We chat with Emperors
Sitting down with Emperors revealed more than just the real reasons behind naming their debut album Stay Frosty. The Perth foursome consists of Adam Livingston (vocals and guitar), Greg Sanders (guitar), Zoe James (bass) and Dane Knowles (drummer extraordinaire), with everything pointing to these guys being good old fashioned mates who enjoy music.
From being Unearthed by Triple J in 2010, Sanders explains that while most of the industry is supportive, there is a tall poppy syndrome on the west coast. Triple J and the media however, have been extremely supportive and overall it’s been a busy two years of consistent work. Surprising, as most people believe there is a unwavering support amongst the ‘musos’ but rivalry always seems to push good bands into doing great things.
Their debut album Stay Frosty has taken them on the road, and Livingston and Knowles confirm that Adelaide was surprisingly supportive for a mid-week gig, while Melbourne always provides a positive reception. Everyone seemed to be in agreement that Tassie will be an interesting stop along the tour, humorously, Sanders cleared up what a map of Tassie is for Livingston, who seemed somewhat shocked by the reference to overgrown female pubic hair.
James explains that they pinched the title for the album from a TV show, Generation Kill. “It just sounded cool and seemed to work, so it was the title for a track which was renamed but it remained the album title,” says James.
Sanders and Livingston put the album together, collaborating on songwriting and hitting the laptop before approaching the rest of the band with the demos. With the duo’s cat (named ‘Breakfast’) providing constant inspiration. Curiosity may prove the unfortunate end for most felines, but James’ says theirs was so named afer a dream she had about a cat called Breakfast – and that was that.
While they are all focussed on the success of the band, they still maintain their days jobs. Knowles toiling away in a paint shop, Sanders working in an admin position and Livingston, hiding his in-patient status, even while being employed as a clerk in the same psychiatric hospital.
Bassist James, however is the only one playing ‘door bitch’, working in promotions.
So would they give up their day jobs for indie rock? James explains that “it is the ultimate dream,” being able to be making enough cash from your passion to cease the 9-5 merry-go-round. Sanders adds “no one sane enters the music industry to make money, but, to make enough to pay the bills and not have to be employed elsewhere would be amazing.”
Emperors have already been compared to the likes of Foo Fighters, Smashing Pumpkins and Karnivool, and overall, the band is just happy to be compared to successful bands. Knowles even believes that the timbre of Livingston’s singing voice is similar to Dave Grohl’s.
On the topic of comparisons, James reckons “Grohl is still ‘the dude’,” and speaking of lead-men, Sanders expresses a wish to give Wanye Coyne of The Flaming Lips a hug, to which James retorts if she ever actually spoke to Wayne Coyne, “I would burst into glitter… we would all burst into glitter.” Until the day they are compared to One Direction, all comparisons are welcome.
The band spent time in the recording studio, with Livingston bringing along his PC to aid his World of Warcraft addiction in-between takes, “I’ve been sober for three months!” he swears. The band congratulates his accomplishment, admitting they all have their ‘nerdy’ things. James confesses to an extensive Indiana Jones and Star Wars Lego collection, while Sanders secretly enjoys Star Trek - blinded by the showy captaincy of Cisco from Deep Space Nine, neglecting to recognise the true three dimensions of Patrick Stewart as captain Picard (tisk, tisk). Meanwhile, drummer Knowles brews his own moonshine and can name obscure parts of drum kits, thankfully, he does not undertake both at the same time.
The band recorded a lot of their material before ever performing live together and Livingston feels that this may have “hurt us for the first 6 months of live play. We were not as tight.” This culminated in an unfortunately “crappy” performance, in which Richard Kingsmill was in the audience, which made them all realise that they needed to step back and perfect there live presence. By this time they had parted ways with their previous drummer and obtained Knowles from another band, a real win.
Having now perfected their live sound, Emperors are now on the road spreading Stay Frosty across the nation, with James favouring “Tired of Winning” as set highlights, while Sanders gets a kick out of an audience getting shaken up for “Be Ready When I Say Go”.
The ultimate dream for the quartet, reveals James, would be a tour with Nine Inch Nails. “Trent Reznor would love me,” says the bassist, “we would have beers and it would be amazing- I have sung “Starfuckers Inc.” at karaoke before.” Livingston confirms his bandmate’s solo performance as “fist pumping awesomeness.” Sanders however, would prefer to tour with Weezer, “but Weezer from 1995,” he specifies, “it has to be Weezer from 1995!”
Their new-found attention also raises interesting questions for what should and should not be allowed n public view, particularly concerning a recent video of Livingston in a compromising position. The singer clarifies he was in his underwear, chewing a Berocca while swearing like a sailor; and while it was very rock ‘n’ roll, it needed to be destroyed for the good of humanity.
When pressed about other interesting video footage there are scant looks at Knowles who remains quiet, avoiding eye contact. Sanders does let slip that while supporting British India, there was a decision to cover their beloved Weezer, which turned into “crap.” Sanders admits to playing terribly, while Sander – singing with British India’s Declan Melia – forgot lyrics, “a musical raping” where they “fucked up royally,” but nevertheless enjoyed. As James blames alcohol, they audibly wonder where the footage is.
Should the Stay Frosty tour afford them international success, Livingston hopes to be reflecting from a sunbed in LA. Because, despite everything, “I want to be fucking rich,” before stating “[It] would be ecstatic being thought of as a great Aussie band.”
And the rest? Sanders just wants to quit his day job, James wants to be on QI because, “Spicks And Specks is so over,” while Knowles really just wants a distributor for his moonshine… and maybe to guest programme Rage.