Interview With Mike Robinson of Empires For Altsounds

Having performed their track ‘How Good Does It Feel’ on the David Letterman show a few months back now and played a number of shows with Alkaline Trio, Chicago based band Empires released their third studio album ‘Orphan’.

We thank Mike Robinson of Empires for taking the time to chat with Altsounds where we discuss working with producer John Congleton on the latest album, their initial goal as a band, live shows, the top 5 goals they hope to achieve as a band plus more.

Altsounds: What were your first impressions of each other?

I (Mike) didn’t really know anyone in the band when I started playing with them. They had a pretty long history together and I went into it sort of blindly and met everyone through mutual friends. All good impressions though. I know Sean thought I was much more ethnic than I actually am upon meeting me.

Altsounds: When Empires first formed, what were your initial goals as a band?

Trying to make it 10 years as a band

Altsounds: How has the response been since the release of your third studio album ‘Orphan’?

Everything has been really great so far… We’re coming across a lot of new faces at shows based off the new songs they’ve been hearing from Orphan. I think the reception so far has been great.

Altsounds: What song would you recommend people to listen to in order to get a first impression of your sound?

Maybe How Good Does It Feel since that was what we started introducing people to leading up to the release.

Altsounds: When writing the album, what did you learn as a band or individually that can be applied for future releases?

We learned a lot about taking things away while recording rather than adding, which tends to be an instinct. When something isn’t working out right away, it’s easier to think “What else can we add?” rather than trying to figure out what to take away. We’ve learned that just leads to diluting good ideas in some cases. Not all the time, but it’s pretty apparent when that is the case.

Altsounds: What was it like working with producer John Congleton on the album, knowing he has worked with artists such as Marilyn Manson and Bono?

Well, I can safely say Marilyn Manson and Bono were not the nail in the coffin for our decision to work with John haha. I actually wasn’t even aware of that until just now. Pretty interesting though. John is a great engineer, mixer, and producer. He was incredibly inspiring to work with and really knew how to get into the core of each individual song and figure out what made that song worth putting on the record. It was a really great experience and we’re all really proud of what we made with him.

Altsounds: For anyone who hasn’t heard seen Empires live, what would you say they are missing out on?

Bon Jovi covers. Just kidding, we strictly play Empires covers.

Altsounds: Could you give us a description of what the music scene is like in Chicago?

It’s like driving through Iowa

Altsounds: You recently played with Alkaline Trio. What did you learn playing with them in particular that you may not have known previously?

Their fan-base is beyond loyal

Altsounds: A number of months back now, you guys performed the title track from your EP ‘how good does it feel’ on the David Letterman show. What was the overall experience?

It was a long day that went by really fast. The whole experience was surreal and a lot of fun. The fact that his time on the Late Show is coming to an end pretty soon just added more weight to the entire thing. Definitely something that you won’t forget.

Altsounds: Having released ‘Howl’ in 2008, what can you say about the new album that may not have been depicted on previous releases?

The new record is sort of revisiting the “formula” that was a part of Howl… Orphan is so much more song-oriented. We learned to trim a lot of fat and focus on the macro side of a song rather than micro.

Altsounds: Setting goals enables us to move forward and have a clear idea for what we want to achieve. As a band, what are your top 5 goals you hope to accomplish?

-Keep improving our craft

-Challenge ourselves as performers

-Grow as individuals/musicians

-Learning to not stress about things that, in the end, really don’t matter. The pale blue dot.

-Create the perfect Fantasy Football team

Altsounds: Plans for the rest of 2014?

Tour tour tour

Altsounds: For anyone who wants to find out more about the band and your music, where can they go?    

Twitter/Instagram: @weareempires


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