Q&A: Empire Park on the new single and growing up together
As anyone with their finger on the Unearthed pulse would know, Empire Park are by no means newcomers to the Australian scene. The young five-piece have toured with acts in the league of British India and Nothing But Thieves, as well as making numerous appearances at Falls Fest over the years – so, they’ve got some experience.
With a freshly released new single, ‘Tranquiliser’, and an EP on the way in May, Empire Park are poised to make a big splash in the Aussie Rock pond. We sat with lead singer Harrison to talk about the EP and their journey so far.
Tell us the story behind ‘Tranquiliser’.
Tranquiliser is a self-reflection on moving on and processing guilt in the wake of ending a relationship. This song is about the cycle of excitement in a new phase of your life, looking forward to the possibilities and freedoms ahead of you, but becoming caught up in feelings of self-blame for how seemingly quickly you had been able to adjust, and trying to keep hedonism from becoming self-destructive behaviour.
At times, I struggled with whether or not I was burying the more difficult emotional aspects of moving on with indulgence, or if I had simply managed to come to terms with it before I was able to make the decision to end it. I had to accept that, despite my best intentions, I was not in the right place in my life to give myself to another person in the way they ultimately deserve.
Are the two singles you’ve dropped so far indicative of what we’ll hear on the rest of the EP?
The singles we’ve released up until this point are indicative of the basic fundamentals that we’re trying to build on with the rest of the EP. At our most stripped back, we are a ‘rock band’ – drums, bass, guitars, keys and vocals – so we wanted to put our ‘purest’ foot forward first, I guess.
The rest of the EP, and the music we’re continuing to work on at the moment, hopefully builds on that and adds some more colour and detail to the picture – we’re not interested in making straight-up-and-down ‘rock music’ from front to back. There are tracks on there that are a bit more alt-pop, a bit more grandiose, and always focused on the storytelling most importantly. In a way, those are the tracks I’m most excited about, because that’s more of a risk for us to try and challenge ourselves to expand the space that our music inhabits.
What does your writing process look like? Is it a 5-way effort, or does one person put the tracks together?
There is no set process at all, but whichever angle it comes from, the lyrics, melody and structure are usually filtered through my head. So whoever the musical pieces come from, the tracks end up having the same perspective threading them together.
Often I’ll write a basic song structure and flesh everything out and bring it to the rest of the band to take their parts and embellish them. More and more often, in recent times, either Jack or Ernie (Ayrton – but no one’s called him that except his mum for 10 years) have been writing a lot of instrumentals, lead lines and progressions, and usually they inspire me immediately with something that I never would have thought of from my own perspective.
Ernie and I in particular have the sort of telepathic chemistry you can’t really fake – for 14 years, we’ve lived in each others personal lives and performed together in countless recitals, concerts, plays, shows, musicals and more, so we don’t need to say anything to each other to know how to write or play together in the ways that work best.
You guys are originally from the same suburb. What’s the living situation like now?
Looking back, it’s really funny how we all came together. We now know that all five of us have lived within a few k’s of each other our whole childhood, and separately we were all friends with one or two of the others the whole time, but it was only in the last three years that we all came together as a group. I grew up with Ayrton, and he and I met Jordan and Jack through music class and musical theatre circles respectively.
Michael, Jack and Jordan have all know each other since primary school, and Mike was the last of us to join. We’d been without a bassist for a long time and then he moved up to Melbourne and needed a place to stay. Turns out he can hold his own on guitars pretty well, luckily for us.
What lessons did you take away from your time with acts like British India and Nothing But Thieves?
Getting the opportunity to play with acts that have both inspired us and achieved what we aspire to achieve does a lot for our sense of focus and work ethic. We get to see how hard a band and crew at that level work to put on those productions, the professionalism that they conduct themselves with and the high level of performance they always bring to the table.
To get where we want to get we need to conduct ourselves in the same way, and being as professional as possible is really important to us. Aside from all of that though, the experience of playing to crowds that size is priceless, and it gives us a taste of the reason we’re so hungry to succeed in music – there’s nothing like playing music for 1000 people, and there’s not many better ways to get inspired.
We worked with Aaron on the standalone single we recorded last year, ‘Weight’, and he brought so much inspiration to the table. From the very beginning he was totally on-board with our vision for the music and we really got along with him. No producers that we’d worked with in any capacity before had taken a personal interest in the music the way Aaron did either. We really felt that he was as passionate about the end product as we were, and we found that very encouraging and inspiring as well.
He’s such a hands-on guy, particularly with finding sounds and atmospherics with guitar pedals and synthesisers. There was a lot of time spent with him on the floor of the studio turning dials while Jack played over tracks and stuff like that. The single’s and the EP in general definitely wouldn’t sound as cohesive or interesting without his influence.
Any touring plans as yet, or are you focusing on finishing the record?
We are well and truly past the point of finishing the record, so I’m in the process of constantly harassing our manager to book as many shows as humanly possible from this point on. I get anxious when we’re not playing live, and we haven’t played a show in a few months, so i’m getting serious cabin fever.
We’ve got a few gigs coming up soon, and we’re starting to piece together a major tour for the release of the EP sometime in the middle of this year.
What are you guys listening to right now? Is there an artist currently blowing your minds?
All of us are big fans of Press Club, fellow Brunswick locals, and the album they just put out. The first three singles are all absolutely brilliant and they’re one of the best garage/punk acts I’ve come across in a very long time – Nat may very well be the best frontwoman in Australia.
Other than that, I’ve been listening to a lot of Vince Staples, Ball Park Music, The Bronx, and becoming more and more obsessed with artists that express the emotion through the instrumentation just as vividly as the lyrics and vocals.