Young Empires

Interview: Young Empires

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Jul 24, 2012

Hot off a month of shows in the United States and Canada, Toronto’s Young Empires played the final afternoon of Ottawa’s Bluesfest. Salacious Sound sat down with the band’s guitarist Aaron Ellingson to talk about plans for the band’s first full length album, what he thinks it takes to become a famous musician and why he thinks Canada is such a cool country right now.

Young Empires

Young Empires perform at Bluesfest.

“Sometimes it’s about the right place at the right time and having the right people hear your songs,” says Ellingson. “We put out a couple of songs on blogs and because someone saw it and posted it, all of a sudden we were touring Europe.”

However, he is cautiously optimistic about the band’s next move despite their experiences touring with Chromeo and Dragonette.

“A lot of bands start doing well and sit back and enjoy it, but we want to use it as motivation and keep pushing forward and not take it for granted.”

The band’s self-produced debut EP ‘Wake Up My Youth’ came out in Canada in January and was mixed by MSTRKRFT’s Alex Puodziukas (stage name: Al-P). The band members enjoyed working with Puodziukas so much that they are trying to book him again (maybe for a few songs or maybe for the whole album – it hasn’t been decided yet).

“There are always schedules to deal with and he’s a busy guy and very in demand,” says Ellingson.

There was definitely a strong chemistry in the studio for two days when they mixed the seven songs.

“For ‘White Doves’ we recorded the song ourselves and gave him the stems and he did a new mix and when we did ‘Let You Sleep Tonight’ we tracked the whole song with him. He is a genius at what he does and brings so much to the table.”

Outside of working on their own tracks, the members of Young Empires have also worked on remixes for Sunday Girl’s ‘Self Control’ and Two Door Cinema Club’s ‘What You Know.’

“A lot of the guitar parts I’m writing now I wouldn’t have done if I hadn’t done those remixes,” explains Ellingson. “Remixes are great because they helped us find the sound that we wanted to be.”

As a band they have licensed their songs for American television programs because Ellingson says it is one of the only remaining revenue streams that works for independent musicians.

“For a band like us the only way we are going to make money, other than playing live, is to license your songs and I think the only way you can [sell out] is if you license your music to things you don’t believe in,” says the guitarist.

The song ‘White Doves’ has appeared on television programs Teen Wolf and Jersey Shore.

“It’s a different world nowadays so using music in movies and television shows to help people discover your band is just smart,” he says. “I think the ways songs are used now aren’t as trashy or smarmy as they were in the past.”

During the release of their debut EP, European music magazines began comparing Young Empires to The Killers based on their instrumentation and the singing style of Jacob Palahnuk. Ellingson says the band looks up to The Killers for other reasons.

“You look at every album they have done and they dress differently and almost reinvent themselves with each album,” he says. “I think bands that make the same songs over and over and over are going to lose fans in the long run because when you evolve you open yourselves up to new fans every time.”

Guitarist Aaron Ellingson and singer Jacob Palahnuk.

Top 40 radio stations around the world are warming up to Canadian artists like Arcade Fire, Drake, Carly Rae Jepsen, and Justin Beiber. Even though there isn’t a strong connection between those artists and Young Empires, Ellingson says it does help the band.

“Now Canada has this cool factor,” he says. “I love how in a Drake song he’ll be name dropping some street in Toronto because you know there are kids in New York or LA that listened to that and all of a sudden they think Canada is really cool.”

He also thinks Toronto is bursting with talent.

“We have a bunch of remixes coming out by DJs in Toronto,” he says. For example, the Wheel Wells have remixed ‘White Doves’ (to be released).

For the rest of the year the band will be concentrating on their full-length album in order to get it ready for an early 2013 release.

“We are really lucky as a band to be in this position because a lot of bands are on their fourth or fifth album before people pay attention,” concludes Ellingson.

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