Toronto band Young Empires discusses meteoric rise to fame

An article from December 2015 for BeatRoute Magazine in which I interviewed Young Empires


Young Empires released their full-length debut The Gates this fall.

CALGARY — Thanks to their energetic, anthemic, electronic laden indie rock music within the self-described genre of “haute rock” (see: fashionable, elegant, high class), Toronto trio Young Empires have taken their music all over the world. Courtesy of performances in Bogota, Stockholm, New York City, and numerous other exotic locales, they’re showing the world why their first full-length album, the September release The Gates, is being met with considerable critical acclaim.

“I think the eye opening moment for us was during our first CD release party at the Horseshoe Tavern,” says bassist Jacob Palahnuk during a phone interview, referencing the acclaimed venue that’s been open since 1947.

“Before then we had been playing [for] around 200, 250 people, it was all we could draw. That night, after we had had some radio play, it was packed. There was about 650 people, you couldn’t move. We felt like we had cracked the nut, so to speak.”

The transition took a lot of effort and coincides with the band’s creative marketing, including their interactive video “White Doves,” that was released with Facebook. If you visit and input the name of your closest friend, the apocalyptic video tailors itself to feature photos of you and that person alongside the storyline of a young man and woman fleeing from a fire.

“We really wanted to integrate the user into the story, into the video and have the user’s custom memories be a part of the story, which is what the song is all about… looking back on time,” explains Palahnuk. Another interactive video is forthcoming.

Connecting to their audience is a big part of the band’s marketing. Their Twitter account is constantly updated as the band tweets back at fans.

“We kinda came up in the social media generation. This was the forefront when we started the band, it allows you to engage with your fans one on one and give that special interaction, something that wasn’t available to band’s in the ‘90s, or even the early 2000s.”

The band’s signature sound of light, layered beats alongside resounding vocals stems from their lack of training.

“We don’t come from any sort of musical background, so when we went ahead and did that, it was ambitious but it also lent itself and become its own instrument,” says Palahnuk.

“We were just kind of creating things on the fly and we shaped our sound that way. And also not having any sort of technical background allows you to be free and do whatever cause you don’t know what’s technically right or wrong, you just go with whatever you think feels good or sounds good in the moment.”

This reverberating, warm technique has drawn comparisons to some fairly heavy company like Arcade Fire and The Killers, despite Young Empires’ relative inexperience in releasing music. Indeed, the 2015 full-length was their first full album after six years of EPs, singles, and remixes.

“It’s very humbling to be put in that company, but also a bit challenging if you are held to those kind of standards,” says Palahnuk hesitantly. “We’re very thankful to be compared to them, but at the same time it does become a weight on your shoulders to live up to those standards, to your fans and to yourself as a musician.”

Rather than allow the comparisons to weigh them down, Young Empires is going ahead with a winter tour and will then begin recording their next record.

“It might seem a little soon, but we do have those cold winter months. It’s a good time to lock yourself away in a studio and just start writing.”

Young Empires are performing on December 5th in Winnipeg at the Pyramid Cabaret, on December 8th in Edmonton at the Starlite Room, and on December 9th at the Marquee Beer Market and Stage in Calgary. Dragonette and Dirty Radio will also perform at all the gigs.

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