Australian soul band Electric Empire have been on quite a ride since they released their self-titled debut album back in 2010. The boys now have a new single out, as well as a new EP dropping this week, both titled Changin’, and they are about to head on the road in Australia in support of the release. In the lead-up to this I posed some questions to the band’s vocalist and drummer, Jason Heerah, on exactly what changes Electric Empire have been through and what this means fans can expect from the band in the not-too-distant future.
MF: The new EP and lead single is titled Changin’. Is that a theme for Electric Empire moving forward from your debut album? Can you talk us through some of the changes Electric Empire have been through since the release of your debut album in 2010?
JH: The song Changin‘ was completely unintended in its reference to the changes we have made to the band in the last 12 months. In that time Electric Empire has become a four-piece with the addition of our new bass player Simon Olsen. The song actually came whilst on a writing trip together in Melbourne. We knew at that point it was nothing like we had ever done before, and we all nodded giving it the green light. With this band we always like to leave room for…some say the universe, some say vibe, some say God, some say the energy…anyway. we always leave room for this to happen. And we knew when we had written Changin’ that things needed to change.
MF: On your debut album your sound was quite nostalgic and echoed back to a golden era in soul music: the mid 70s. What kind of sound can we expect from Electric Empire on the Changin’ EP?
JH: Well, we can’t give it all away, but wherever we end up it will be with the intention that it has soul roots.
MF: You worked with John Castle on this EP. What was it like handing over the production reigns while maintaining creative control?
JH: This was an exercise that we explored due to the amount of pressure and work involved in being in a band that wrote, engineered, produced and mixed their own album. All of this was on top of playing and singing on the album. It’s a lot of work, and we tried having another person come in, but we have since found it leaves the work that you do in someone else’s hand. Everyone who knows the band realises that we are great fans of Stevie Wonder, Prince, and Donny Hathaway. All these artists had so much control over the production as well as the songs, and this band has always aimed for this old-school work ethic.
Working with John Castle was a healthy experience to see how far we could go. It really gave us all a chance to try new ways of executing things in the studio, and we are very quick learners.
I think for this band we have learned that us having that control is why we are in the situation we are in today, not because of anyone else.
If it ain’t broke. don’t try and fix it. In saying that, these experiences give you the chance to learn and grow together as a unit. It’s really up to us how quickly we want to learn and adapt.
MF: How are you handling the pressure of delivering a follow-up stellar musical creation after the unexpected success of your debut album?
JH: The pressure has actually come from lack of time to get together and write. We have been on a hectic touring schedule and have had hardly any time in the studio together. We have squeezed in a little time though and are really excited to be back in the studio towards the end of this year.
MF: How has adding a new member to the band added to the dynamic between you all in the recording and performing process?
JH: Adding Simon Olsen to the band has been really amazing. He adds a great balance in the band personally, and musically brings such a great vibe to the band. Simon also has a great voice, so the band has now four vocals.
We love ya Simon!
MF: Which artists, local and world wide, are inspiring Electric Empire at the moment?
JH: The early recordings will always inspire this band because of the organic process, feel and intention, but we do look for that in artists of today. At the moment we’re feeling like Australia is producing some great music, such as Matt Corby, Angus and Julia Stone, Tame Impala, and Saskwatch. But to be honest, we’re always going back to the legends of the past, there’s something so magical about all these old recordings that we are all chasing now.
MF: You recently collaborated with (French soul artist) Ben l’oncle Soul on some new material in Paris. If you could pick any other artist alive in the world to collaborate with, whom would that be and why?
JH: Yes! That experience as a band with Ben was great. Oh where do we start? We are listening to a lot of new music and old music individually and as a band, which makes this question hard to answer. But if I must mention a few names, it would be Mark Ronson, Amir Thompson (The Roots), Frank Ocean, The Black Keys, Lewis Taylor, Gotye, Matt Corby, Amos Lee, Adele, Al Green, Cee Lo Green, Lee Fields, Stevie Wonder, somebody stop me….
MF: Aside from artists and music, what inspires Electric Empire?
JH: Just real life and people living in it – yesterday, today and tomorrow. You might think that ‘life’ is not always inspiring for everyone. I think for us there are a lot of experiences in our day-to-day lives to draw from for inspiration.
MF: You guys have toured extensively since the release of your debut album, what’s been your most favourite show so far and why, and what’s been the most surprising place you’ve toured and why?
JH: The most surprising place would have to be hands down Almaty, Kazakhstan. It’s a place that never in a million years I would think to be able to visit, let alone go and play our music there. They absolutely love and crave all kinds of music there. Some of our most favourite shows would have to be the smaller gigs in France we just experienced, like Toulouse, Angers and Marseille. We feel like we get to re-live the very first gigs we did together as a band trialling our songs live for the first time, and the people have come just to see you. So you have their utmost attention from the first note. We love those gigs.
MF: You guys have been touring France the past month, and then head straight into a month of shows upon your return to Australia. Considering all the touring you all have been doing these past few months, and with all this talk of ‘changing’, can we expect a few new surprises in your Australian live show?
JH: Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we told you. But yes ‘changing’ seems to be the appropriate word for these shows coming up in Australia.
MF: Out of your growing catalogue of tracks, which is the favourite for you guys to perform live and why?
JH: I think we all go into auto feel-good mode when we start Baby Your Lovin‘. We also love playing Love, ironically (hehe) and all the new songs.
MF: What would Electric Empire like fans to take away from the new EP and from your live show?
JH: We would love for everyone who came to our shows to become instant fans and to then enjoy the Electric Empire journey with us, helping spread soul music in today’s world.
Changin’ is available on iTunes from 26 October, 2012, and you can catch Electric Empire performing throughout November in Australia on their Changin’ tour. Head to www.electricempiremusic.com for more info.
Thursday, 1st November
Heritage Hotel, Wollongong
Friday, 2nd November
Oxford Art Factory, Sydney
Saturday, 3rd November
Gearins Hotel, Katoomba
Thursday, 15th November
AWME – The Hi FI, Melbourne
Saturday, 17th November
Golden Days Festival, Sunshine Coast
Friday, 23rd November
Mullum Festival, Byron Bay
Saturday-Sunday, 24th & 25th November
Queenscliff Music Festival, Queenscliff