INTERVIEW: Get to Know Graham The Empire
Alt-rock group Graham The Empire is currently getting ready to release their debut EP on September 29th, with a few songs out now and even more exciting new music to come. Centered around classically trained pianist and guitarist, Graham Zebrasky, Graham The Empire delivers a unique electrifying sound with a modern edge. Although the journey to creating this sound was a long one, it was also a learning experience for Graham, bassist Harry Gagnon and drummer Richard Crowe. By working together and with producer Mark Needham (The Killers, Imagine Dragons, Fleetwood Mac) and Dane Clark, who played drums for their first session, the band was able to hone in a sound that is entirely their own.
Get to know a little bit more about Graham The Empire and listen to their single, "The Best Of Me" below, and stay tuned for more new music.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Graham The Empire for any readers who might not be familiar?
Graham the Empire is the emerging dance driven electro-rock you didn’t know you were looking for. Seriously, check it out.
How did you come together to begin creating music together?
Serendipitous fate as it would seem. I met Richard when we both played in a different band together. We were doing this weird thing where I was trying to fuse the Genesis sound of Graham The Empire with this guy who was doing pure Rockability, which basically just ended up sounding like pure Rockability. It was a novel and ambitious idea but didn’t work. I was always really impressed Richard’s drumming so when the EP was shaping up, I called him and he was blown away by what was on the recording. I always have appreciated Richard’s technique and we always seem to naturally connect and anticipate each other which is so important live.
Dustin is the newest member of the band who just recently joined us as we were rehearsing for live shows. And so here we are – playing this group of songs together – along with working out some new material. It’s so much fun to perform together and create new stuff!
As a band, what would you like to be able to bring to or how would you like to affect your local music scene?
I’m specifically excited to hit the stage with these guys. For me, the best way to affect the local scene is with live music. Playing together has been more of an experience all around than, say, a typical live show. I’d love to help curate a place where everyone can join in on the experience together and sort of share this with us.
You’re just getting ready to release your debut EP in September. What goals did you have in mind for these songs when you first started working for them?
Honestly, and I know that everyone says this, but I just wanted to get the feeling that I had onto proverbial tape, and if the feeling and connection that I had with these songs connected with just one person in a similar way, I feel like a goal would be achieved.
Midway through the recording process our engineer and a couple of people around us were starting to get really enthused about the songs as they were shaping up in rough mixes. One day he leaned over and was like, “You know, what if a few million people heard this stuff? I think it’s that good. You’re shooting too low.” That opened up a new realm of possibilities that I just never considered when I was sitting with a guitar, keyboard, and computer in a small room writing this music.
What were some of the biggest challenges of the writing and recording process?
Well not knowing what in the fuck we were doing for starters. I mean I had done home recording for what seemed like my whole life but never full-on professional A-list studio level. It was so nerve wracking at first. Then entered Dane Clark (John Mellancamp’s drummer) who joined us for the first session to play drums. Playing with an absolute pro like that – we were so nervous! But once we got in the groove (which happened very quickly), that challenge turned into a strength. The songs sounded so tight with the three of us playing together, even initially.
With writing, I’m the type of person who writes purely based on emotion most of the time. Sometimes the song structure or idea is there but there just wasn’t a theme that fit. A couple of the songs just needed a little bit of time to find that interwoven horizon.
During the early writing and demo process I pretty much produced everything on Ableton Live which I had just started to learn on my own. Once we entered the studio, Pro Tools was the standard there but yet I wanted to work on the masters at home and bring them back to the studio with new ideas. I had to learn Pro Tools pretty quickly at home if I was needing to work on the songs – and I’m still such a novice at it – but it all worked out.
What were some of the most rewarding moments of working on the EP?
Ah, that’s a good question that I never really thought about. The beginning of the sessions with Dane Clark were pretty amazing, because it’s Dane Clark. Hearing him say positive things about the songs even in their early form was really rewarding.
Playing “Nasty” in the studio live together when recording the core of the song was also extremely rewarding because that song came together so well and that energy and rawness was captured perfectly.
And last but certainly not least, working with Mark Needham. The guy is a legend and we won’t stop saying that! Just talking to him was rewarding because he was tied to so many records that we love. Every time that we got a mix back from him it was just cloud nine for days. There was nothing quite like playing back your own song, in its near final form, and getting goosebumps because it accurately depicts the feeling and message that you felt when you wrote it – THAT is why we are doing this.
You’ve released a couple of songs from the EP so far, most recently “The Best Of Me.” What inspired this track?
Ending a very long relationship in the worst way possible. That one hurt and I still feel like I’m trying to find an answer to it. Eventually, you have to stop running after someone and refuse to let them take advantage of you any longer…
Can fans expect to hear any more new music before the EP drops?
Well we are talking about releasing a third-single before release, so there’s that to look forward to! And I’m sure you’ll hear some more new material at our shows and maybe a live stream or two!
Do you have any other big plans for the rest of 2017?
We’re hitting the road for whatever that becomes! We’re so excited to perform our music live, meet fans, and see where the EP takes us.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Nothing other than thank you for having us Prelude Press! We really do appreciate your support and hope to see you on the road soon!