richie, Dessie and Deco had been in a band together for a long time. About five years ago they went into the studio with Joe Jewell (Aslan) to start recording some demos. Those sessions went really well and they led to the lads wanting to add a singer and a keyboard player to the line-up. Luckily enough Joe knew gar and me from some previous recording sessions and at the time we were looking to move on to a new project. We already knew the lads and had met up for pints with them on a few occasions and appreciated each other's music so the scene was set. We started rehearsing together and it just clicked and here we are now as Red Empire.

How would you best describe your music?

First off, we'd say that it's full of heart. We appreciate good honest well-written songs and have never been afraid of melody - in a lot of music out there at the moment there seems to be a lack of new and honest melody. The fact that Gar and Richie are two very different songwriters from two very different backgrounds we feel we've got the best of both worlds. Richie is an instinctive ballsy songwriter whereas Gar's songwriting and study of music allows us to explore our music with greater depth.

Who are your influences?

Well, you spoke about the four corners of Dublin in your first question and because we all come from different backgrounds we're all into different music. There's a lovely cocktail of influences going on in the band from Radiohead to Orbital to Oasis to the Smiths.

Tell us about your new EP?

It's our first release as Red Empire and is therefore very special to all of us. It contains three tracks: Denial, Strange Philosophy and Hotel. We feel that it's a great introduction to the band and our sound. There's a song for breakfast, dinner and tea. It moves from a song about admitting when you've failed to one about not admitting when you've failed and finally to a song about sexuality. An unusual combo but there you go!

Tell us about the video for "Strange Philosophy" the lead track from the EP?

Well, Joe (our producer) came up with the original concept. Paul Andrews, who looks after the photography and day-to-day running of the band, was talking to his friend Daragh (Daz) Murphy who is a video Director and Editor and he came on board after speaking with us about the song and the concept behind the video. The idea behind the masks is that when people go to see a band playing live they experience being a part of the band. We felt that by giving people a random mask of any member of the band that this would increase that experience. The song itself is a movement from a cool funkiness to full-on rock. We felt that the suits represented the cool funkiness of the verses and the full-on rock is just us being us.


You are opening for Aslan in Tallaght Stadium later this year. It must be an exciting yet daunting prospect. Perhaps doubly so for the hometown boy in the band?

Yeah, we're really looking forward to it. It's going to be a great gig and we think it will be one of those legendary days out in Dublin that people will talk about for years. There's going to be a crowd of around 20,000 so it will be amazing. I grew up in the area so it will hold a special significance for me. I'm dying to play in my hometown i have to say.

How much of an influence have Aslan been both musically and personally on red empire?
Well, Joe has been a friend for many, many years. To be honest we have nothing but admiration for the way that they have worked over those years. When you look at it objectively – they’re bands who for thirty years have worked fairly continuously on the domestic market without any major label backing for the majority of that period. I don't care what level of the music industry you may be working at you have to stand back and admire that kind of drive, determination and longevity. They have created an amazing body of work of those years.

What current Irish music has had a positive influence on Red Empire?

As i was saying earlier we're all different people and we listen to different music, very different music in some cases. Some of the Irish music that's come up in conversation over the last while and that we all admire are artists like Villagers, Damien Dempsey, James Vincent McMorrow, Funeral Suits, Royseven and The Ambience Affair.

Who is the band's unsung hero?

There's quite a tight-knit group of fans that have followed us since the early days. They can point out to us when we've changed something in a song or tried something new. We would say that collectively they are the unsung heroes of the band. They give us the motivation to try new things and to improve the music all the time.

What's next for Red Empire?

First of all we hope that everyone enjoys the EP. We are constantly working on new material and allowing the songs to evolve. Since we formed we have written and recorded a large number of songs and we will be releasing another EP in early summer. We really like the idea of releasing multiple EP's with each EP having a different feel and a different atmosphere. We feel that this approach allows us to be more creative rather than being tied down by the rules of an album. We're living in the digital age and the musical landscape is changing all the time and we as a band want to exploit that. We're also thinking about writing a musical about the recession but we'll leave that 'til another day…only messin'!

Red Empire play The Village this Saturday (18th) doors 8pm Admission €5

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