Since bringing their own brand of ‘triumphant, chest-beating rock’ to HRH Road Trip last year, Northampton four-piece EMPYRE have been galvanising legions of new fans across the UK on the RPM Takeover Tour, and with festival appearances and an eagerly awaited debut album just around the corner, including SOS this year and HRH AOR VIII next March, the hard rock powerhouse’s realm is about to be fortified like never before.
For anybody who’s not familiar with your music, how would you describe your sound?
[Henrik] We describe it as dark, intense and somewhat atmospheric rock. Other people have called it contemporary rock, atheist rock, hard rock, and “the love child of Pink Floyd and Soundgarden”. It’s a combination of the roots of rock’s tradition alongside some dark, introspective songwriting, but don’t expect dreary and depressing… expect intense, sometimes raw, sometimes anthemic rock. We’re not sure if it all fits into one overall category.
[Did] We have a plethora of influences from varying styles, anything from the Seattle era of ‘90s grunge rock to blues artists, hard rock, country and more contemporary singer songwriters. There are aspects of prog, hard rock, and the set even includes some anthemic dark ballads in places.
When was EMPYRE formed and how did you all meet? What are your backgrounds – were you all in other bands previously?
[Henrik] Did and I had played in a covers band for years, and we slowly started writing our own stuff. Up until three years ago we were basically a practice-room band, writing some songs but hardly gigging. Prior to late 2016 we had done three gigs I think. We had recorded a couple of EPs but without much of a plan as to what to do with them or what to do next. Then, after a couple of us decided to take it a lot more seriously we made a change to the way we do things. We formulated a plan, set some goals, got out gigging consistently across the country and decided to produce an album. Grant lives locally to us and joined us two years ago, and Elliot, whilst we have known him for a few years, we’d never gigged with. When the last drummer left, he was the obvious choice for a replacement.
[Grant] I joined the band two years ago after a long and rigorous audition process! Before EMPYRE I played in a covers band and many years before that an originals rock act.
[Elliot] After following EMPYRE for the last couple of years I got the opportunity to become their new drummer about four months ago, which has been by far the best decision I have made with my drumming. Before joining EMPYRE I played in many different cover bands over the years as well as being a dep drummer for many others.
You’re currently nearing the end of the RPM Takeover Tour, what have been the most memorable bits so far?
[Henrik] Easily our hometown headline show in Northampton. We’d never seen The King Billy that full. The vibe in the place was unbelievable. The other thing that sticks in my mind is touring with The Rocket Dolls and Ryders Creed has been easy, relaxed and enjoyable. We’ve been lucky so far, most bands we’ve gigged with have been friendly and easy to work with and it makes such a big difference to the atmosphere. So, a big shout out to those guys for being so cool!
[Grant] My hair got tangled up in Henrik’s guitar during the outro riff in ‘New Republic’! We had to finish the song and set (fortunately it was the last song) attached to each other. Luckily I didn’t lose too much hair but I did break Henrik’s guitar…
[Did] The tour in itself has been a highlight as it has provided us with the opportunity to play venues throughout the UK that we haven’t yet gigged at before. The bands on the road with us are great guys and their sets are massive! The Rocket Dolls and Ryders Creed are two rock acts we’d be happy to share the stage with again. We have also been performing the album tracks live before the album drops on 5th July. The response to the new tracks has been very encouraging!
[Elliot] The tour has been incredible so far with two dates still left in Blackpool and Edinburgh. It has been great to be able to play some amazing venues across the UK alongside some fantastic bands. The most memorable moment of the tour has to be playing our hometown show at The King Billy, Northampton, which was just mind blowing with the amount of people that came out to see us.
You played HRH Road Trip to Ibiza last year, what was that experience like?
[Henrik] We got to do three gigs and play two awesome venues. How many people can say they played an amphitheatre seal enclosure with arctic backdrop in Ibiza?! It was very special and we’d love to return.
[Grant] Sun, Sea and Rock!! It was epic!!! It has a great atmosphere with bands and fans staying in the same hotels and drinking in the same bars!
[Did] I am a pale-faced/ginger-esque guitarist and I tend to hide away in the shade in warmer climates! Ibiza in May was spot-on weather wise so I was still able to wear jeans and cowboy boots for the whole trip. Not really into shorts and flip-flops, not very rock ‘n’ roll! The main gig at Eden club, where all the DJs normally do their club sets, was an ideal venue to have a rock show. That venue has been a highlight for EMPYRE as a whole so far. HRH Road Trip 2020 – invite us back please!
You’re due to perform an acoustic set at this summer’s SOS Fest – what other gigs and festivals have you got planned for the rest of the year?
[Did] We have a hometown show on the main stage at Northampton Music Festival (NMF) on 16th June. We take to the stage for a full electric set at 5pm. We have a couple of Northampton venues that we gig at throughout the year. NMF is a good opportunity to present our music to our home County and gather some new fans and encourage them to “join the Empyre”. Alongside this we have a festival called Front Row Festival, which is a multi-genre event in Bicester on 29th June.
A special event in the calendar is an acoustic gig on the Firestone stage at Birmingham Arena on the evening that The Eagles play, which is very cool! That is on the 28th June and we are very excited about it. It is refreshing to mix up live sets sometimes, as when we do acoustic sets the arrangements and the overall dynamic of the music changes. ‘Only Way Out’ brings in the piano alongside acoustic guitars and the song becomes something new. We love the MTV-style unplugged sets of yesteryear from the likes of Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Eric Clapton, Stone Temple Pilots, Alanis Morissette, Incubus and even The Corrs, so we try to approach the acoustic side of EMPYRE in that light.
Anyone curious about what’s going on with EMPYRE should head over to our website or social media pages. For hardcore fans we have a fan group that is growing on Facebook and a newsletter that lands in your inbox once every six weeks that has all our news and updates.
What’s the story behind your latest single ‘Too Little Too Late’?
[Henrik] That single is the first release from our album ‘Self Aware’, which comes out on 5th July and is available to pre-order on iTunes now. The song was inspired by the breakdown of a relationship, so might strike a chord with anyone who has any angst towards their exes! The theme goes along the lines of:
“An exploration of an obsessive and toxic relationship preceding, during and after its collapse. Initially your pride is damaged and your emotions feel like they have been severely tainted. Ultimately, you turn your resentment into detachment, realising you have come out better off than the other person involved.”
The single also has a music video that we filmed last year and is now available to view on YouTube. It features the artwork from the single and conveys the lyrics with two actresses portraying the difficult relationship. It’s gritty, a bit raunchy even, and Facebook just banned us from advertising it, spoilsports.
Tell us about your upcoming debut album?
[Grant] The album is just around the corner! It’s being released on 5th July and is available to pre-order both physically and digitally on our website.
[Did] We are extremely proud of our first album release. We aimed for an album with “no fillers”. It showcases every aspect of our music in eleven tracks so it is a strong representation of who we are and our overall sound. We can’t wait to hear what music fans think of it once it drops!
Apart from the bands you’re playing with on the RPM Takeover Tour, who are your favourite bands right now?
[Did] Nine Miles South – we literally just played with these guys at The Big Red in Islington and they are really worth checking out. We like bands that are avoiding cliche, being genuine and doing something a little bit “different”. These dudes are fusing a huge rock sound with southern country aspects – a great crossover style. Also Lethbridge Owen are really worth checking out. Their debut album ‘Mind over Matter’ just dropped. Jimmy is a stunning guitarist and Kelly adds her great vocals alongside some unique songwriting. They have a refreshing sound.
[Henrik] I’m really liking These Wicked Rivers and Smoking Martha.
What is your favourite decade for rock music and why?
[Henrik] Probably the ‘90s – that’s when the music around first inspired me to pick up a guitar and try to sing.
[Did] Hard question to answer as I don’t tend to favouritise anything! The ‘60’s and ‘70’s revolutionised popular music with Hendrix, Jeff Beck, Clapton and the likes of The Kinks and Led Zeppelin opening the door to a rock ‘n’ roll revolution. I don’t think guitar music would exist in the same way if it weren’t for innovators like Hendrix.
What’s “the dream”?
[Henrik] To play the biggest rock festivals around the world!
[Grant] World tour!!
[Did] I am fortunate enough to do music full time. I’d love to get to the point where other certain musical obligations are lessened and I have more time available in a week to dedicate to songwriting and pushing EMPYRE to get it to a wider commercial level. That would be my goal!
[Elliot] World tour, rock festivals and an endless amount of DRUMSTICKS!!!
Watch the official music video for ‘Too Little Too Late’, here:
Henrik Steenholdt – Vocals & Guitar
Did Coles – Lead Guitar
Grant Hockley – Bass
Elliot Bale – Drums
See them here:
7th June – RPM Takeover Tour – with Thirteen Stars and Ryders Creed – Waterloo Music Bar, Blackpool
8th June – RPM Takeover Tour – with Thirteen Stars and Ryders Creed – Bannermans, Edinburgh
16th June – Northampton Music Festival, Northampton
28th June – Arena Birmingham
29th June – Front Row Festival 2019, Bicester
13th July – SOS Festival 2019, Prestwich, Manchester