Empires' vivid rock ‘n’ roll is now fused with an imaginative and open-armed approach. Born of singer Sean Van Vleet’s fascination with contemporary popcraft, songs like “Please Don’t Tell My Lover” and the night-driving “How Good Does It Feel” see the Chicago-based band adopting time-honored romantic idioms, both musical and lyrical, to mask deeper and darker personal truths.
Van Vleet put pen to paper and began to write in a wholly free space, with no expectations or endgame in mind. He explored a musical language that was quite literally out of character, imagining his songs performed not by Empires but by some indeterminate modern pop thrush.
“It was really freeing,” Van Vleet says, “just trying to put myself in somebody else’s shoes, another artist’s voice. I stopped overthinking what I was trying to say and started saying it much more clearly.”
Van Vleet also immersed himself in classic post punk and indie rock ‘n’ roll circa 1989-1991, his mind's eye reeling as he delved into the canons of such sonic adventurers as My Bloody Valentine, Wire, and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds. Songs like “Orphan” and “Shadowfaux” emerged as Van Vleet accessed previously untapped springs of melody, lyric, and meaning. He eventually played his demo recordings to his fellow band members, who surprised him by validating his efforts, demanding Empires tackle this divergent new material themselves.
“I was just showing them to Max,” Van Vleet says. “I had no idea it was something he’d be into. In my mind, it was this extreme pop but the songs really resonated with the band, which for some reason, I didn’t expect to happen.”