EMPRA is a four piece band of Melbourne rockers set to make their mark on the country as they head off on a 23 date launch tour for their debut album. Lead singer Sanny took some time out to let us get to know him a little better.
Can you tell us a bit about how you got together?
I was trying to form a new band for a while and after I left the last band I was playing in, I begged their bass player Matt (bass) to join my band. That’s when it all started… at a cricket oval in Brunswick. 27 auditions later, we found Gaulty (guitars/backing vocals) on the Melband Internet forum. We went through a couple of drummers until Cattanch came along. The moment he rocked up in a white station wagon and nailed the audition, we knew he was the guy! The band evolved into its current lineup over three years and 7 band members. It’s been quite a journey.
Now, I have to ask, what’s the significance of being ‘passionate white-station-wagon-driving dudes’?
It’s like a good omen for the band. It’s weird the EMPRA lineup that solidified all consists of musos with white station wagons. But now that everyone’s talking about it we can’t change our cars. It would be breaking the code!
So, Sanny and Matts, how do you manage it with 3 Matts, does it get confusing?
Everyone has a nickname. Matt (bass) is the original Matt so he gets first dibs. Matt Gault’s nickname is Gaulty. And Matt Cattanach’s nickname is Cattanach. But sometimes on tour when we’re setting up on stage and I’m like “Hey Matt, do you have any spare batteries?” all the Matts will turn and look at me!
How would you describe your sound?
It’s in your face. High energy. Uplifting rock. And it’s catchy too. It combines the explosive energy of Foo Fighters, with the kick arse of Green Day and the boisterous fun of Weezer with a healthy overdose of Australian hard rock attitude.
A lot of the songs are autobiographical and are based on my life experiences over the last couple of years, friends loved and friends lost and the highs and lows of the journey. The songs start from a catchy vocal melody, cool lyric or guitar riff and that develops in my head into a proper song idea when I work it out on the guitar. Then I present it to the band at rehearsal. We jam on it and try different arrangements until it sounds rockin’. Then I wait for some drama to happen in my life… that’s when the lyrics seem to flow best.
Have you got a favourite song to perform?
It’s always changing though. Right now I’m really digging performing Tragedy cos we do this extended jam where we incorporate the riffs of Immigrant Song, Knights of Cydonia and Back In Black in a breakdown segment. It’s pretty rockin’ and I get to head bang quite a bit while Gaulty takes over the vocals during Immigrant Song.
You have overcome quite a range of hurdles to get where you are today, what would you say is the biggest hurdle you’ve beaten?
I think the biggest hurdle was having the courage to get started. I was stuck in a dead end job at a call centre listening to people complain all day and I spent a lot of time worrying about my future. I knew for about a year that I needed to form a band and get back into it before I actually did it.
I understand Sanny that you have a metal elbow replacement, can you tell us about that-and why it defied the odds for you to return to playing guitar?
I was trying to jump off the Marshall stack at a show in Singapore with my last band The SUNS, but I tripped and fell. While falling in slow motion the only thing I could think of was protecting my guitar and held on to it. But I landed on my elbow and it broke it in five spots. At the hospital the doctor told me I had torn all my ligaments and I would need a metal elbow replacement. After the operation I could only move my thumb. I was so scared man! I was told that I could get better because the nerve was still intact but I was going to have to push myself in physiotherapy extremely hard. So after about two weeks in the hospital, I checked out and saw a holistic physiotherapist who really helped me through it cos she was so positive.
I also spent some time in an ashram in India in meditation and started strumming acoustic guitar to all these meditation songs and that really helped as well. After about three months I could play again. I actually became a better guitarist because I had to relearn how to play and my technique improved. When I went back to see the doctor he couldn’t believe it and said my recovery was at the 99th percentile. He said I was either very lucky or very determined or both.
The album is out now on iTunes and Bandcamp, what can we expect from it?
Expect to get your arse kicked and your spirits lifted. It’s in your face and it’s high energy. It’ll pick you up if you’re having a bad day. It’ll get you singing along with the rock face as well. Just remember to leave a review after you buy it cos that helps our sales.
How did you come to work with Wally de Backer of Gotye?
Wally used to play in an amazing band called The Basics and my band at the time The SUNS used to do a lot of shows together with his band. He knew Wayne who was the drummer from the The SUNS. The EMPRA album is a tribute to him and so I called Wally and asked him if he could play keys on a track that I had written. He was so supportive and he even agreed to it without even hearing the song. How cool is that? Although he is such a busy muso, he still rocked up to the studio and he was like so Sanny what you want me to do and I was like… just do your Gotye thing bro. And he was like… OK! When he was done, it really sounded like Gotye jammed with us! Freaking cool.
This isn’t your first attempt at an album, can you tell us a bit about your first attempt?
We signed up to record at a studio for a package deal that seemed like a good idea at the time. But the studio was so unprofessional. There were numerous excuses and delays lasting months and they delivered mixes that were 10 times worse than our home demos! The producer was also an alcoholic and a very aggressive one too. He threatened us, blackmailed us and wanted to sue us… He refused to hand over our recordings! Eventually we had to see the lawyers but we decided to be the bigger man and walk away to start over again… It was very disheartening but still a good lesson in the music business. We’ve learnt how to be more careful and more professional in our business dealings after that bad experience.
What has been your career highlight to date?
Selling out Revolver Bandroom for our album launch. 290 tickets and 10 media passes! 270 of those tickets were EMPRA sales by the way. That has definitely been our highlight so far. Until we finish writing a new song… that always becomes the next highlight for me.
You have supported some great acts up until now in your career, if you could share the stage with anyone who would it be?
Weezer. They are one of my all time favorite bands. I really wanted EMPRA to be on the Weezer cruise. I hope they come to Australia and I hope we get to be main support! Anyone out there with the relevant connections, please get in touch!
The album launch tour is just about to kick off with shows all over the country, is there any nt thing you are really looking forward to?
If the question is “anything you are really looking forward to”
I’m really looking forward to travelling around the country and meeting rockers from all across Australia.
If the question is “anything you are not looking forward too”
Actually I’m not looking forward to getting work related calls about why stuff hasn’t been done yet at work!
(I am so embarrassed, and you have done this so well that I can’t bring myself to just remove my typo. It was supposed to read “any one thing you are really looking forward to”. But this gives two great answers so I have to keep it. Thanks Sanny !)
Have you got a favourite venue to play?
Revolver Bandroom. Cassie Walker is a pleasure to work with cos she’s so professional about every aspect of a gig and they are very supportive of musicians. It’s also got a great sound and fantastic lights. The only horrible thing is lugging your gear up the stairs but hopefully the album takes off and we can start hiring roadies!
What’s next for EMPRA?
Right now? Coffee and another interview!
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us.
It’s been a pleasure!