Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview with Paul Savage of O Emperor, who play Dolan's this Friday

ONE OF the most memorable highlights from the recent RTE Other Voices series was an appearance by a little known band hailing from Waterford, who have been quietly going about their business, assembling some cracking tunes and preparing to unleash them on an unsuspecting public.
Of course - we note smugly - we knew all about O Emperor long before they appeared on RTE, with word coming from Waterford and Cork music circles - where the five piece outfit went to college and are based - that this was a band to watch.
A very early gig in January of this year saw the Waterford outfit come to Dolan’s with fellow hotly tipped UK counterparts Sons of Noel and Adrian and Alessi’s Ark, and those that braved the cold were not disappointed by this trio of bands.
O Emperor carry a weight of obvious, if often very simplistic comparisons; vaguely Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear and Radiohead, channelled through the 70s slow burning, soft-core rock of The Band or Neil Young - but blew this reporter away with their performance that cold January night.
Intertwining three part - at times five-part - vocal harmonies on certain songs, most notably forthcoming single Don’t Mind Me, the band displayed off signature rhythms and brooding beats, and a deep multi-layered sound that was so apparent on the debut Persephone EP, and first single Po.
The band are set to release another EP this month, and are gearing up to a full album release in September. Paul Savage, singer with the band, joined City Life for a genial chat recently, with the band fresh from supporting Mumford and Sons in the UK and Ireland.
“They were really great gigs to do, and they were really nice bunch of lads - it was nice for us to play for that crowd,” says Paul, who fronts the band along with school chums Alan Comerford (guitar), Philip Christie (piano), Brendan Fennessy (drums) and Richie Walsh (bass).
“It is just crazy to see a band, of our own age, getting so phenomenally big; it was almost like Beatle-mania when they came on stage. It is crazy to see that, behind the scenes, to see how big someone can get just from one album. It is always nice to see as well - so it gives you some hope that it could be a viable thing to happen,” he laughs.
Paul met the other four members in secondary school, who had all been pals since primary school, and they all decamped to Cork to attend college. Four out of five men studied Music Management and Sound Production courses. Handy then for recording an album, it seems.
“O Emperor first properly began when we left college, about three years ago now,” explains Paul. “Before that we were called different things, but what we were playing before didn't really interest us. We completely scrapped the whole thing, went back to the drawing board, came up with ten songs and renamed the band and pursued that style. That was it.”
He adds: “It is a long story but really it is only happening in the last two years that it is taking off”.
The band recorded the album Hither Thither, but, as they began to send it out and get feedback from music industry people, decide to wait to release it. In the intervening period, new songs were written, which cried out for inclusion. With management sourced and a link-up with Universal secured, O Emperor decided to re-record their debut album, adding new material.
A recent trial trip to a Welsh record studio was scrapped, as the band failed “to gel” with one producer, but have found a happier set-up at a studio in Dublin, and are progressing nicely. However, it is an arduous process at times, Savage admits.
“Obviously re-recording a song is very tedious in itself, it is quite laborious, but it is working quite well this time around,” he says.
“We are working with a good engineer and are working in a nice space in Dublin, and it hasn't been a chore to re-record the old stuff, and it is quite refreshing when you have a bigger studio to work with. We are a lot tighter after a year of playing as well.
“It can work against you sometimes - you can end up imitating what you did originally and it can seem a little forced. It is a tricky thing to do, to get right - but in the end I think it will stand to us.”
O Emperor play Upstairs in Dolan’s this Friday night.

FACTFILE Band: O Emperor
From: Waterford
Members: Paul Savage, Alan Comerford, Philip Christie, Brendan Fennessy and Richie Walsh.
Famous For: Debut single ‘Po’, which was well received, and a recent appearance on RTE’s Other Voices
Releases so far: Persephone EP, Reverie EP (due on April 18)

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