EMPRA are one of the favourite bands in our house, with the whole family, so to coincide with the release of the new single and the new direction it seemed a new interview was warranted. We interviewed them back in 2012, at the time we were introduced to their music. A lot has changed since them and they are a far cry from the Sanny and the Matts we fell in love with, but the band and the music is just getting stronger so sit back and find out all the news. This one is a little longer than our usual interviews but it is high energy, check it out.
One thing that I didn’t ask first time round, why I’m not sure, how did you come up with the name and what is its significance?
EMPRA is an anagram of an ancient Sanskrit word PREMA, which means Universal Love. It’s the spirit that embodies the core essence of our band! Ultimately it was something that we connected with… we love rock’n’roll, we love the band, we put a whole lotta love into what we do and for the amazing people who come to our shows and we just wanna lift their spirits with rock’n’roll energy, bring them together and spread good vibes and good times! So that’s what we mean by universal love… Hopefully we are achieving that!
A lot has changed in 3 years, can you tell us a little about the new line-up and how it came about?
Yes it has. Well after our last overseas tour to SE Asia when we got back our drummer and band brother Cattanach decided that touring was something he could no longer commit to because of work and personal commitments. It was an EXTREMELY difficult thing for him to do. He told me that at the rehearsals studio when the other two Matts weren’t around. He was holding back his tears telling me he wanted to quit the band and I felt so deflated because we had gone through so much as a band to get to this point … but I understood and gave him my blessings. But he still stayed on until we found a new drummer cos he’s a real gentleman. He was even nice enough to show Flip a thing or two about the songs.
So we were out of a drummer and then we had to find a new one…. things happen for a reason! We put out an advert online and on social media and 25 drummers applied to join. Out of all the drummers there was one super enthusiastic girl named Georgia Flipo. She came to the audition and and out drummed every single other drummer! But to be honest, I had this feeling in my gut that she was going to be in the band from the moment she wrote us an email and sent us a video of her playing Strange Condition and singing along! It’s been incredible having her in the band. She’s brought so much energy and optimism and enthusiasm and crazy fun and she’s fit in perfectly and took us to an even higher level!
So now with a new drummer we started working on a bunch of new songs and reworking our old ones, and we were getting ready to record… The first sessions didn’t go according to plan and we had to put them on hold. It became evident that our guitarist Gaulty wasn’t really vibing with the band anymore and was reluctant to move in the direction that the songs were heading. I feel sh*t about it cos inevitably I think I made him feel a bit excluded from the process because there wasn’t much he could really contribute musically to the new direction any longer. At the same time, I couldn’t bear to change the direction of my writing to something that would appease him cos I wanted to push the band into the direction that we’re at right now. We were becoming a simpler band that was more focused on letting the songwriting shine. In all fairness, the band became something that was way different from when he first joined. There was a lot of tension in the recording studio and at rehearsals and it just became very apparent that his heart wasn’t in it anymore and we were not vibing with him… It started to lose it’s fun. It sucked cos he’s a brother and had been with us for three years. But things happen and at the end of the day you gotta stay true to your creative vision. It was a very difficult thing for both of us to part ways, but I do think he’s a lot happier now. He’s doing great things with his solo acoustic project at the moment, it’s like City & Color and really really good. And I’m just really excited and happy that EMPRA has evolved to where we need to be right now. It’s a great feeling to finally get to this point after a year and a half of trying to figure it all out in spite of losing two brothers along the way.
Earlier this year you also launched a new logo, can you tell us about the design and how you came up with it?
Credit has to go to Georgia Flip who came up with the initial idea. We wanted a circular logo to fit into her kick drum and she started the ball rolling and actually drew the first sketch. It was her who suggested the three rings encompassing the logo representing the three of us. Then the lighter sky is like the sun and the bottom part is the darkness of the land of life…. our music lifts spirits and we have an underlying positive vibe about us… even if the songs come from a dark place… like depression, anger, loss, loss of love etc… there’s always something above that that kinda sheds some good vibes on a sh*t situation. Which is what our music is about… And the heartbeat represents that the message of our music is from the heart… the line is actually modelled after one of my ECGs too! It also looks like a mountain so that’s like the adversity of life challenges that you get thrown into and have to figure your way out from… it’s pretty deep!!! We love it! We finally have a logo and it fits into a kick drum.
The new look comes with a new sound. Can you tell us about the new direction the band is taking?
I think with our new direction we’ve tried to break away from what we did in the first album cos we didn’t just want to do the same thing again. In doing so we pushed very hard to write stuff that was more interesting to us, that kinda vibed with the music we are currently digging too and reflective of our life experiences right now … It’s still fundamentally a rock’n’roll band from the alternative rock spectrum. Where it changes though is that there are a lot more contemporary influences and sounds thrown into the mix to freshen it up which makes it very exciting for us to play live.
A big change obviously is now there is one guitar instead of two so the guitar parts are more simple which allows for the vocal melodies to shine through. There’s a more fuzzy sounding guitar tone which is still agressive but warmer and more fun and also there’s more wild guitar effects and solos now. Matt has a waaaay dirtier bass tone, he’s playing a lot more melodically which I’m super proud of how much he’s grown. He almost doubles up as a second guitar with the dirtier bass tone too. And definitely the lending of a female vocal harmony blending with my vocal makes it sound more interesting and different and opens up a whole new realm of vocal possibilities for us. My voice and Flip’s voice blend really really well together like brother and sister! Georgia is just a prodigy. She’s insanely talented and can do just about anything and it’s just so easy working with someone who gets it so quickly and totally vibes with you! So it’s like a new sound entirely, in a way it’s more simple, but more thought out too… it’s actually a LOT more epic but still rock’n’roll and fun. It really does sound like an incredible progression for the band and I’m very very happy and proud that we achieved this in only a year and a half! As for the songwriting… whoah… I tell you, I had to really dig DEEP for these songs hahah… I almost went insane and almost drove everyone nuts by the number of times I changed my mind about things!
August 2 saw the new single released. Rebecca is a favourite in our house, what can you tell us about it?
That the song isn’t about a girl called Rebecca but I had to change her name to keep her identity a secret so there would be less drama following me around.
When can we expect the new album? A new single is fantastic but we need more than one song.
I’m not sure yet. We have written the whole album (and are still writing more songs) but at this stage we’re still shopping it around and trying to build a strong team around it’s release so we can give it the best shot possible!
This next one is just for my entertainment value. Looking around the venue at a show, what would guess is the youngest audience member you’ve had?
That would be YOUR little angel at the Grace Emily wouldn’t it?
(It sure would, he was 6 months old at the Grace Emily gig and we had Mr 6 and Miss 10. We also headed to the next Sunday acoustic session with those 3 and Mr 14 in about October. But I had to ask 😉 )
Earlier this year there was talk about heading to America, what’s the current status of those plans?
We are heading there in October this year and stopping by Singapore along the way. We held off going earlier this year to SXSW although we were invited… We wanted to finish up the new recordings first. It’s all systems go now!
(Which is extremely exciting but very sad for us if you are the next Aussie exports that don’t come back )
Is there a single launch tour and where are you heading?
Yes. Kicking off in Sydney on 30 August at Frankie’s, then to Adelaide on Matt’s Birthday on 4 September at Jive Bar and then back home to Melbourne for a launch & farewell on 19 September.
What’s next for EMPRA?
This month we are doing a bunch of fundraiser shows for Oxfam Australia to help raise awareness for poverty in the world today by doing a acoustic rock residency in Melbourne with a bunch of our mates like Massive, Pretty City, Smoke Stack Rhino & Ten Thousand! There’s so much that we can do and it’s a lot easier than you think. In some places of the world people worry about whether they are going to get a clean glass of water to drink today! It really puts your life into perspective doesn’t it? But there’s so much we can do to change that and its a lot easier than most people think … We feel really passionate about the projects that Oxfam do because they provide people in poverty stricken places of the world with the skills and resources to help them create and sustain their own solutions to poverty. It’s such a good thing. You can read more about this at oxjam.org.au
The show at the Jetty Bar in Adelaide is on a Saturday and an acoustic set, which has me completely intrigued. Can you tell us why this one is acoustic, have you ever done an acoustic at Jetty Bar and what can audiences expect from the set?
We started toying around with the idea of an acoustic set which interprets our songs entirely differently… like those MTV Unplugged shows from back in the day. It’s all stripped down but still vibing. We even started jamming with an incredibly talented cello player (who’s also a rad DJ) named Strofik and together we’ve kinda come up with an entirely different set which is so so sublime and beautiful sounding but still rocking and uplifting in the EMPRA way. We might be bringing some strings along with us to the Adelaide show too. The reason why we wanted to do a different sorta show at Jetty Bar is because the Friday show at Jive was gonna be a full blown Rock thing…. so we wanted to strip it back for the Saturday show. They’re both gonna be sweet. Hope to see you guys there!
Wow, what a huge year you’re having and some massive plans to come. Thanks for such an in-depth and thoughtful interview. I am bummed that we are going to miss the Juve set but am hoping to get to Jetty Bar – we love coming to see you there; even if I don’t feel comfortable bringing the preteen.