Interview with Sean Van Vleet of Empires

Every era of music has its special charms and influences. The ’90s might be among the most felicitous of musical generations in giving to us some of the catchiest rock around today. Empires, a Chicago-born and based band of four, has inherited and utilized the fundamental aspects of ’90s rock in their own songs. Coming together in 2007, Empires used non-nineties technology to get their name on the music map, releasing their first four tunes on MySpace. In 2008, the group recorded their first album ‘Howl,’ and after releasing the record on their website got over 70,000 downloads. The band has performed throughout the US, playing with acts such as The Temper Trap, Kaiser Chiefs, and Blue October, among other indie rockers. The group also performed recently on the Late Show With David Letterman and aspire to join the likes of Pixes, The Smashing Pumpkins, and Nirvana whom they name as their influences.

How’s the tour going?

It’s going fast.

What are some cities or venues that you are most excited to see/play at on your tour?

Since this tour is about to wrap, the most interesting and awesome venue was Doug Fir in Portland. That place has magic. Does Ed Sullivan Theater count? Cause that was quite a night too.

It seems like on your tour there are some shows where Empires is the main act and other shows where you guys are opening for some pretty big names, such as The Chain Gang of 1974. Which are you more excited for?

For the next tour we’re lucky The Chain Gang of 1974 is taking us out. They’re an exciting band; we’re fans. So that’s gonna be an adventure.

What have been some of your best and worst experiences while on a tour?

Early on in the history of our band we once had a big blowout fight. Like that scene from Step Brothers only it took us a while to look back and laugh at it. So at the time that was ugly and uncomfortable. Now, aside from some of the music, nothing is sacred or serious. There are touring moments that used to feel stagnant that have transformed into good hangs riddled with a lot shit talk and a lot of beer drinking. Those are good experiences.

Tell me about your songwriting process. When you write lyrics, is it generally one of you who writes them, or is it more of a group effort?

I write all the lyrics, but John Congleton and I tag-teamed on the phrase “every hour my brain is undressed” in “Please Don’t Tell My Lover.” It’s become one of my favorite lines too.

You guys just released a new single “How Good Does It Feel.” It seems like this song has a bit of a different feeling than some of your other songs in the past. Would you say this is true? If so, what’s the motivation behind the change?

It feels like a natural move. There wasn’t a desire to go in any particular direction. The synth, which helps define the character of the track, was originally a violin part on my original demo that I never showed anyone. It wasn’t working, so I found a synth sound that gave a real floaty feel to the song, and it worked.

And would you say this song is a good representation of the songs that are going to be on your next upcoming album?

I think so…

I saw that you just released a music video for this song too. How was it making the music video?

Incredible. Ryan Ohm is a badass. He directed it and maybe it’s cause I’m much older than him but I was scared at times that he was risking his life. I’d be riding the moped, speeding under a dark bridge with potholes everywhere, and he’d be on the back or standing over the top of me trying to get the right shot. We did it in a few hours with his crew. He’s a fearless dude. I was freaked out.

What are some of the coolest concerts you’ve ever been to?

Chance The Rapper at Bonnaroo this year was tight. Real tight.

What are some of your goals for the future with the band?

Overseas. Somebody take us. Please.

Pick up Empires’ latest EP, How Good Does It Feel.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.