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INTERVIEW: Graham The Empire

Hi guys, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Well hey we’ve been fantastic! How about you guys? Thanks for having us!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Nasty”?

Yeah absolutely! We were pretty excited to pick “Nasty” as the first single from our EP because it’s so aggressive. Gets us pumped up every time we play it live too. It’s a song that we think people can relate to because it’s raw and exposed. We’ve gotten really positive feedback from both promotors and fans alike, so we hope that continues!

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

For this song, yeah definitely. Let’s just say it was after a rather – frustrating – evening. I had the guitar riff for a while and never did anything with it. Took my synth and just went to town over the riff and the basic feel and structure of the song took shape. I’m usually an emotion-based writer; if I feel something it comes out naturally in the music and lyrics and Nasty is a raw embodiment of exactly that.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

Yes! We’re working on pre-production right now and will be going into production at the end of this month. We have a really great lead, Mackenzie Possage (from Chicago) who’ll be starring in it. It’s going to be a lot of fun and we can’t wait for the release.

How was the recording and writing process?

Graham did much of the writing in 2016 and Harry began working on the instrumentation from early on in the process. Basically our process was to rehearse the song from Graham’s demo, adjust the structure and different instrument parts, and work out any kinks until the final arrangement of the song was set in stone.

Once we had the song down, we went into record at the Lodge Studios in Indianapolis with a wonderful engineer, Michael Graham. Dane Clark (Drummer from John Mellancamp) joined us for a few of the songs which was a treat. Dane is a great guy and is like a human metronome – a phenominal drummer. We got the first 3 or 4 songs’ rhythm section done within the first day, which was really cool considering Dane and Harry had only just learned some of the songs within a week of hearing the new demos for the first time.

From there we took the masters back to Graham’s studio and worked on adding guitar colors, synths, electronic drums and in some cases went back to the original demo for raw elements. The track “Don’t Let Go” is probably the best example of that. We then went back and forth between The Lodge and Graham’s house until the song was finished and ready for mixing.

What was it like to work with Mark Needham and how did that relationship develop?

First off, Mark is amazing. Near the end of the recording sessions for our EP we were thinking about who needed to mix it. Graham started thinking about bands who had sounds that we liked and came up with a short list. We knew about Mark from his work with Fleetwood Mac, but that wasn’t really the sound we were going for. We looked up a couple of albums that we really loved sonic-wise, like The Killers “Hot Fuss” and MUTEMATH’s “Vitals”; Mark’s name wasn’t just attached to those, but countless other amazing records that we love. We reached out through his management contact honestly not expecting much – he’s in-demand and didn’t know if he’d be interested. He contacted us after listening to our rough mixes and we ended up speaking on the phone for a while. The vibe felt great and he made us feel like he was really into the sound we were trying to create. Definitely was our first, “Ok this thing might have some potential” moment.

I’m not sure what our expectations were when he started mixing – until he sent us back the first mix of Nasty a couple of days later. Holy hell. I’ll never forget that moment I was driving home and listened to the mix – I was blown away. The band listened to it a couple of hours later and we couldn’t stop talking about it. He not only purely captured the sound we were going after, he took it so much farther than we were capable of. Watching his process in person was simply amazing…

How much did he influence the album?

I’d say that Mark’s influence is all over the album. Especially on “Nasty” and “The Best Of Me”.  He was able to achieve a realm of depth, previously hidden within our tracks, which we would have never have found without him. On “Nasty”, the drums were really kind of a hot mess going into the mixing process. We had the original, pulsing dance-vibe electronic loops from the demo, plus a live in-studio cut of acoustic drums that had a lot going on, but they just didn’t sound right individually or together. The way he meticulously structured and layered those sounds together was magic. I credit him much on that song in particular.

He wasn’t really an influence on the recording process except for maybe “Save Me”. Graham spent a lot of time producing that song and after we knew what to expect from Mark’s mixes, we started pushing the envelope further with some of the techniques we used to fuse sounds together.  In hindsight, I wish that we would have met him earlier during the recording process but there is always the next album!

How’s your new EP coming along?

It’s done! Mastered and all! We just finished the artwork with our long-time friend Stuart Phelps and are in the manufacturing stage for physical media.

Any tentative release date or title in mind?

Our release date is currently targeted for September 29th – and yes, we’re naming it “Rise”. This one felt like it needed a name other than “self-titled”. We’ll release a couple more singles from “Rise” over the next couple of months.

Any plans to hit the road?

We absolutely will! The most fun of this for us is taking the songs to the stage and connecting with an audience. We’ve been rehearsing and putting together the visual elements for the show. We’ll do some shows this fall / winter and maybe will play some festivals next year. Look for dates from us soon! [yeah that’s a shameless plug for our website and mailing list!]

What else is happening next in Graham The Empire’s world?

Well, we’re really anxious to get our new music out into the world and connect with fans. However and wherever that leads us, that’s where we’ll be. The EP will be heading to radio soon and we’re in the process of lining up an album release show in our hometown; those are the things that are next for us right now!

Thanks so much for having us, it was a blast!





About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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