Rock ‘n’ Roll Photog: Empires

This week, Jennifer hangs out with familiar friends: loud guitars.


Looking back over my previous entries, I’ve been talking about a lot of pop music. This week I’m changing it up a little bit, and swinging the pendulum back towards my old familiar friend, rock and roll. Ladies and gentlemen, please meet Empires:

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Tom Conrad

They are from Chicago, but last week their tour stopped in New York, at the Studio at Webster Hall. The light was really, really bad; I actually got most of my best pictures while they were setting up.

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Sean Van Vleet

They have two records out — Howl and Bang — and they are both excellent. While I was watching them play I was thinking about how, exactly, I was
going to explain their sound to the Internet. The phrase that came back to me over and over again was “punch drunk love-affair” which, all right, that might be kind of insufferable (again – sorry!) but it’s the best I can do. To me they sound like afternoons spent wandering amid dark shelves covered in whispery plastic contemplating past misdeeds (My Poor Lover), hot summer nights punctuated by fireworks (Under the Bright Lights) –

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Ryan J. Luciani (drums) and Max Steger

– the point where you realize you’ve gone down the rabbit hole for someone (and don’t even care) (Voodooized), a bad love affair or a love affair gone bad (Damn Things Over), and post-disasterous romance roars of defiance and survival (Bang and Hello Lover). Their noise is a big noise, a solid one, like a big wave, but it’s also melodically interesting. And it doesn’t sound like anything else out there, on the radio right now. So if you want something new and big and raw and daring, you should check them out.

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Conor Doyle (bass) and Ryan J. Luciani

Finally, a special note for photography enthusiasts: the deluxe digital edition of
Bang comes with a “making of” video and over two dozen fabulous digital
photographs taken by Tom Conrad .

— Jennifer

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