Sunday, 19 October 2014

I FOUND YOU AGAIN: Exclusive feature on The Empty Hearts, featuring members of Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings, The Cars and The Romantics!

The Empty Hearts are a classic rock and roll super group featuring Elliot Easton (of The Cars), Clem Burke (of Blondie), Wally Palmer (of The Romantics) and Andy Babiuk (of The Chesterfield Kings). Now, we all can list a whole variety of super groups that have not lived up to the sum of their parts, most recently perhaps is Mick Jagger's rock/reggae collective SuperHeavy. However, The Empty Hearts have lived up to the sum of their parts and more. They have recorded a storming debut LP and have just embarked on their US tour.
In the feature below we caught up with Elliot Easton to discuss the new group, the album and some other musical (and non-musical) stuff! We also have a go at reviewing The Empty Hearts superb debut LP!
Hi Elliot, thanks for taking the time to have a chat with us. First question that we ask to every artist is what your first musical memory is and what kind of records were on around the house when you were younger?
Elliot: "First musical memory was Elvis Presley on TV, singing cowboys like Roy Rogers and Gene Autry, Eastern European classical like Khachaturian and Rimsky Korsikov, pop like Judy Garland, calypso records by Harry Belafonte and Oscar Levant playing 'Rhapsody In Blue'. My mom was a Julliard-trained singer so there was lots of music in the house!"
You have recently started this incredible new project called The Empty Hearts. The band is quite literally a supergroup, featuring members of The Cars, Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings and The Romantics. How did the band come to be?
Elliot: "To my mind it really grew out of an idea Andy Babiuk had. He called us all and asked us what we thought of the idea of forming a group. I like everyone in the band, and I respect their musicality so I said yes. We're spread all over the country and I thought it would be quite challenging to get it together but it worked out really well."
Where did the name, The Empty Hearts, come from?
Elliot: "The name came from Little Steven Van Zandt. He's a friend of Andy's (The Chesterfield Kings even appear in an episode of The Sopranos) and had a list of band names that he thought were cool. The Empty Hearts was on that list and we all agreed that it was a great name, so we went with it!"
The eponymous LP was produced by the legend that is Ed Stasium. How did he get involved and what would you say that he brought to the record?
Elliot: "We all go back a ways with Eddie. For example, I played on Peter Wolf's (from the J Geils Band) first solo album 'Lights Out' in the early 80's and the others have worked with him over the years so he was an obvious choice, for his friendship, talent, sense of humor, and personality. I think he brought an unbiased ear to the music, essentially become a 'fifth member' for the duration of the recording process. We knew he'd be getting great sounds in the control room, so we were free to concentrate on the music."
For people that haven’t hear the record yet, how would you describe it?
Elliot: "I'd probably describe it as a modern rock record that tips it's hat to the golden age of guitar based rock, circa 1969-1971. It has a classic vibe, but we were just being true to the music that inspired us early in our lives and careers, which to me is still the best. However, this is not a retro vibe, the influences are there but I feel that it still sounds fresh and new."
There are two particular tracks I want to bring up. Firstly, the first track from the album to be released to the public, “I Don’t Want Your Love (If You Don’t Want Me Anymore)”, a very strong classic rock ‘n’ roll tune. What is this track about and what influenced it?
Elliot: "Well I feel qualified to answer this one as I wrote everything except the verse lyrics, which Wally did a fantastic job on. What's it about? It's about I don't want your love if you don't want me anymore! Seriously though, I had a definite Beatles 'White Album' vibe in mind and hopefully that comes through!"
Secondly, another highlight of the album for me, “I Found You Again”, which hints at a bit of a country/Americana vibe. What is this track about?
Elliot: "I suppose it's about finding that which is right in front of you all along. You should ask Wally. I'm very proud of the guitar on that one. I was playing a regular Fender Telecaster but simulating a pedal steel guitar. I think it came off really well."
As well as the four of you Ian McLagan also plays on the album. How did he get involved?
Elliot: "We asked him and he said yes!"
What is on the cards for the rest of 2014? And will you be touring the UK at all?
Elliot: "Yes, at this point, touring is our immediate goal. We want to have a great time playing in front of audiences all over the world, and certainly the UK."
Final question – who would be in your dream super group?
Elliot: "You're looking at it!"
Favourite Beatle?
Elliot: "John, but Paul is a very close second!"
Favourite band?
Elliot: "The Beatles."
Favourite new band?
Elliot: "The Strypes."
Favourite song?
Elliot: "That's a tough one, maybe "Something In The Air" by Thunderclap Newman."
Favourite album?
Elliot: "Revolver."
Vinyl, CD or download?
Elliot: "Vinyl just sounds the best but downloads are so convenient that I think they have their place."
When you press shuffle on your iPod, what is the first track that comes on?
Elliot: "Usually Billy Strange, The Ventures or Les Baxter exotica."
Style icon?
Elliot: "Brian Jones."
Favourite film?
Elliot: "Goldfinger."
Favourite TV show?
Elliot: "Shindig."
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Elliot: "Leo."
Favourite food?
Elliot: "Southern Italian, Kosher Deli."
Football team?
Elliot: "Liverpool FC, New York Jets."
The Empty Hearts eponymous debut LP certainly lives up to its credentials. The band themselves have a line up featuring members of Blondie, The Chesterfield Kings, The Cars and The Romantics. On top of this there is a guest appearance by Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan and the record was produced by Ed Stasium who has previously produced records for the Ramones, Talking Heads and Motorhead.  
The record certainly kicks off with a blast with the anthemic trio of "90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street", "I Don't Want Your Love (If You Don't Want Me)" and "(I See) No Way Out". These three songs really set the tone for the rest of the record; one of anthemic, classic, vintage rock and roll. However, the record is not all flat out and there are also some slower numbers such as the mysterious-sounding "Fill An Empty Heart" and the country rock gem of "I Found You Again". The Empty Hearts also hint towards a hard rock influence with "Perfect World", "Just A Little Too Hard" and "Soul Deep". The latter of which also has a slightly funk-driven element in the rhythm section. The album goes on to conclude in a similar fashion to which it started with "Meet Me 'Round The Corner".
The record on the whole has a very punk feel to it and a very back-to-basics kind of approach and this is no bad thing. In fact, this is exactly what makes this record what it is; a great classic rock and roll album.
Hope you enjoyed this feature on The Empty Hearts, be sure to check out our previous feature on Gregg Cave!
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