Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)

Empire Empire (I Was A Lonely Estate) - May 2013

Empire Empire Session
Violitionist Sessions

Session Date: March 13, 2013
Posting Date: May 20, 2013
Artist Hometown: Fenton, MI
Links: EmpireEmpireBand.com, Facebook, Count Your Lucky Stars
Recorded by: Michael Briggs @ Civil

Turbo Stasis
We Did Not Need To Open It To Know It Was There
ONE: How did Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate) get started?
Keith Latinen: It started as a solo project. Cathy and I, we had a band that was ending called Anna Flyaway, and we sort of read the writing on the wall that it was going…Actually, I started Empire! as a recording project so that I could get good enough to record for Anna Flyaway, but then, like I said, when we saw that it was breaking up, we just put more of our focus into that, and then decided to make it a full band, and then had a bunch of members, lost a bunch of members, and decided that was too much of a hassle. So, it’s just me and my wife now, and whenever we go on tour, we borrow whatever band we’re touring with, which is quite frequently Warren Franklin and Stewart. They’ve done like five tours or six tours with us or something like that. And we’ve had a lot of other repeat people as well. So, yeah. There’s no plans…we don’t really have any plans on getting permanent, full time members ever. It’s just going to be easier this way.
DJ: Since you don’t have a steady band, how do you teach your material to each crop of new members?
Keith: Usually…I have all of our songs tabbed out. All the bass, and Cathy’s parts, and what I’ll usually do is make a set list— I usually take too long to make a set list. Warren’s always like, ‘Where’s the set list? Where’s the set list?’ But, yeah, I send them a set list like a month in advance or something like that…OK, ideally a month in advance. [Laughs] Maybe two weeks in advance, but it depends on whether they know the songs or not. Anyway, i send them a set list, and then I get there the day before tour starts, we have one or two practices, and we go from there. I mean, I’ll be honest with you, it’s not an ideal way to start a band, but on the plus side, if I can go on tour, there’s almost always another band that I can go on tour with, so I don’t need to worry about other people’s schedules or something like that, so…Anyhow, some lineups have been better than others, but on the whole, I haven’t really had a bad lineup. I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of amazing musicians. It’s also interesting because everybody has a little slightly different take on the band. So, we always sound a little bit different. Like, some drummers are more power drummers, some are more intimate drummers. It kind of changes the feel of the band every time. I mean, I have people, every time they see us, like, ‘Oh, last time I saw you with these people.’
DJ: How do you decide which songs you would like the band to learn, given that you will likely be limited to only those songs for the extent of the tour?
Keith: When I’m choosing a set list, there are two things that I try to keep in mind. One, I know that there are certain songs that people want to hear. It always bothered me— I would go to see my favorite bands and they wouldn’t play the songs— the classic, old songs that I wanted to hear. So, I try to do half of the set for them, and then try to throw in a couple that I want to play personally, and sometimes, happily, they’re one in the same. Sometimes, not as much, but…And it also depends, too, for example Joe, Stewart and Warren, who are touring with this particular leg of the tour, all three of them know a lot of songs. So, actually what happened, when we got together to practice, they were like, ‘Oh, let’s try this song’ and we played it, no problem. And also, like last night, someone requested a song, and we could play that, so we have a little bit stronger library. But, it’s really hard, and I feel like I have to explain, when somebody wants to request, like, ‘I’m really sorry, we can’t play that! There’s just no way.’ But, I also try…I don’t know how familiar people are with our discography, but it’s ridiculously large. It has so many splits and stuff like that. So, I also try to pick a balanced amount from— I don’t want to lean too heavily on our full-length, or not play something on our full-length, etc etc. So, yeah, I guess there’s a lot to take in when we make a set list.
TWO: You haven’t released a full-length since 2009’s What It Takes to Move Forward. Are you planning to release another anytime soon?
Keith: We are recording in the first week of April. It’s way overdue. It’s been a weight on my chest trying to get that. What ended up happening actually, in the end, was…We had all of these splits that we had made commitments to, and I really wanted to make sure that those were done, so, last year I got like 80% of them all the way. I just went and recorded enough. That would be enough for a full-length, but it was divvied on all of these splits, and then…like I said, I wanted to have that off of my chest when I went in for the full-length. But, really what it is, because we run the label as well, we don’t have as much time to write as we’d like to, and obviously we’re one of those bands that, if we have something, we write for it. So, all I did this year was like, ‘This is going to happen,’ and then I just booked recording time. That way, I have to do it. So, at this point, we don’t have all of the songs written. We’re sort of close. I’m a little bit stressed, but I think of that as a good thing as well. It pressures you to do it. In April, we’re recording with Ed Rose, so we’re really excited for that.
DJ: Are you playing any of these new songs on this tour?
Keith: No. The last time I think I played a song…it had actually been recorded, but hadn’t been released, and actually, at this point it still isn’t released…it was a while ago. I just feel like we have such a large discography anyway, and people want to hear something that they already know, or if they don’t already know it, they can get it. I feel that sometimes there’s these things, where like, bands can play a song live…like for example, I remember the Get Up Kids played that ‘Hannah Hold On’ song live, and I thought, ‘Oh, this is an amazing song!’ But when it got to the record finally, you know, it came out later or whatever, it wasn’t how I remembered. Or it could have been exactly how they played it, but, you know, you kind of build something up in your mind. It’s better if you just cut those expectations. Just, ‘Here’s some new material. It’s out right now.’ I guess if something was coming out in a couple weeks or something, but…right now, I don’t feel like it’s ready yet.
DJ: How do you balance running the Count Your Lucky Stars label with writing and touring for Empire! Empire!?
Keith: I mean, it’s really difficult. My wife and I both run the record label, and she’s also in the band with me, but most people know that she doesn’t tour as often. She has a full-time job as well, so she doesn’t tour as often as we’d both like, but that was the compromise we made to, you know, keep this working. She still goes on tour, but she’ll go on the…like, we went to the UK last year, so she got to go to that. It was a special tour. But, it’s difficult. The band suffers way more than the label suffers, which is another reason why the full-length isn’t out yet. I mean, the band is mine, and so if we have to make sacrifices, I’ll make them my sacrifices, because I don’t feel like another band on my label should have to make a sacrifice. But, it’s difficult, and she…When I’m gone on tour, she has to do everything that I can’t do, which is a lot of things, like physically packing orders, which takes hours on end…it’s difficult. We recently got interns, which is amazing, and they have made our lives a million times easier, so that definitely helps with that strain, too. When I’m gone on tour, she’ll still have interns to come help out as well. This summer, once the full-length comes out, we’re going to be doing some very long tours, so she’s going to unfortunately have her hands full with that.
THREE: What do you have planned for Empire! Empire! over the next few years?
Keith: I don’t know that I’ve thought about it that far in advance. It’s sort of an open-ended thing where, like…you know, I’m 30, and at some point we’re going to be starting a family and stuff like that, so…that’s on the horizon, and maybe the band will end then, maybe it won’t. Maybe, if things are going well, we’ll keep doing the band. I guess I like leaving it open-ended, where if it makes sense to keep doing it and we love what we’re doing, we’ll keep doing it, but if it doesn’t make sense for us and our personal lives then…then it’ll end. All things come to an end, and I’m not saying that, you know, there’s an end date, but I guess it’s closer on the horizon than it was when I started doing this band. I think that age brings that sort of perspective. This band— I mean, I’ve never been in a band this long. We’ve been a band since 2007, 2006…2006, yeah. That’s an exceptionally long time for a band…which always cracks me up, because I feel like, if we broke up— Well, I read this bio on Mineral, right? And it says they were a band for ‘five short years’ or something like that. I think that’s an incredibly long time for a band. So, I don’t really understand when people are like, ‘in their short time.’ I’d be curious to see, if we broke up now, if like, ‘in their short time together’ and all this, or whatever, but…I don’t know. I mean, I guess ideally, when I started the band I never saw an end in sight, and I wanted to keep going, but I don’t think that’s a very realistic view of things…but, that’s youth and not realizing that there are other things in life as well, so…that’s a long answer….
DJ: But at least one more full-length and tour?
Keith: At the very least. I mean, I see at least one or two full-lengths at the very least, and, being open-ended, it could go for a lot longer. But, yeah, at the very least, a full-length, a lot of touring— we’re going to Australia this year, and maybe Japan. We’ve got a couple of splits that have already been recorded that will be coming out this year. We’ve got some plans for an EP after the full-length. Just staying busy. Maybe a little bit too busy I guess, but, I don’t know, I think I need that pressure. But, again, the label is more and more demanding as well, so…At one point, when we started the label, the two were mutually beneficial to each other. So, I would go on tour, I would meet all of these great bands, and we became friends with them and were fortunate enough to be able to work with them and put out their records, and luckily enough, they both have grown. But, now it’s sort of like…you’ve seen two trees that grow out of the same spot. They get tangled and bump into each other, and are inhibited a little bit, so that one outgrows the other. So, I don’t know what will happen with that either. I guess I’m okay with that. I’m okay with open-ended things, so…
– Interview and transcription by Dale Jones.