Empyre are a Northants grunge/hard-rock band. Henrik Steenholdt on vocals and guitar, Did Coles on lead guitar, Grant Hockley on bass, and Elliot Bale on drums. New single ‘Too Little Too Late’ has just come out the traps, and it’s enough of a beast for New Boots to go searching for more info.
How did you guys get together?
Did: Empyre really got started in 2016. Henrik and I were gigging in a busy covers band, and that naturally evolved into writing our own music. The original band relied on friends, who were for the most part session musicians. We realised we needed a dedicated line-up to move the band forward, and set off on the hunt for the right drummer and bassist. During that time we focused on the acoustic side of Empyre. Some of that acoustic duo activity you can find on our YouTube channel. We persevered with that hunt for some time, and have now solidified the four-piece format with Grant on bass and Elliot on drums, both of whom are also Northants based.
How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences in music?
Henrik: Our music has been described as “atmospheric rock”, “contemporary rock”, “atheist rock”, “hard rock” and “the love child between Pink Floyd and Soundgarden”. We fuse the roots of rock’s tradition alongside some dark, introspective songwriting, but don’t expect dreary and depressing….expect intense, sometimes raw, sometimes anthemic rock. Exactly what the name of that music is we’re not sure anyone agrees on.
Did: We would site influences ranging from Seattle-era grunge bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden to rock heavyweights like the Foos, Guns’n’Roses and Audioslave. But each musician brings their own personal influences to the table, which shapes the band sound. For example Elliot loves Twenty One Pilots, Henrik is a huge fan of George Michael, Alter Bridge and Abba, Did loves modern country, instrumental rock and Taylor Swift, and Grant loves Tool, King’s X, and Faith No More. Varied, I think! As well as music we are influenced by the world around us. The forthcoming album has songs inspired by philosophical comedians like Bill Hicks, a HBO series protagonist from True Detective [Rust Cohle], atheism, existentialism and relationships. All fun and games.
What was the reaction like to those first couple of singles that predated the new one?
We released two taster EPs in the band’s early development, alongside the release of a few acoustic music videos. We had a good enough reaction from that to start building a fan base and attract management. This helped in connecting us with the wider rock scene in the UK, and we started gigging more consistently.
Tell us everything about this new release, ‘Too Little Too Late’.
This single is the first release from our debut album Self Aware, which comes out on July 5th. The song was inspired by the breakdown of a relationship, so might strike a chord with anyone who has any angst towards their exes! The theme goes along the lines of an exploration of an obsessive and toxic relationship preceding, during and after its collapse. Initially your pride is damaged and your emotions feel like they have been severely tainted. Ultimately, you turn your resentment into detachment, realising you have come out better off than the other person involved.
The single also has a music video that we filmed last year [see below]. It conveys the lyrics, with two actresses portraying the difficult relationship. It’s gritty, a bit raunchy even, and Facebook just banned us from advertising it. Spoilsports.
What are your live shows like?
Henrik: My favourite description of our live show was when someone came up to me wide-eyed after a gig, and said “Woah, that was intense”. That, for me, was a great compliment. It’s certainly intensity that I try to put into my performance, especially vocally. We aim for a big sound, and that doesn’t mean deafening. We want the audience to hear the nuances in the music, and the vocals, even when we’re blasting out the heavier tracks.
Grant: This really depends on venue, audience, gig and us. Empyre are equally at home blasting out the heavier tracks as we are sitting down playing softer, acoustic arrangements, sometimes with piano. The best way to answer the question is to come see us!
Are you part of a wider scene in Northamptonshire, playing with like-minded bands? Any favourite bands/venues?
Did: Northants has a thriving music scene, and we are regulars at The King Billy and The Craufurd Arms down the road in Wolverton. Plus we have a decent support base in Brackley, where we gig a couple of times a year.
Henrik: We can’t say that we are embedded in the scene here though. We’d love to establish ourselves more within our home county, and we’d welcome all the support Northampton wants to give us. Hopefully there are plenty more potential fans of our music in the county yet to discover us. That’s why it’s great to do interviews like this, and play at events such as Northampton Music Festival, because hopefully it will allow a wider audience to embrace our music. As much as we love playing The King Billy and always have a great time we’d really like to play all over the county.
What has been your favourite band moment of the past year?
Henrik: Tough to choose, but probably playing an acoustic set in an Arctic-themed amphitheatre with a pool, in an abandoned zoo in Ibiza, to a few hundred people. Surreal, and fantastic.
Grant: It’s been an amazing year, so there has been a few! The feeling just before going onstage at some of the larger festivals or hearing a track being played on the radio for the first time is up there.
What was the last album you bought/streamed?
Did: Lethbridge Owen Mind over Matter released this month. Empyre joined this talented outfit on the Isle of Wight last year.
Grant: Full Nelson by Massive Wagons. They are on the same management as us [Rock People Management] and we have supported them a few times. The album charted in the UK at 16, it’s great to see them do so well! The last album I streamed was Lykaia by Swedish prog rock band Soen. I love this record and have listened to it daily for the last few weeks.
What is your burning desire to do in the future? What plans do you have?
Henrik: Imminent plans include the inaugural tour to support the singles and album releases. On the RPM Takeover Tour we’re joined by Ryders Creed and The Rocket Dolls. Then we play Northampton Music Festival on June 16th, catch us on the main stage in the Market Square. There are at least three more singles to be released over the next few months, and of course the album on 5th July. Plus we’re doing a special acoustic set at Arena Birmingham on June 28th before the Eagles play there that evening, which we’re really looking forward to.
In terms of burning desires, I want the band to play Download, Ramblin’ Man fair, and some of the equivalent European rock festivals.
Did: I’d love to go out with Empyre on a European tour at some point in the future.
Grant: My burning desire would be for Empyre to be established as one of the UK’s top rock bands.
Too Little Too Late is out now via the usual digital platforms. The album Self Aware appears on July 5th.