the AU interview – WAMi Festival 2010: Emperors (Perth)


As I sat down in a cafe with Vaughn, Greg and Adam from Perth’s Emperors, it dawned on me how little I knew about this band. They had come out of nowhere to scoop a WAMi award for most promising new act. So to get the ball rolling, we spoke about the awards night…

Adam: It was pretty good (to win). I had all these things I was going to say though, and all these people I was going to thank, and then I got up there and froze and said thanks …
Vaughn: I was mostly the same. I just stood there and stared at the cake box (which housed the WAMington, ones award for the night).
Greg: I wasn’t there because I was sick. The SMS was good though! *laughs*
A: We’ve all been involved in the WAMis in the past in other bands, but yeah it certainly felt great to get nominated and then win one. But it’s normally a pretty good night anyway, so that was just a little bonus.
G: It’s a good opportunity to see people in the industry get really hammered, who you wouldn’t normally see getting hammered. Saying things they probably wouldn’t normally say.

A bit of honesty perhaps!

G: *laughs* Yes.

Now you are a band where things have been moving incredibly fast. I mean your 10th ever show was at the Big Day Out – and now here we are, you’re WAMi winners! Could you shed a bit of light on just how we’ve arrived at this point?

G: Yeah it’s been really nice that it’s happened so quickly and everyone seems to receive it well, but we did put a lot of work into it before we played our first gig. So I don’t think it’s come together as quickly as it comes across.
A: We’re really cold, calculated guys.
G: A lot of people see the first 10 gigs and the BDO thing or whatever – but we did put in a good year of writing and practicing before we played our first gig.
V: We did our first recording before our first gig, too.

The Favourite Colours EP?

A: Yeah, that was part of the plan. To have a really well recorded song that we could come out of the gates with… and it worked really well for us.

I take it you’re pleased with the result.

*All laugh* – Yeah!
G: Surprised, but really happy. I was surprised.
V: You always hope for things, but then every time something happens you still get really excited.
G: The thing is that once Triple J play your song, it makes things a lot easier for you.

What is it about Triple J that has that effect do you think?

A: I think it’s just a very specific market of people who listen to it. I mean you’ve got your nationally based community radio stations, which are also really important – but because Triple J have got that national broadcast, it’s just really great exposure.
G: I wouldn’t say you need it to be a successful band, but it certainly helps. And we’re crossing our fingers that they pick up the next thing we do as well!

And what is this track?

G: It’s a single called “The River” which is going to be off an album we’re putting out a bit later. It’s really recorded and stuff.
A: We’ve just got to figure out what to do with it!

There’s that cold, calculated side of your band again!

A: *laughs*
G: We wanted to have it done for the WAMis but it didn’t get finished in time, so it will probably be a few more weeks. But who knows… I mean we’ve got stuff that we’d recorded with our older bands that has yet to come out…

Do you still have any involvement in your older projects?

G: Nah we’ve quite all our other bands. We’ve put all our focus into Emperors.

So could we expect some substantial touring soon?

G: Yeah, well I mean we haven’t’ done any touring yet, we’ve done 15, 20 gigs or something like that… So far we’ve basically been taking things as they’ve come, and now we’ve got a manager who’s going to be looking at that side of things.
A: I’d love to just be touring all the time.
G: I’d say it’s very likely we’ll be doing some East Coast shows later this year. Something will have gone wrong if we haven’t!
A: We’ll just all implode or something.

Dave Parkin produced your first single – is he on board for the new material?

G: Yeah he did the whole record. Good guy. He’s the best guy in Perth to do pop music with really.
A: He’s a bit of a genius. We were very lucky to get him too.
G: He’s got an interesting way of working – you’ve either got to like it or you don’t. A lot of people wouldn’t, but I think those that have made good records with him have loved his way of working. It’s a pretty relaxed approach, let’s put it that way. A no stress environment. Which is great because recording studios usually are – and this is probably one of the reasons he puts out great records.
V: It was a bit of a holiday too, because we all took some time off work. But then it ended and we got depressed.
A: Clicking our mouses at work… it does that…

So now let’s go back to the beginning – I understand that Adam and Greg founded the band, and then you became a five piece. How did the final product form?

A: Well we got together as a four piece first of all, and then there was just something … not lacking … but missing.
G: Well we originally got Zoe in because I was playing in a band with her at the time (Genghis), and she’s a great bass player and singer. And Dave who was the original drummer, I played in a band with him too. And then Adam used to play in a band with Vaughn, before Emperors… so it’s all really incestuous… and so we got Vaughn to join because we wanted …
A: A bit more versatility with the guitar bits.
G: Something a bit more interesting. And also he’s pretty good with the guitar *laughs*. He added a lot of the songs though that me and Adam had already recorded. Took on a new life. Turned out a lot different to where they started.
A: Originally we were going to be a Blues Rock band. But it didn’t really work out that way…
V: A long time ago the two of them were sitting in a pub and they were like “oh man you should buy some drums, and be the drummer in our blues band!” and I’m like (sarcastically) “yeah I’m totally going to buy a drum kit!” … and then a few months later they’re like “yeah, we’re not doing the blues thing anymore… oh and we have a drummer”. “”Um, can I play guitar?”
G: You took some convincing though didn’t cha?
V: Well that’s because I was playing in Split Seconds for a bit.
G: Zoe and Dave didn’t take any convincing…
V: … oh and also because I had to buy a guitar, and get credit debt.
G: Yeah Vaughn joined the band and instantly maxed out his credit card.
V: I now have enough gear to start my own band!

So how do you feel your recordings translate on the stage?

G: It’s definitely not as polished as our recordings, it’s a lot more abrasive. I mean they’re pop songs… but it’s three guitars turned up really loud. Add in some feedback and some shouting…
V: Heavy pop?
G: Yeah. Loud and abrasive. If anyone’s going to be shocked, that’s why.
A: I like thrashing around a bit, Vaughn loves thrashing around a bit.
G: We all love music from the 90s. So if you love music from the 90s, you’ll probably like it. It’s funny actually… I’ve played in quite a few bands over the last 7 or 8 years, and they’ll all sounded like 90s bands. You’re the same right (Adam)?
A: Yeah… different kinds of 90s music.

What sort of 90s music are we talking about here?

G: There’s obviously grunge stuff in there, and then some indie stuff like Built to Spill and Pavement.
V: There’s lots of stuff that comes out, but I don’t think you know really what comes out as the predominant influence.
A: I’m definitely enjoying playing the music in this band more than I have in any other.
V: It’s also just fun to play loud stuff.
G: And if you make any mistakes while you’re playing really loud, people don’t notice!
V: Not that we do that!

Don’t miss Emperors at the Civic (Perth) on June 12th when they launch their new single “The River”.

The River by Emperors

Favourite Colours by Emperors

Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.