Friday, May 8, 2015

Chicago band The Empty Pockets getting ready to release first full-length album, will play at Uncommon Ground


By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Chicago band The Empty Pockets is a DIY type of band.

The band built a studio to record its first full-length album, "The Ten Cent Tour." To celebrate the release of the album, The Empty Pockets will perform May 29 at Uncommon Ground,  3800 N. Clark St., Chicago.

Nate Jones also is on the bill. The music starts at 9 p.m.

I had a chance to talk to singer/guitarist Josh Solomon about the new album.

Q - Great to talk to you. Congratulations on the fact that 92 percent of "The Ten Cent Tour" is funded. Does the fact that people are willing to invest in the record give you additional gratification that people really believe in what the band is doing? What is the meaning behind the album's name?

Hey thanks, we appreciate that. To be brutally honest, we were a little bit leery of the whole "crowd funding" model for a variety of reasons. We don't want our music and band to be a "charity."

We LOVE supporting real charities, and we do a lot of work every year to help amazing charitable organizations reach their goals and help people in need. Our favorites include Rustic Falls Nature Camp, Marillac Social Center, Paul Seiwert Foundation and Family Service Society.

So going into our PledgeMusic campaign for our new album, The Ten Cent Tour, there was a nervous energy. We have gotten a very positive response so far - people seem genuinely excited about the album's release and it's cool to see.

We really do think giving fans an opportunity to support the album from the beginning, and get an insider look at how we created it and why, is a great thing.

The PledgeMusic campaign is about halfway through as of today and almost fully funded. We feel the love and it's amazing.

The name came out of the core concept for this album. Before production began the band talked a lot about the kind of album we wanted to make. Roots. Serve the songs. Old school.

Real instruments played only by us. Real voices, unaffected and devoid of auto-tune and expensive processing.

An album where music, lyrics and performances shine. We knew that we'd need lots of time in the studio to get it right.

So instead of using our album budget to rent out a studio, we took a risk and tried building a modest studio ourselves. This album is the first creation out of that project.

Essentially, the record itself is the "dime tour" of our hand-built studio's hand-crafted songs... The Ten Cent Tour.

Q - In sitting down to record the album, what were your goals and do you think you
accomplished them? What made you want to build a studio to record the album? How do you think the studio affected the band's sound?

The effect of the studio was felt most in the lack of urgency to finish a particular moment. When you rent studio time, you have a budget and a limited amount of hours. You know how many songs you want to record and you have to get it done in the allotted time or... well... you're screwed.



So, if you go in one day to record a lead vocal and for whatever reason the vocalist just isn't "feeling" it... too bad. You record it anyway.

In our studio, we threw away entire days of work. We spent however much time was needed on each and every moment.

If any band member felt inspired while going about their day, they'd pop into the studio to lay it down. The pressure was gone. And great performances can't be forced. 

Q - The band has shared the stage with the likes of Jennifer Hudson and has opened for Dave Mason and Dickey Betts. What has the band learned from such experiences?

From Jennifer Hudson... how to take the stage. Wow, man! She really knows how to take a stage and own an audience. From Dickey Betts, how to relax and let the the music come to you.

Dickey is so good at reading a room while still staying true to himself and his band. He also commands his band with a wave of his hand, a gesture of his guitar or even a look in his eyes.
 
We've been touring a lot recently with Rock 'n Roll Hall of Famer, Richie Furay (from Buffalo Springfield), and from him, among many things we've learned, is how to be the best and most generous person and performer you can be. It's all about the audience.

Doesn't matter if you are tired, in a bad mood, or if something is happening in your life... what matters is that people came to hear great music and it's our sacred responsibility to give it to them. 

Q - I'm sure you've heard the band's music described in various ways. How would you describe the band's sound and who or what are your band's biggest influences?

Each band member wound probably name their own influences. All of us would say THE BEATLES, in capital letters like that. We are all Beatles freaks.

Van Morrison. Bob Schneider. Brandi Carlile. Our music is Americana Roots Rock. We focus on great songs, powerful vocals and rich harmonies. We want to groove hard and move people. 

Q - How would you say the band's sound has evolved over the years?

We have always been a live band first and foremost. We play music for an audience.

That's who we are. Because of that, our songs, our arrangements, our sound is always evolving.



A few of the songs on the new album have been in the live set for a number of years but they've changed so much over time at shows. We've become funkier, more rhythmically intricate as we've improved as musicians, as the relationship between the drums and the bass and the guitar has become more innate.

We've become more relaxed. We want to win over every single person in every audience we play for... and while I think that's a good goal, it can also be restrictive.

There needs to be balance between "winning over" the audience while also staying true to ourselves and who we are as musicians and songwriters. 

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Short term: Release this new album to our current fan base and reach as many new ears as
possible. Tour our butts off, like we always have.

Finish our next record, which is halfway done. We have some opportunities on the horizon that we can't announce yet to play with some pretty heavy hitting artists that we are excited about.

We are heading to Vietnam as a band and with my family to play some shows and visit my sibling's orphanages.

Long term: Play music for the rest of our lives and make a living from that however we can. Never stop.

Getter better. Rinse. Repeat.