Call it the Young Empires mission statement.
“We want to play live, we want to tour for years again and have a legitimate career,” said vocalist / keyboardist Matthew Vlahovich. “We’ve all been doing this for almost a decade in other projects or this one, so we’re certainly ready for whatever comes our way.”
With Canada already on board with the Toronto-based group, Vlahovich, Jacob Palahnuk and Taylor Hill have a little world domination on their mind beginning with the release of their new album, The Gates, on September 4, and the way Vlahovich sees it, getting that album out the door has been long overdue.
“It’s been done since last September, so as a band, we’re very eager to get this out, but the people at the label want to do their thing, so we trust them,” he said. “Obviously this record took a little longer than we wanted it to. It took a while for us to find our stride and to find what we wanted our next sound to be. And we toured that first EP (2012’s Wake All My Youth) for the better part of three years and show offers kept coming in, so we kept taking them to the point where we just had to say ‘no more, we need time to go and regroup.’ So we were fortunate to be able to have that longevity off an initial EP, but hopefully it doesn’t take as long for the second full-length record. This one was a bit cumbersome to make, I guess, but I think we’ve all gotten better as professional songwriters and at honing our craft, so I don’t think the next one will take quite as long as this one did.”
And what that first EP did was establish the band’s eclectic mix of pop, rock and danceable tunes while also turning them into road warriors as they tore through Canada and also made stops in the United States and elsewhere around the globe. And though their home country immediately took them in and made them into radio and live stars, it’s been a tougher go elsewhere, but also one that’s introducing them to new audiences outside of the Great White North.
“Slowly, yes,” Vlahovich said. “In certain cities, it’s starting to catch on. Nothing like we’re seeing up here in Canada, but we hope that will happen sooner or later. Los Angeles, New York, Chicago – some of the bigger markets are starting to pick up on it now, so that’s exciting.”
It also has to be a weird dynamic for a band to walk that line between big things in Canada and soon to be big things in the States.
“It’s kind of funny,” he said. “You have to check your ego at the door. We went from playing to 3,000 people in Toronto to the next day playing in front of ten in Detroit. (Laughs) So it is quite strange when you’re literally four hours from your hometown and no one knows who you are. But that’s part of the exercise, and all bands go through that. You treat both shows the same way and just be professional, and do it because you love to play live too. No show’s a bad show if you’re having fun.”
And now that The Gates is in the bank and ready for release, it’s time for the boys to get out on the road for some more fun in 2015 and beyond. Of course, the first order of business is taking care of the home country fans that have supported them, as well as pay their respects to a musical culture that takes care of their own.
“One thing that Canada’s good at is supporting the artists internally here in Canada,” Vlahovich said. “We have something called CanCon, which requires radio stations to play a certain amount of Canadian content. There are also a lot of cool government grants to help bands like us break into other markets, because we just don’t have the same numbers here, so that puts us at a huge disadvantage against an American band. So we try to counteract that with some government grants that help us go out and do these tours and break in the U.S. It’s definitely a lot harder, and maybe it’s like this for every country, where they generally want to support homegrown talent first and then accept people from across the border. But we’ll be happy if we’re popular anywhere. If someone’s liking our music, that’s enough to keep doing it.”
And having already made their mark at home, Young Empires are looking even further with the new album and tour. Luckily, they’re halfway there, something a lot of bands can’t say these days, even if it appears that the “new” music business has made it a more level playing field for everyone.
“It does and it doesn’t,” Vlahovich said. “That kind of openness to access content really allows for too much content. Everyone is a bedroom producer and there’s so much out there. You’ve got to wade through all this stuff, when before it was at least kind of curated, where you had to be signed and have money to make a record. Now there’s so much content that comes with every day that it is kind of tough to break through that noise.”
Young Empires shouldn’t have too much of an issue breaking through, and that hopeful attitude is also a theme on The Gates.
“In terms of what I hope people take away (from The Gates) is that I think there’s an overall message of hope on this record,” he said. “It deals a lot with personal struggle and internal struggle, something that everyone really goes through at some point in their life, so I think this is a record of hope, and if we can encourage people to keep the chin up and keep the faith, that would be cool.”