Emperors: Happily “A Bit Out of Fashion”

Perth, Australia’s Emperors’ are certainly not concerned with being liked by “the cool kids” of the music industry… In fact, even their popularity has come in the form of...

Perth, Australia’s Emperors’ are certainly not concerned with being liked by “the cool kids” of the music industry… In fact, even their popularity has come in the form of a bit of a throwback… They’ve been garnering a reputation on US college radio… along the lines of how legends like Pixies and Throwing Muses began their legacies… The band also sound a lot more along the lines of the bands to play the original Lollapaloozas than much of what’s currently going on in music (I think Matt Pinfield would’ve been happy to give them some substantial airtime.)  Their 10-track debut LP, Stay Frosty, dropped last year, which their spending much of 2013 promoting.  I recently got a chance to chat with vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Adam Livingston about all of this… in addition to things like video-taped sleepovers and girlfriends dressed up as beloved sci-fi vixens…

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Izzy Cihak: I love that you refuse to pander to current hipster trends and have no interest in being darlings of the most pretentious musical press.  What is it that most drives and inspires you?  You draw a lot of comparisons to the 90s.  (That being said, you do quite remind me of Alternative Nation and my youth… I’m 28.)

Adam Livingston: Wow, Alternative Nation. That reminds me of staying over at friends’ houses, staying up, watching MTV ‘til like 5am when I was 10 or something! I remember these sleepovers where my friend had a video camera and we used to make these films where we would punk each other and watch it back later. We’d show the videos to our friends who weren’t there and everyone thought they were pretty funny. If only I had an entrepreneurial streak in me, I could have been Bam Margera before Bam Margera was Bam Margera… Instead, I took up playing guitar and writing songs… I just realized how disturbing it is to start a sentence with: “I remember these sleepovers where my friend had a video camera”…

What drives me? A competitive streak with a hint of romanticism, I guess. I hear a lot of shit on the radio, and I know music is a personal choice and all that, but I hear some shit and I just think, “Who the fuck would actively listen to and enjoy this shit?” And then I hear that they just got a 9.6 or whatever the fuck on some website somewhere and it all just seems kinda meaningless to me. It drives me to try and write better songs and try to connect with people and get them liking real rock bands again. People aren’t being told that they like rock music anymore, at least not in Australia, and it seems like it’s a bit out of fashion, which drives me to want to try and make people love it again. The best way to do that is to write good songs.

IC: How would you characterize your sounds for Americans, who may be yet to hear it?

AL: Loud, catchy, grungy rock and roll, but it’s always hard to answer this one, so yeah. Anyone who says they don’t like us is pretending, and not in the good “girlfriend-dressing-up-and-pretending-to be-Princess-Leia” kinda way.

IC: What have been the highlights of promoting your debut LP, Stay Frosty?

AL: I think the definite highlight for me has been getting played on college radio in the US. You read stories about great bands getting their first plays on college radio and it’s pretty damn exciting to know that halfway across the globe someone thinks your songs are good enough to give them a spin. Every time we get an E-mail from a fan saying “come to America” it’s a fucking awesome feeling. We’ll be there soon, hopefully.

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IC: Do you have a particular favorite track, or a track which you feel like best exemplifies your current musical mindset?  I’m quite fond of “Song of the Year” and “Drug Mule.”

AL: My favorite track has been “I’m Not Dead” from the start. I just love that low-string riff and the lyrics are some of my favorite on the record. “Drug Mule” is the heaviest song on the record and gets a lot of traction with our fans. I think it’s a great song. It’s one of those where we had this meaty fuck-off riff and Greg (guitar/co-writer) was like “I don’t give a fuck what it ends up being about, this song is going to be called ‘Drug Mule’” and that was that.

I’ll always tend toward writing pop songs. It’s just how my brain works. So I think if you got “I’m Not Dead” and “Plastic Guns” (I think, objectively, and in terms of structure, “Plastic Guns” is probably the best song on the record.) to fuck and make a baby, then that’s about where my musical mindset would be right now. I’m trying to write riff-based stuff, but stuff that people will remember. People remember pop songs, so riff-based pop songs is where I’m at right now. I think I just confused myself.

IC: You’ve played alongside a number of notable acts.  Are there any artists you dream of playing with, whether entirely realistic, or not?

AL: We’ve been really spoilt with some of the acts we’ve played with. Touring around Australia with Everclear has already been a tick off the dream-list and they were such awesome dudes, as well! I’d love to play with Weezer on one of their cruises, or tour with Pixies, or more recent bands like Silversun Pickups or Manchester Orchestra, but the list is a very long one, so I’ll stop there.

IC: What are your plans for the rest of 2013?  If you do make it to the states, what can be expected of the live experience?

AL: We’re on an Australian tour right now, which finishes late April. Then, after that, we’re gonna go with the flow. We’ve got another record to write and a current record to wrap up, so I’m not really sure what the rest of this year has in store. We’re looking at touring the US towards the end of the year, but there’s a lot of particulars to figure out for that one!

When we play live we try to sound like we do on the record but with a bit more “grime”, oh, and you don’t have control of the volume, of course…

Band Interviews

During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.