One of the unforeseen side effects of attending as many concerts as we do is developing a certain jadedness to music in general. The bubblegum pop and the “indie” music that blankets the airwaves has a way of disillusioning you to the entire musical landscape. Young Empires is a trio of genre bending (whatever you do, don’t say “disco-punk”), uniquely individual musicians who are changing the way people experience music – one catchy, foot-tapping, anthemic “pop” song at a time.
Since our “Trading Spaces type shit” house swap between Toronto and Chicago wasn’t on the books yet, we were fortunate enough to be able to spend some quality time with our brothers from the great white north in the comfort of the green room at the Metro. This is their first time in Chicago, so their favorite venue options are quite limited. It should come as no surprise then that their choice was the ubiquitous Metro (a friend told them it would be epic – it was). Before we even got a chance to bring up encase meats covered in everything but tomatoes – or dough swimming in cheese and sauce – they informed us (quite proudly) that they would be heading to Giordano’s when the show was over. Combined with the performance, these answers are enough to turn everyone from Chicago into a fan. But we still have to talk about pompadours, Simpson sisters and Rick Astley so read on.
Young Empires has a sound that’s difficult to classify, but there’s no shortage of journalistic sounds-like comparisons. Apparently they sound like Foals, Friendly Fires, Cut Copy, The Killers and Yeasayer, but that really only scratches the surface when it comes to the liberties people take with their sound. To be fair, each comparison is merited in one way or another and – more importantly – Matt, Jake and Aaron (pictured left to right above) don’t seem to mind. In their minds, it’s our job (as journalists) to help educate people on what to expect. Just because we might notice the difference doesn’t mean everyone else will. Given the unique nature of their sound – and the fact they’re (as of this writing) unsigned – this is ultimately going to generate a lot more Young Empires supporters. Like Chromeo and Jamiroquai, for instance.
Fresh out of a show with Jamiroquai in Colombia and on the cusp of a Chromeo show in their native Canada, we needed to know about the differences between virtual insanity and bonafied lovin. What’s better? What’s more fun? Which one was a more exciting prospect? Who would win in a fight? They didn’t answer any of these questions, but they did have some comments. The bands have totally different setups and ambiances, but there are definitely a lot of reasons to enjoy a Chromeo show… most of which are attractive members of the audience.
So how does a relatively new, relatively unknown band on the verge of superstardom get that organic sound that’s truly their own? First, write for the live performance. Second, shut the fuck up. Seriously. They know how they want to sound, but they don’t go into the studio or a session with any sort of plan. The strength of the band is their apparent lack of communication about their sound. Why waste time talking about it when you can just do it and figure out if it works? The lack of talk flows all the way down to influences as well. It doesn’t matter who The Cure is (we’re not naming names, but one didn’t know). If it influences you, throw it in there. Talking about it just ruins the creativity. Their “just do it” Nike mentality is oddly refreshing given the planned perfection of most other label-driven artists.
Which is probably why they’re of the mindset that labels impose limitations as an artist, and probably why they’re also unsigned. Labels have never been willing to cede control and based on their sound and demeanor, the guys in Young Empires just don’t care. Their current system ain’t broke, so they’re not going to attempt to fix it. If it means any change to their sound, we’re inclined to agree. After all, “Like a Virgin” was the shit and everything went downhill after she put Timbaland on the payroll. Same goes for her adding Britney and Justin. The Young Empires motto (if you can call it that) about all of this: don’t follow the trend, make the trend. Speaking of trends…
2011 is the year of the pompadour. Matt and Jake both had one at one point (if they recall correctly) and Aaron has a new age (let’s call it nouveau) pompadour right now. How does he get that coif so perfectly unkempt? It’s not four solid hours of solo time in front of the mirror if that’s what you’re thinking. Try not showering and sleeping in a van for three days. In case you haven’t figured it out based on the pictures, they’re acutely aware of their appearance. Actually, fashion and the Young Empires brand seems to be the only thing they’re actually cool with planning.
Young Empires wants to be a brand and not just a band. We’re not talking about the sort of half-assed brand that the hotter Simpson sister’s man-toy plaything released. (Aside: Young Empires was born out of Fall Out Boy cover song. Seriously. True story.) This is about bridging different artist communities. Collaborate with artists and fashion designers to get their songs in commercials and movies. In an age defined by label extinction, this is actually a savvy business choice since it’s the only way you can make money any more. In light of the fact there’s no such thing as a sell-out anymore, they’re banking on the fact that if they just do the whole licensing thing from the get go no one will care. Basically, a full brand commitment’s what they’re thinking of.
Which is how we ended up full circle at Rick Astley. A man who – for their money – is the greatest white, black man ever. The guy with the two greatest songs of all time. You know, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and the other one that sounds just like it. Ok, so I lied. They’ll talk about fashion AND Rick Astley until it makes them late for other appointments. But even with all these deep dark secrets on the table, there’s a few things I just wanna tell you how I’m feeling about Young Empires. I gotta make you understand. Young Empires is going to blow up big bang style. Start listening now so you aren’t the one person who’s too shy to sing along.