Eye Empire is a Good Bunch of Guys – Interview

Eye Empire has been around for three years now. I’ve only recently discovered via a band that I’m friendly with Three Years Hollow. They told me I needed to check these guys out so I did. Three Years Hollow is/was just a local band, but Eye Empire really helped them start to branch out. In a way the guys in Eye Empire make up a bit of a super group, but if you asked them they’d humbly say that they’re by no means super…I know that because I asked front man Donald Carpenter that very question, but I forgot to hit record. So what you’re going to read and hear is an interview with Don that just starts with Don answering my second question. Eye Empire is a solid bunch of guys who have their heads on straight, who aren’t interested in making it big, just putting out a good product and their debut album “Impact” with 19 tracks is just that.
 You can listen to the interview here:

 

Zoiks!: How did you guys come together?

 Eye Empire: It was the product of life taking hold, you know? I mean, it was a scenario where me personally, I was, I had left my record deal, lined up and decided to really get back to the basics of life a little bit, see what was going on with the core of me just as a person. I know for Corey, it was, at the end of Dark New Day, and meeting Brad when he was at the end of Switched which were his bands, you know, it was kind of a, I guess a stroke of luck that they had gotten together at that time, because they had basically transitioned out of those bands into writing songs together which turned into some of the early song ideas that would start out Eye Empire. So, it was really just kind of blowing in the wind, living life, following our passion, following our hearts, and eventually over about two or three years of Brad and Corey working together they finally found me, and I came in October 31st, it will be three years this year, and once we sang that first note which was “I Pray,” we knew that we had something that was worth fighting for, and that’s what we’ve done ever since.

 Z!: Is starting over, or starting a new band after being in established bands, was that frustrating or was it more refreshing?

 EE: A little of everything. I don’t think we had frustration with our talents and abilities to be able to come together as a band. Everybody that came in was a true professional, there was a lot of respect that normally, there’s always an odd man out when you come together in bands sometimes, and there was just such an equal respect all around that it made it easy to play. Some of the frustrations and difficulties can come with actually figuring out how do we actually do this, and how do we make it different. We knew that the industry was changing and that we were gonna have to try find a new path and in some ways maybe trail blaze some of those paths and have some foresight that may not have been incorporated before, so frustration everything, I think you have to really embrace the struggle and kind of become a part of it to try new things and to be a little risky.

 Z!: Your new album, Impact, just recently came out, but you guys have had, I’ve been trying to look this up, but you guys have had it for awhile right? You’re just now releasing it?

 EE: Well there’s been a different, we’ve done this a different way, we knew that it was gonna take a lot of patience on our part let alone our OCD generation and our ADD generation. Everybody sorts into details a lot of smart listeners out there and in the same sense, there’s a lot of inpatient and cynical listeners out there, and we needed a way to keep people interested and also promote our band, build it early while we were slowly putting things together in the studio. We spent the first year just writing, recording, buried in a box, basically bleeding ourselves dry, dedicating ourselves to the actual songs. Just keeping people holding off a few months let alone a couple years while you put the business infrastructure just to get out on the road, so it’s been a process and the creative way that we decided to do that was to do some limited press where once we had our first ten songs, and that’s all we had, we just recorded them. We put them on a disc and we hand numbered the first thousand, we hand-signed the first thousand, and we put those up online directly from us, and the one place you could get them was directly from us. We sold out of that first album within the first month, and when that happened it was like well damn, there’s still a lot more time and there’s still a lot more people out here. And that’s when we decided let’s go ahead and do a second thousand, and that’s when we did one thousand one through two thousand, and we hand numbered them, hand signed them, and on that one what we did was we asked everybody who bought the first one to send in a picture with them and their disc, and we took that and we made this 3-D collage out of it inside the second pressing, and that way we made those early fans a part of the music, but we changed two or three songs that way it had a varied track listing. It made each cd unique, and we thought that was a cool way to not create a little capital, but kind of give birth to the next disc, to promote the band, give our fans a tool to promote the band, we knew that people were gonna be burning discs. It’s not really about that, it’s really about building your live show, building your online presence and your fan base can kind of take ownership of itself, and all of that time and all of that investment not just from us, but from our fans with those early collectibles has turned in to this official release which is gonna be in Best Buy it’s gonna be in FYEs, it’s gonna be on iTunes and it’s called “Impact,” and it’s basically what we did was we took everything that’s evolved over these three years and we put it on two cd’s and that’s turned into nineteen studio tracks and three acoustic versions that are on there and two live recordings.

 Z!: I got a chance to hear all of that, and I like it a lot. How would you describe the album to the fans who have yet to discover you guys?

 EE: You know, I think it’s life. At this point in my life, getting another opportunity to fight for a dream and pardon the pun, but make an impact not just in my own life by having something by having a reason, but in other people’s lives. I just felt like I needed to be honest. I needed to be candid. I wasn’t gonna write fairytale stories and pandering political BS. I was just gonna try to be honest and open and really my theory on it was to write music that people could truly relate to. They couldn’t just enjoy it as entertainment and as an escape, but they could actually find refuge. They could actually find a relatability that maybe could really help bring a little positive energy in this world by maybe defusing some of the negative hardships that we all experience. Sometimes life can feel pretty lonely and it seems like you’re living that singular point of view, but the reality is we all in one way or another experience a lot of the same emotions and a lot of the same things in this life, and we’re just trying to share something real, something honest, and I think that’s what you get in this record. I think you get a dynamic sound. Sometimes, life is abrasive and it’s time to stand up and be heard, and then at other times it’s a little more tender and a little more soft and that’s what we tried to incorporate in those nineteen studio tracks, the dynamics of life, the dynamic story of the emotional human being, and something that’s real and relatable.

Z!: You mentioned earlier about building the live show and the live audience, when working on Impact was there any level of stress about the success of the album?

 EE: No. We knew that if we did it this way, which is basically an independent partnership, that we wouldn’t need a huge fan base to sustain ourselves and that’s the idea. The idea is just to really create something that’s real that’s not marketed, that’s not inflated numbers, not pay for play and whatever else goes on out there, to really stack the table. We wanted something that was real that was a connection. Us and our fans decided who we are, where we are, where we’re going, and when it came down to that we just knew that it was all about the songs. We just wanted to get together and really put the time and effort into writing really good songs. We’ve all written a lot of songs, and I think that’s the only way you can really be good at it is to really just do it over and over and over, trial and error, trial and error, see what works. We felt like we were coming up with stuff that wasn’t just poignant, but it was also catchy. So we feel that if you put all that together with the ability to reach your fans like today just in social media, we think that we can create something that can take on a life of its own. It’s something we were worried about while we were creating it, it’s something that we feel we see every day just in the fact that we’re here and we’re doing it.

 Z!: What’s the band’s writing process and how is it different from your past projects?

 EE: Well right off the bat it’s different because we’re coming from such a respect level so there’s a lot of trust and I think that sometimes when you get in previous bands, you can have a majority of the lightning going to a few guys, and it kind of keeps you a little paranoid, keeps you on your toes. For us, it’s been a little unorthodox in the sense that we haven’t really been a normal band. I live in Tampa, Corey, we do all of our production work out of Atlanta, and Brad lives in Cleveland so it’s always been a logistical nightmare in some sense to get everybody together to create so a lot of it’s been done in some unorthodox process. Moving forward it’s gonna be done on the road. We’ve got our HD recording rig out here with us, and we’ve got our acoustics and as soon as we can get some of this initial kickoff stuff done with this record, we’re gonna start working on the next one. Corey has the ability to write a song with a bass line, and we’ve done quite a few songs on the first record that way. Brad is always working and has a whole stock pile of ideas and recordings that we pull from, and I write myself so we kind of say what are we feeling, where are we headed, what do we have to say, and from that we decide who brings what to the table.

 Z!: You guys are out on the road right now. What can fans expect from your live show?

 EE: Love, respect, and support. It’s those three words for us, that’s what we convey every night. Our live show is highly energetic in the sense that we energize ourselves with just our love and our passion for music. For us it’s not about how many, it’s about who shows up, so whether there’s ten people or a thousand people, you get the same show out of us. Like I said, it’s respect and some of these people have been here for two to three years waiting to see us play live and connect with us personally and so we go out there and give it everything we have every night no matter how many or who is there. At the end we always go out, shake hands, say hello to everybody. One of the things that we feel shows a humble and appreciative band is accessibility so that is something that we’re really focusing on with this band.

 Z!: I’ve noticed based on your tour dates, you’re playing of Midwest dates. How are the crowds? Has the economy and everything affected turn out at all?

 EE: Yeah, there’s definitely an economy effect for sure. There’s a lot of people that are hurting out here, but in the same sense it’s all the more need to get out and really experience some release you know? Folks showing up for us, it’s still early, and basically a lot of these areas that we’re going to, it’s a non-radio back support type of situation so we’re starting out small, a lot of them are early supporters, bringing friends and building us and helping those crowds grow a little bit. We’re still playing those small clubs, those small little venues, and we’re keeping it focused that’s the reason we’re playing a lot of those Midwest dates. We’re playing a lot down the east coast, with our situation we can’t really spread ourselves too thin. We have to focus on a few areas that have been key for us in the past, and that’s what we’ve been doing has been building it. We’re about to come passing back through the area and we’re excited about it. It’s been about a month or two.

 Z!: Cool. In bands everybody has their own influence. What’s the secret to satisfying everybody’s influence?

 EE: For us it’s a pretty wide range. Corey grew up with a musical family. His father is a big influence for him and his mother. For me, I grew up, I think my musical world really changed when Sound Garden’s “Superunknown” came out, and I think that same year Alice in Chain’s “Dirt” came out and I grew up on Creedence Clearwater Revival and John Denver and a lot of different music and then when that came along with the Metallica’s of the world, I really started heading in this direction. For Brad, I know that Brad is highly influence with Stevie Ray Vaughn and Eddie Van Halen and he kind of mixes those sounds together a little bit with some of his newer love for modern metal. It’s life really. We’re just inspired by life.

 Z!: The business part of the music industry tends to tear bands apart, or it can. How do you keep the creative and the business separate?

EE: Oh man. That’s a good question because in our scenario it’s damn near impossible. I guess what’s key to that is whenever you sign a record deal, you’re not just signing, it’s not just like a loan. You’re basically getting a loan, but what makes it different is you’re also signing away ownership to your music which is the hard part, that’s the tricky part, that’s what really hurts as an artist. For us, in our scenario, what we’ve been fortunate in our partnership and the partners that we have found to get involved with, is that we are able to run our business, be a part of the business, but in the same sense even though that clashes or doesn’t clash, even though it’s a part of our creative process, we still own our music, which makes it unique. We can still have the opportunity to put out our music, put out our records, run our business, but keep ownership of our art, and that’s what’s key. I think it is difficult for a lot of situations especially past scenarios to try to keep those two things separate, but for us, we actually have the freedom to combine the two and in a lot of ways it’s been official because we’re in touch with our fans, we’re in touch with our fan base, we have the ability to communicate directly with them, and so it helps us make a lot of business decisions that I think are beneficial on the creative side and for the fans in general. 

Z!: Cool. Thanks for taking the time to do this with me. That’s all I have.

 EE: Alright brother.

Z!: I really enjoyed the album, and I think you guys are really on to something.

 EE: I tell you what, it’s all about perspective as far as success and how big it is. As long as we all feel like we’re a part of something, that’s really where the success lies. I really want listeners to feel significant again, and I think in a lot of aspects of this world, we feel insignificant. We feel like it’s just better for us to stay on our block and mind our own business and we’ll be good, and we just really, that’s the reason it’s called Impact, we just really want to make an impact. We want people to feel significant again, so thank you for taking the time out to actually be a part of this and help us extend our voice.

 Z!: I like the way you guys are doing it. Word of mouth, it’s a different time, but I like nineteen songs, you’ve been around three years and now it’s just coming out in Best Buy and all that, it’s an exciting time for you guys.

 EE: Well good. It’s a different way man. I’m glad you’re excited about it. Like I said to me that lets me know that, we’re doing things right. It puts fuel in the tank to keep us going, and that’s success for us to be able to do it. We’re very grateful to be here. I enjoyed your questions, very insightful appreciate it.

 BYLINE: Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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