A Q&A with Empire Bathtub
Something different: Narrative-driven-comedic-prog-metal duo, from Texas & Florida…
What’s the title of your latest release, and what does it mean to you?
Stephen: Our upcoming release is Looney Moons 3: Return of the Fuh King. It is our third and final release for our Looney Moons storyline. While our Looney Moons story is full of ridiculous plot points and absurd characters, this release means a lot to us. It caps a three year, three album long story. We first created these characters almost four years ago, and now we are wrapping their story up moving on to the next story in our journey.
Jonah: For me this release is a pretty emotional one, even if the album itself is incredibly silly. Empire Bathtub is my first real venture into making music and my mind is still boggled that we’ve managed to make three entire albums of this nonsense. Even though this one does mark the end of the current story we’re telling, neither of us plan to stop making music after this, so I can’t wait to see what else we come up with.
What was the hardest part about putting this release together, and why?
Stephen: As with all of our other releases, the lyric writing. The combination of having the lyrics work musically, in telling the story, while also being funny is always the biggest challenge of the writing process. Also, the vocoder. We fuc*ing hate the vocoder and only use it when TARS has something to say.
Who produced the release – what did they bring to it?
Stephen: Greg MacLean mixed and mastered all of our albums, including Looney Moons 3. He brings so much to the album with his engineering and musical insight. Without him our albums would not be what they are today.
What do you want the listener to take away from listening to your music?
Stephen: I think I can answer this by relaying two of my favorite responses I’ve heard from listeners. One of my favorite takeaways I’ve heard from a listener was that they hadn’t heard anything quite like our albums. Saying it was one of the most unique listening experiences they’ve ever had. Another one of my favorite responses I’ve heard from a listener was how our album made them laugh when they did not have a lot to laugh about in a tough year. Those are definitely the two main goals we have with our music in my eyes. Delivering something unique, enjoyable, and funny.
Jonah: More than anything I just want people to have fun when listening to our music. While we exist in the “Prog” space I’m not particularly bothered if people aren’t blown away by our songwriting abilities, or musical prowess, or whatever. I just want to make music that makes people smile, and maybe bob their head here and there.
How does a track normally come together? Can you tell us something about the process?
Stephen: Our process is usually the same across the entire Looney Moons saga. We start with the point in the story that we are writing for. What moment in the story is this song being written for? This question usually dictates the entire structure of the song. Our music is less genre focused, and more focused on delivering the right mood for the point in the story. Once the point in the story is determined, I loosely write instruments for the foundation. Once the instruments are loosely written, we start to write lyrics. This is usually the longest step in the process. If the track has TARS (uses a vocoder) on it, we bitch and moan about how much we hate vocoders. Once the lyrics are written, we move on to recording the final instrument and vocal tracks. In between all of these steps we usually send feedback between members back and forth. Once the song is fully tracked, we send our tracks off to Greg who mixes and masters the tracks.
Jonah: Most of the time once we’re past the basic concept for the track, the process tends to boil down to Stephen sending me a message at midnight saying that he’s working on a track, and then the next day sending me something like five minutes of fully composed and arranged music. The man is a machine. Then it takes me like two months to write a minute of vocals. I think it’s pretty clear who carries this team, haha.
What band/artists have influenced you the most since you started this project, and why?
Stephen: This is always a fun question because my influences are VERY different from Jonah’s. While we do have a tiny bit of overlap in our tastes, my biggest influences include Leprous, Primus, The Mercury Tree, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, HAH, Seven Impale, and Frank Zappa. With that said, I pull influence from all over, even outside of music. Lots of my inspiration comes from movies as well, especially cheesy horror movies.
Jonah: Like Stephen said, our tastes barely overlap at all. I think we both listen to Leprous and Tool a bit. Other than that, my main inspirations are a lost of Post-Metal and Doom Metal bands. Stuff like Cult of Luna, The Ocean, Swallow the Sun, Pallbearer, Woods of Ypres. Really anything somber and gloomy is my usual cup of tea, which tends to surprise people when juxtaposed to the kind of music we make.
What countries would you like to tour? Are there any standout venues you’d like to play in?
Stephen: This is a dream of ours. We have faced a lot of challenges playing live with distance and COVID being the two biggest hurdles. We’d love to start somewhere local to Texas or Florida, but if we are dreaming big, I would love to tour in Norway. A lot of my favorite bands are from there, and their local prog scene seems incredible.
Jonah: Like Stephen said, touring our home states would be a more realistic goal for us, but I’d absolutely love to play a gig in London if we could manage it. I’ve got friends in a few bands from that neck of the woods that I’d love to get a chance to perform alongside.
If you could pick one track for our readers to listen to in order to get a taste of your music, what would you pick, and why?
Stephen: It’s hard to pick just one track, but if I had to, I would say ‘Chapter VI: Broken Beyond Repair’ off of our upcoming album. I think this track is probably the climax of the storyline for the three Looney Moons albums, as well as one of our best tracks.
Jonah: If we’re talking about previous released stuff, I feel like ‘Chapter Seven: A Manic Confrontation’, from our second album, is a really good taste of what we do musically. That being said, I think that I agree with Stephen that ‘Chapter 6’ from our new album would be the best way to get a taste for our sound.
What ambitions do you have for the band/your career?
Stephen: We have a few different goals for Empire Bathtub. One of the biggest goals is increasing our overall footprint within the prog scene. We’ve started seeing this a bit over the past few years, but we’re always looking for growth. Another one of our goals is playing live more. One of the silver linings to the virus has been the emergence of online music festivals. This has been a great opportunity for us to perform live to people who might never see us otherwise.
Finally, as you leave the stage, what are your parting words?
Stephen: Thank you so much for the interview! We hope your readers check us out, get a laugh, and enjoy! Remember to not forget the importance of bathing your ear holes!
For more info visit: facebook.com/empirebathtub