15 Questions With The Empires; Playing The Masquerade July 16

By Eileen Tilson

I have a confession to make: Before I received the press release, I had no idea who The Empires were, even though they were a buzz band at SXSW in and made it to the third round of voting to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. Sometimes a girl just has to get her head out from under the rock. This Chicago band racked up 70,000 downloads of its self-released 2008 debut – then decided to rough up its pop-punk sound. I jumped on the phone with lead singer Sean Van Vleet, before their show at the Masquerade, and informed me that he only did interviews while walking down Chicago alleyways.

What is the most outrageous gift you’ve ever received from a fan?

I had a fan give me a really nice bottle of Scotch once… actually a big bottle and a whole bunch of little bottles… that we drank in a night. 

How do you take your coffee?

Just black… I was a barista for a bit, so I just like the straight up red eye black espresso.

If you could collaborate with any musician who would it be?

Probably Brendan Benson from The Raconteurs.

Who is your celebrity crush?

Hmm, I can’t really think of anyone! Actually there was this movie back in the ’70s called The Wicker Man, and the lead blonde was totally hot. So I guess her. But circa 1970s, she is probably 70 or 80 years old now!

How old were you when you lost your virginity?

I was……… in high school.

Can you play the ukulele?

I can try, but  I am not really that good. I feel like the ukulele is something that everyone can strum to, but few can actually play.

What was your first concert?

Lenny Kravitz and The Black Crowes at Austin Arena. It was just my buddy and I, even though we were only like 12 years old, and I have no idea how we got in.

How do you feel about tequila?

Love it! It is my drink of choice!

If you were a racehorse in the Kentucky Derby, what would your name be?

“Trashcan Charlie” I actually do a lot of walking down alleyways here in Chicago, mainly because my phone is broken and I have to keep it on speakerphone and talk into it like a microphone. I hide in the alleyways so no one is hearing my conversations.

If you were the star of your own reality TV show, what would the name be?

There seems to be a lot of island shows right now, so I would be “Broke Musician Island.” I honestly don’t even own a TV.

Can you dance?

No! My moves are crazy. I apparently wasn’t paying attention when I was on stage dancing, and I looked into the crowd and this guy was imitating my shuffle; I thought “Is that really how I dance?”

What’s your favorite thing to do on your day off?

Write music. I  honestly have hundreds of songs. Some good, some horrible. Just for this album alone,  I think I walked in with something like 80-100 songs. I took my first week off for the Fourth of July holiday, and didn’t know what to do with myself.

What are you working on now? Anything you are excited about?

I don’t journal or write in a diary or anything, but I have been writing a lot of stories about the process of making the record, including all the fights, funny stories, etc. It actually has been very therapeutic. Not sure what I am going to do with all the stories just yet though.

The Empires play The Masquerade on July 16 with Atlanta boys Trances Arc, All Get Out & The Levee.


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