Sometimes the most compelling art can come from life’s greatest struggles which in the case of Tooth & Nail newcomers I Am Empire only added fuel to the group’s already blazing alternative rock fire. Though the San Jose-bred fivesome had no trouble igniting the local scene since forming in 2008 including dates alongside Flyleaf Sublime Deftones Silversun Pickups Thursday Four Year Strong and The Wedding and pair of charting singles (“You’re A Fake” and “The Elevator”).
(Brian) First off what is your name and what instrument do you play in I Am Empire?
(Eric) My name is Eric Martin and I play drums in the band.
(Brian) Who else plays in the band?
(Eric) Austin Lyons sings Andrew Stanton and Dan Otis play guitar and Joshua Case slaps da bass.
(Brian) For some people who may not know much about you guys let’s get a little back-story. How did the band form?
(Eric) I Am Empire formed in August of 2008. Prior to that they had been known as Vespera. That band went and toured in Estonia and it didn’t go so well. When they came back after two months and roughly 15 shows two members quit and they had a letter from a lawyer saying they had to change their name because some other band had it already and had threatened to sue. It seemed to be the turning point of the band. Dan and I joined; the band name was changed to I Am Empire. We recorded our self-titled record and hit the road.
(Brian) In your own words how would you describe I Am Empire’s style musically?
(Eric) It is really hard to pinpoint our sound to be honest. I know every band says that but I think it is true about our band only because we have so many different types of songs. You can pretty much read any review ever written about us and you will see that a lot of people agree. I think what I Am Empire is most known for is our hard rock style. We play really loud we have guitar riffs we have guitar solos we have three part harmonies we climb the stages we stage dive and we have fans that headbang and mosh.
(Brian) Why and how did you guys come up with the name I Am Empire? I think it’s a pretty cryptic and interesting name.
(Eric) I have heard a few different interpretations of the name but I think the one I am going to go with is sort of the obvious explanation: I Am in reference to the Lord and Empire almost like the Lord’s Empire.
(Brian) What would you say I Am Empire’s main mission would be?
(Eric) Our mission has been clearly shown to us this past year. There are a ton of young kids in the world who experience abandonment whether it is from a father/mother brother/sister boyfriend/girlfriend friend etc. Our singer Austin was the victim of father abandonment not only once but twice. We feel that we have been called to help the kids who are going through that. We want them to know there is hope in the world and that hope is through what Jesus has to offer.
(Brian) Here’s a fun and interesting question: Christian band or Christians-in-a-band?
(Eric) This is always a fun question. These aren’t my own words but Jesus didn’t really go around pointing things out that were Christian.” He didn’t walk around and say “That shirt is Christian” or “This cafe is Christian.” A t-shirt can’t be saved ya know? We all individually believe that everything in the Bible is true and that the only way to make it to Heaven is through the blood of Jesus. Sometimes–well most of the time–we sing about our experiences with God but not 100% of the time. We just sing and write about life experiences and turn it up to eleven.
(Brian) I Am Empire just released an album right? Could you tell us a little about Kings?
(Eric) Yup in January. The entire record is about Austin’s life. When he was 10 his biological dad left. Austin then had a step-dad until he was 21 and then his step-dad left because “he wanted to have kids of his own.” Austin has gone through a lot dealing with that: depression therapy you name it. The record is about experiencing pain anger sadness and hope but has a concluding theme of forgiveness. It is about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel and finding joy in the hardest of times.
(Brian) This is you guy’s second album but I Am Empire’s first on a label correct? How was it different releasing an album on a label versus releasing your first album independently.
(Eric) Correct. The songwriting process was pretty much the same. The five of us spent a lot of time working on these songs and then we had three weeks to record them. Our independent record was recorded over a span of eight months. Releasing the record however was much different. Everything is decided by a panel of people not just the band and our manager. Tooth and Nail has a whole department that specializes in marketing another one for radio etc. We had a lot more people working with us and for us than we did before for our self-titled.
(Brian) How was it working with a professional producer like Rob Hawkins?
(Eric) Rob Hawkins was a lot of fun to work with. Despite only having three weeks to record an album we still spent a half-hour each morning “warming up” with a quick game of Halo and “cooling down” for half an hour at the end of each day doing the same thing. We would also take generous lunch breaks in the middle of sessions. All in all Rob did great things for the record. His personality and attitude meshed with ours incredibly well. We had a lot fun and ended up driving home from Nashville with a great record.
(Brian) Which style of releasing an album in your mind was better? While I know some people like having the freedom of making whatever they want independently others like having a label to back them up.
(Eric) I think any new band who says it was better independent is lying. Tooth and Nail didn’t even really listen to the demos. They just let us make the record we wanted to make. When the record was complete they exposed us to thousands of different people who otherwise would not have heard of us. We are grateful for what Tooth and Nail has done and look forward to a long career with them.
(Brian) So what is the story and meaning behind the album name Kings?
(Eric) The general idea behind the name is the idea of a young man picking up the crown that was left behind. When the king of the household walked out it was up to Austin to pick up the crown and be a better man than its previous owner. The cover depicts just that a young boy who looks dirty and messed up holding a somewhat shiny crown that looks like it was found in the mud. When discussing album titles we liked that “King” was such a loaded word. We talked about how the Lord is King how people create false idols and worship them as kings etc. It wasn’t too focused it wasn’t too fancy or too confusing; it was simple and powerful.
(Brian) Kings deals with a lot of dark themes on it. Are those themes from personal experiences or are they just from you guy’s imagination and what you’ve heard?
(Eric) Austin’s personal experience. Think of the entire record as a testimony. The cover should have had a “based on a true story” sticker.
(Brian) Now that you’ve released Kings what’s the next step for I Am Empire?
(Eric) We have been touring all year and will continue to tour until the end of the year. We are always writing and recording so we will continue to do that in between tours. We are going to really focus on the next record in January and February.
(Brian) You guys were just on the Fire with Fire Tour; how did it go?
(Eric) It was a lot of fun. The Letter Black Write This Down Icon for hire and Nine Lashes are all awesome. That tour seemed like mostly festival appearances but the shows we did play together were a lot of fun.
(Brian) What is you guy’s tour schedule looking like for the future?
(Eric) We are about to embark on a west coast tour opening for the “Over my Head Tour” with Brian Head Welch Project 86 The Wedding and Spoken. Then we are doing a full US headliner in October/November with Queens Club and Blood and Water and in December we are going to Germany for some festival appearances.
(Brian) Is there anything that we could be praying for you guys about?
(Eric) Provision! Specifically that we will meet all our financial needs through the end of the year. Also that kids who are struggling with abandonment will hear our music and be encouraged to pray and fight through whatever it is that they are going through.
(Brian) Well I don’t want to take up a bunch of your time which leads me into my last question. Is there anything else that we may not have covered and you wish to let us know?
(Eric) Christcore.net rules and everyone should go add them on Facebook. If you haven’t heard I Am Empire you can download two songs for FREE on our Facebook right now. Check us out and if you enjoy the free songs then buy the record…please! And lastly….I didn’t go back to proofread any of this so if there are any grammatical errors I apologize but I assure you that I passed all my college English courses with flying colors. Peace.
(Brian) Thanks for taking some time out of your day to answer these questions! God Bless.
” Christcore.net rules and everyone should go add them on Facebook.”