The brains trust behind Emperors, Greg Sanders and Adam Livingston, sit down with Daniel Cribb to discuss their new album Stay Frosty, trendy bogans and tour antics.
If you're friends with either Greg Sanders or Adam Livingston, chances are you've made your way on to Emperors' new album Stay Frosty. If you're not friends with either of the two, but an attractive female hipster that noticed a long-haired mid-20s male staring at you on the bus, you probably received an honourable mention. Vocalist/guitarist Livingston and guitarist Sanders have mastered the art of storytelling; they can turn somewhat mundane situations, such as Livingston staring at women on buses, into catchy melodies backed by fine instrumentation.
“You know how there's new-age bogans now?” Sanders asks. “Bogans used to drink VB and wear flannel shirts and listen to AC/DC and, generally, there's nothing wrong with that. But now bogans are those dudes who drink energy drinks, go to Future Music Festival and wear the V-neck shirts with bird shit all over them. They've all got really massive arms, but they don't work out any other part of their body,” he describes, while Livingston laughs. “So they're really skinny, but their arms are gigantic – so [Hey Dolly] is about that. Most songs are just about things that we find weird or kind of piss us off,” he continues.
When their pool of tales runs dry, they simply create new ones – which is why Livingston's long hair is somewhere in Vietnam and their music videos for Be Ready When I Say Go and Plastic Guns have become somewhat out-dated. “There was a guy on the side of the road in Vietnam and I was like 'Hey, that'd be cool to say I got my hair cut in Vietnam' and there was really only one haircut that he knew,” Livingston laughs, discussing a post-recording holiday. Accompanied by bassist Zoe James, Sanders travelled Europe for the month, while drummer Dane Knowles drove down south to unwind with family.
Out of all four of them, it would seem the Knowles needs as much energy as he can get for their time over east. ”With [our] blog, we started it with the intention to just write standard, boring tour diary stuff and then we were like 'This is shit. This is really boring, so let's just make it about Dane because Dane is hilarious'. So that blog is just about the adventures of Dane. The last tour [Adam] was the one who got really messed up, but the entries are still about Dane,” Sanders says.
“The first time we were in Sydney it was three in the morning and he went to the Opera House, and got ripped off by the taxi driver,” Livingston recalls. “The time after that the four of us were staying in this tiny room that wasn't meant for four people and we had this tiny little bathroom in there. None of us could have a shower or anything because [Dane] ended up spending the night on the bathroom floor in the foetal position. Put it this way: none of us wanted to go have a shower in there after that,” Sanders laughs.
“I wasn't sick of stuff before [Vietnam], but it was just like this massive steamroller of a thing, being in a band, and I've never just taken that time off before. It had just been continuing and continuing and it was just nice to have that month and then I came back and was like 'Let's get going again',” Livingston explains, excited to hit the road. With the resulting quality it's not suprising the production of their debut album was a draining venture. After building up a solid reputation for themselves within the WA music community, playing the Big Day Out, releasing a solid EP and touring the country four times, they've delivered on the expectations set up when winning the WAMi award for Most Promising Act in 2010.
Spending two weeks in the studio is a considerably small period of time though, when you hear of bands spending months on end tucked away, but intense preparation before entering the studio meant that was all they needed to get the desired results. “I've got a little home studio and the two of us will get together. One of us will have an idea and we'll just flesh it out behind a computer, put down some artificial drums and things and then once it's all sort of been thrown together and we've got a loose structure, we'll take it into the band room with the other two members and tighten it up a little bit,” Sanders explains.
“With the two weeks thing, what we did was go out of our way to make sure there was really as little thrills as possible. Every song, it's just us; two guitars, bass, drums, vocals. There are no extra instruments, there are no guest vocals. We just went in and we played pretty much exactly what we do live, because we wanted to make a record that we could play live and would sound good live. It's quite easy, when you're in a room with 20 different amps and guitars, to want to use as many toys as possible,” he justifies.
The pair admits they're a band stuck in their own bubble of musical influences. While it's something that appes to a lot of bands, most others wouldn't dare divulge such information to the public – for fear of their work will somehow lose credibility. Nothing is completely original these days, accepting that Emperors have been able to build off predecessors and take Australian rock to the next level. If you've heard their latest single Be Ready When I Say Go blaring on the radio, there's an unmistakable hint of Perth legends Jebediah in the mix, which partly comes from the unmiastakeable presence of Dave Parkins.
“He gets results. Every single we've recorded with him has been played on radio. A lot of bands get restless and kind of just want to go to different producers with every album they do, but I don't really see why. We're onto a good thing here. You hear of bands spending stupid amounts of money going overseas, going over east quite often just for a name… This doesn't happen anymore, but if a record label said 'Here's $50,000 to record an album' I think we'd still do it here,” Sanders emphasises.
“And just spend the rest of the money,” Livingston laughs.
“He's got this way, when you're tracking, of making you feel like you're the best guitarist in the world. As soon as you put the guitar down he makes you feel like a piece of shit again, but while you're playing he gives you the impression that you're really talented,” Sanders adds.