2016 was a big year for Of Empires. After releasing their hit Baby Darlin’ Sugar, touring the UK, playing a gig in a fridge (we’ll explain later), making their way onto MTV and recording their EP See You With The Angels Kid at Metropolis (due out later this year), you might think they’d be ready to take a bit of a break. But instead, they’re back in the studio.
The quartet have set up shop at Seaside Studios, an up-and-coming Brighton-based recording space. It’s home of the very best of modern and vintage equipment, a beautiful SSL analogue desk and one of the best guitar and amplifier collections in the UK. Of Empires have finished making music for the morning, and are currently gawking at a few choice pieces from the lengthy (and impressive) equipment on hand. Not least a C&C handmade drum kit, 1965 deluxe reverb, Vintage 60s vox ac30, Binson Echorec and 1969 Fender Stratocaster.
Since the release of 2014 EP Stranger Sensations, the band’s sound has come a long way, but they say they’ll always stay true to their rock ‘n’ roll roots. Having grown up listening to the likes of The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Black Sabbath, Nirvana and Pink Floyd (apart from drummer, George Le Page, who claims to have been raised almost solely listening to ABBA), Of Empires have a wealth of music knowledge and inspirations to shape their output. Having originally formed as a bluester entity, they’re now developing a more mature, alternative sound. Guitarist Matt Berry describes the new direction of their music as “slightly more rough, a bit darker. I guess psych; I’m not really fond of the word but it’s a good way to describe it, it’s gone slightly more obscure.”
They’ve played some amazing gigs over the summer, including a few cheeky house shows at their flat, and with This Feeling at The Hope & Ruin – which they mutually agreed was their favourite of the year. They also played a gig in a fridge… “We walked in for soundcheck and there was just like a deli counter, and then just people shopping, Then you walk into the old fridge and there’s this big stage and it’s just decked out like any other venue. When the time comes, they’ll roll the deli counter in and put the bar up and then you’re away, yeah. A nice pop-up little venue,” Le Page says.
After recording at Metropolis Studios earlier on in the year, they’ve returned to Brighton to jump straight back on the horse at a smaller, local studio. “It’s going great. The equipment is sick here, like all the amps, all the guitars, we’ve got so many toys to play with,” explains singer Jack Fletcher. “It’s got a lovely, lovely C&C kit, which I want,” adds Le Page. The success of recording in a studio almost entirely lies in what equipment the studio has, and who you’re working with. The band explain that they’ve been in studios before where there’s “no vibe” – what they really look for is a relaxed, chilled out and positive atmosphere.
It’s no secret that Brighton’s one of the best places for musicians to thrive, and through playing endless local gigs, being part of The Great Escape and immersing themselves in the local scene, they’ve really used the city to its full potential. Fletcher confirms, “It’s more inclusive here, Guernsey’s quite narrow-minded, and I’m not saying it’s bad but it definitely doesn’t release you artistically. You feel like you’re going to be judged more, whereas here everything is acceptable, within reason.”
Here’s some advice the boys gave us on how the sea of talented musicians in Brighton can make themselves known: “Play lots of gigs and make friends with bands, and just be that kind of guy that’s at every gig, or try to be at every gig for other bands, you know, get to know people and play gigs with each other. Just play lots of shows, keep writing and pushing it. Try to be the best that you can be and don’t really worry about what anyone else is doing. But immerse yourself in music, I think Brighton is perfect for that, there’s a gig on every single night.”