Before their headlining show at Sullivan Hall, I had the chance to catch up with lead singer Don Carpenter of Eye Empire to talk about their upcoming release “Impact” and other rock & roll related topics.
Thor: So tell us a little bit about your upcoming release “Impact” (scheduled to be released on June 19th). Who produced it and how does the songwriting process work for you guys?
DC: Well we wrote and produced the whole album ourselves. It was engineered & recorded by Corey Lowery out of Studio 56 at Avatar Studios in Atlanta. We all came from different bands and it was an organic process meeting and working with each other to write this material. We put our own time, energy, and money into it. Maybe about ⅓ of the album was written before I got involved by Corey and Brad Kochmit (guitar). They started jamming on several tracks and Morgan Rose (Sevendust) came in with them to further develop these ideas. I then got involved and started working on some of the staples like “I Pray” and “Feels Like I’m Falling”. We spent about a month in this house, locked up way out of town, constructing the bulk of the next step of our sound. We then realized we had to come out with something to keep our fans interested and to generate some capital for the band because it was very difficult in the early stages. That lead to this two-disc release (Moment of Impact and the upcoming Impact).
Thor: What message are you trying to convey in the newer material as opposed to the older stuff?
DC: Well the newer material is definitely about evolution. From the earlier stuff to the later stuff we evolved our sound, especially vocally. Nowadays you really have to display some type of ability to set yourself apart from everyone else out there. For me I wanted to create a lot of different voices and I asked myself “well, where haven’t I been?”. We don’t want our fans to expect anything so we try to change things constantly. We feel that music shouldn’t be about expectations, it should be about evolution, taking chances, and expanding. We wanted to beef it up by going somewhere new.
Thor: Awesome. Like you mentioned, you’re all seasoned from previous projects. What are your thoughts about the music industry now and “starting over”, dealing with social media, touring now, etc. The industry is so different now as opposed to even five or six years ago and it’s an uphill climb for any hard rock band in a world where hard rock isn’t very popular anymore.
DC: Yeah I mean social networking has been around in some form for at least a decade with forums, etc. I think one thing that separates the industry now from back then is the home studio and the ability to self-produce. That’s something that gives us a lot of power on our own. That cuts a lot of cost too since a lot of a band’s budget from a label goes towards recording. I think the state of the industry now has evolved to give power back to the musicians’ hands. When we started this project we were going back & forth on how to approach our goals because going through a record label and getting a deal is a lot like walking into a bank to get a business loan and incurring massive amounts of debt. You then pray to God to be able to make enough to pay back the loan and provide for yourself. We were adamant about retaining creative control over our music and finding independent equal partners to help us raise capital. A lot of bands are doing 360 deals now and cutting their profitability but we went the route of sharing 50/50 with our partners. I also think that the most important part of the evolution of music is the message itself which is about the fans. Period. You need people to support your music not only from a profitability sense but also to create an impact, which is what a lot of our material is about. It’s about our impact and the impact we can make. Without the consumption of the fans, the impact of our music is minimal. We try to convey a sense of empowerment to our fans and making them understand that our impact is directly related to them. Hopefully this idea spreads to other bands as well to create a bigger movement. We’re not out here to compete with anybody. I try to convey that music is an art of preference and not an art of judgement. You may not like our music but we do ask that you respect us and we feel the same should go for any band because we’re all putting ourselves out there for the fans.
Thor: Yeah, I completely agree. I think your approach is very unique because most bands aren’t that way.
DC: Yeah well the reality is that there are a lot of fake bands out there who have no real message behind them and they try to pander to whatever’s trendy now. To me that’s where the real revolution lies: we all want something real so let’s stop talking about it and actually give people that realism.
Thor: Definitely, I think that honesty is part of what leads to success.
DC: We need a balance between strong messages that people can relate to and the bands who are just entertaining. If there are too many bands that are solely entertainment, it makes rock become a parody and not taken seriously, which is part of the problem nowadays.
Thor: What are you guys’ future plans? I see tour, tour, tour!
DC: (Laughs) Yup, we have a lot of shows coming up. When we started we knew off the bat we were going to do it the old-fashioned way but just getting out there and playing our music and building our fanbase slowly. Luckily we’re at a point now where we can use our resources to put on some bigger shows and better opportunities. We’re fully taking advantage of promotional companies, bookers, etc like Gotham Rocks. It’s great to see a scene building and us being a part of that. I think next year we’ll even be part of bigger opportunities. We have our sights worldwide but we’re taking it one step at a time.
Thor: It seems you have both short-term plans and long-term plans in good form. That’s something I see missing with a lot of unsigned bands these days. Everyone wants to play Madison Square Garden but very few plan out the small steps first.
DC: Yeah. There’s a lot left to do but it’s love, respect, and support. That’s our mantra. It’s catching on with people which is great and humbling actually.
Thor: So finally, what have you been listening to, rock-wise, these days?
DC: Well the latest Lamb of God record is amazing. Also, this band Animals As Leaders is very inspiring to me. I can’t translate anything they do to how they influence me personally but I like them quite a bit and it’s cool to challenge your mind that way. I always go back to some older stuff like Soundgarden’s Superunknown album. The new Chris Cornell Songbook, his acoustic record, is incredible. Other than that I listen to a lot of the bands we’ve played with such as Kyng and Call Me No One. Sometimes I listen to Imogen Heap for some melodic inspiration to try to influence the rock world the best I can.