Since their formation in 2009, Dublin/Athlone based Red Empire have been going from strength to strength, now regarded as one of Ireland’s most promising groups this decade has seen. Having watched them perform live back in 2014, supporting the incredible Aslan in Killarney, I’ve become a big fan of Red Empire’s material. Earlier in the week, I caught up with Craig, lead vocalist, who had this to say about the group’s success story so far.
Where and when did it all begin for Red Empire?
We started about 7 years ago. It was like a weird practical coincidence all of a sudden. Myself and Gar had been playing and writing together for years and Richie and Deco, being brothers, had been doing the same. We were both looking for what the other half was searching for at the time. Joe (our manager) had been working with Richie and Deco and asked Gar and me to come on board and it’s just gone from strength to strength since then. Damien, our bass player, came on board two years ago and he’s been a great addition the band and our sound.
Who were your biggest musical influences growing up? Have those musicians influenced your material today?
For me personally it was The Smiths, Jeff Buckley, Chino Moreno but everyone in the band has their own distinct background. Gar has a background in composition and loves the Pumpkins and Radiohead, Richie’s mad into Oasis and The Verve so there’s a lot of variation at play in the band in that regard. Damo’s big into metal. Every now and then you can hear it subtly creeping through in the music in the different ways.
Was the music industry always your dream career path?
I think that if you use terms like “career path” as a musician in relation to making music you’re on to a loser straight away. Being a musician and an artist is a vocation first and foremost. If the number 1 reason you’re making music is for money, you and your music will be found out. Now, in saying that, you have to have a bit of savvy and be able to support yourself. Unfortunately the Irish music industry isn’t exactly thriving at the moment so creativity has to be applied in how you get your stuff out there too.
In 2014, your song “Small Mercies” won ‘Best Music Video’ at the ‘Dublin International Film & Music Awards’, was that a big moment in your careers so far?
Yeah, it was great. We were on tour in Germany at the time and Daragh Murphy, our friend and video director, picked up the award. We have a great relationship with Daz and our music videos are something that seem to really attract people to us. We work very closely with him on them and they are developed over a long period. It’s a great way for people to get to know our work.
Would you ever have considered one of today’s talent contests such as X Factor or The Voice in order to get your name out there? Why/Why not?
No. Categorically, no. The reasons why are as obvious as they are simple. The whole premise of a talent contest is competition between artists. We don’t believe in that. That’s a fundamentally f**ked-up concept in my opinion. A piece of art, a performance, a song either works or it doesn’t and who needs a panel of “personalities” to judge that? I can judge that for myself.
If you could sit down with any musician, alive or no longer with us, and ask them for music advice, who would it be?
Probably Jeff Buckley. He was just so good. I would probably pretend to ask him for advice while at the same time subtly trying to get him to sing as much as possible.
To date you have produced 3 EPs and 1 single, recently released your debut album, and are embarking on an Irish tour next month. Where do you see yourself this time next year with regards to new material and shows?
We want to record again as soon as possible. Our debut album is, in a lot of a ways, quite an intimate and vulnerable album but if you came to see us live you would experience a lot of other shades including a much more rock-orientated sound. We want people to hear that side of us. This time next year hopefully we’ll be well into recording our second album.
Speaking of your tour, where can we expect to see you across the country this summer?
You can catch us live at all these dates and venues:
1st July – Boyle’s (Meath)
2nd July – Odd Mollies (Louth)
8th July – The Malt House (Westmeath)
15th July – The Carranstown Lodge (Meath)
16th July – Whelan’s (Dublin)
22nd July – Musibar (Sligo)
What advice would you give any young, budding musicians who are just starting off in the music industry?
Work really hard at making sure that your songs and how they’re performed are top notch and be honest with yourself about that. Once that’s taken care of (hint: that will never be fully taken care of so stay on your toes and always look to improve) network prolifically but genuinely with other artists and promoters. Do not send out hundreds of formatted messages in order to become “known”. If it’s not a genuine connection you’re looking to form people will know and they will ignore you and rightly so. Go to gigs, inspire yourself, talk to people. Be your warm and social and interesting self – people will remember you if you do. Think of clever and novel ways to promote your music like a clever video, short film or ad campaign. People will come to you if they’re attracted by what they see and hear and if it’s clear that you’re thinking outside the box.
Big thank you to the lads for such an insightful interview, they were an absolute pleasure to speak with, so genuine and passionate about what they do. I can’t wait to hear what material and opportunities the near future brings them, they deserve every ounce of success they achieve.