With an explosive live show driven by passionate belief of each song’s story, Empire Park deliver a sprawling, nostalgia-tinged melting pot of alternative rock, singer-songwriter storytelling and ambition. The band were hand picked for their hometown leg of Falls Festival in Marion Bay four times, culminating in a prime-time slot on the Field Stage in 2016, and most recently supported Nothing But Thieves on their sold out Australian tour. Now they’re tour their latest EP Nobody’s Watching Me alongside Melbourne indie rockers Club Yorke. We chat to lead singer and rhythm guitarist Harrison Manton.
Straight off the back of your debut, Weight, was the release your first EP, ‘Nobody’s Watching Me’, and you’re making your way to Ballarat, Geelong and Hobart this month, what can listeners expect from the album tour?
We just started in Sydney on the weekend! That was awesome. That was the first time we’d actually ever been up there so we were pretty pleased with how it went. We’ve been trying to make sure the stuff on our record translates live because obviously, the music all came together in the studio and not just on the stage. We’ve been just trying to deliver a presentation of that in a way so it comes across and everyone can have a good time for an hour and forget about some shit.
Now tracking back a little, you’re all only quite young in the Australian rock scene. How was Empire Park born?
I’m the youngest. I had my 20th birthday at the Sydney show day the other day which was a great way to celebrate. Originally, I started a solo project when I was 16 back when I was imitating Matt Corby, which I like to do still in my spare time every now and again but haven’t done that for a while. It was actually completely different members at the start. Jordy joined about a year after that and he’s been with me ever since so after a few different member changes we thought it was developing more of a band sound and dynamic so we started to go forward as a ‘band’. Two years on from that we settled on the lineup we’ve got now and that’s settled and final. There was people that we brought in that were good musicians but weren’t apart of our real close mates and eventually we drifted apart and they did their own thing and left us as just the guys and its all the better for it.
Now your producer, Aaron Dobos has worked on records from bands like the Avalanches, British India and Ceres – how did that all come about that got working with him?
That was actually just pure luck. Aaron sent us a message before we’d actually moved up to Melbourne and he’d heard our really old stuff and liked it and said we should get in touch and talk. Then we did ‘Weight’ with him and he gelled really well with us both as a producer and as a mate, which was really important for us because we want to work with people who we get along with on a personal level. He was such a hands on producer and he helped us start to find where our sound is and work out the base to what we wanted to do. He was so helpful and was a crucial part in getting the EP out where it is obviously.
Lots of people have said your sounds could be compared to that of Gang of Youths whilst of course maintaining a sound of your own. Does Empire Park pull influence from Gang of Youths? Who else are some of your inspirations?
We’ve had no blows about the fact that Gang of Youths are a huge… probably the biggest influence in centering all of us on one focal point. None of us had all really agreed on one point of focus before Gang of Youths had come along. I’d been really into them for a while and when ‘Go farther’ came out the whole lot of us decided that we wanted to affect people in this same way with this sort of meaning and honesty I guess.
We don’t really have any need to do the rock or ‘swaggery’ sort of stuff. What we’ve got is actually honest and in some ways impactful on a personal level, which was more the take away we got from Gang of Youths. Obviously their a huge sound influence but we’re trying to move on to our own palette and put all our influences on the board and find our own thing from there. But we definitely haven’t shied away from the fact that we’re massive Gang of Youths fans.
The first single from your EP ‘Tranquilliser’ is a powerful rock song with so much emotion, can you tell us a little bit about the track? What’s it all about?
It’s one of the only songs that’s really based around a riff and is essentially a straight up and down rock song. We wanted to put that out as the first song to lay the platform for what everything else was going to branch off; everything else gets a little more experimental in its textures and going forward that’s something we want to work on.
Lyrically, the song itself was written about a time when I was at the tail end of finishing a relationship with someone and coming to terms with how I was dealing with that. I wasn’t dealing with that in the best way that I should have and I needed to have a look at myself and that was the song for me.
What does the future hold for Empire Park?
I would say I’m over the top and grandiose in my dreams, but I have no expectations as such. I just hope to keep pushing and pushing and pushing until someone tells us no. In the short term, we’ll be look at new music hopefully by the end of the year and hopefully some festivals through summer. All the while we’ll be plugging away and trying to knock some dominoes down and get our feet in some doors.
Check out their video for ‘Tranquiliser’ live At Howler!
Catch the boys touring alongside Melbourne indie rockers Club Yorke at Karova Lounge, Ballarat – June 14 & The Workers, Geelong – June 23.
Written by Aine Keogh