Armed with a second successive Meteor Choice Music Prize nomination for their sophomore album Vitreous, Waterford's O Emperor will play The Erics in The Button Factory on January 30th alongside Le Galaxie, Gavin James and Cave Ghosts.
O Emperor will be among the Irish delegation heading to South By Southwest in Austin, Texas in mid March and John caught up with Paul Savage for a chat ahead of arguably the busiest couple of months of the band's career to date.
Tickets to The Erics live in the Button Factory with extended sets from Le Galaxie, O Emperor, Gavin James and Cave Ghosts are available now priced at €12.
Words: John Balfe
Vitreous has been the recipient of some pretty great reviews since its release last year. Did you feel any pressure associated with the second album, given that your debut had been so well received?
Most pressure I think comes from the people around a band like a record label or management whom, as much as they think they are not getting in the way of what the band does best, they are by human nature still wishing and praying you come up with that "hit" they makes life easier for everyone. So seeing as this album was record by ourselves without any of that influence or pressure, we just made an album with nothing in mind apart from just trying to get exactly what we wanted down. I think we were always very realistic about what the first album achieved also, it was a very good breakthrough record but it never got to any huge stage of notoriety where we we felt a lot of people would be eagerly awaiting the follow up. In a lot of ways making Vitreous felt like we were starting from scratch again in a very refreshing way and there was no rules or sounds we had to follow up on from Hither Thither.
It's easy for music journos like myself to try and dissect albums but often we miss the point. In your words, how would you describe the evolution from Hither Thither to Vitreous?
Hither Thither being the first album, I think was always going to consist of a collection of songs written over a very long time span. It has some of our first songs we wrote as a band or stuff that we gigged a lot and reworked over time until finally getting into a studio to put them down. With Vitreous it was very much about capturing a more defined, shorter period of songwriting.We started recording a lot the songs almost as soon as we got a rough form for them and a drum track could be tracked, some we didn't even jam as a whole band but started writing them as we overdubbed so in the end, I think the record sounds more spontaneous to us but also given the fact it was written and record in the same sitting essentially has a more constant overall sound. One thing I guess we were conscious about was having a collection of songs that all fit really well together and had a start middle and end. That's why I guess it's so short too, we had other songs but these 9 just felt like a complete work.
You must be pretty pleased too to pick up your second successive Meteor Choice Prize nomination for it?
We are absolutely delighted . I guess you always want your current work to be able to stand up against what you have done before so it probably feels even more special this time round.
O Emperor are one of handful of Irish acts who will be taking the trip over to Austin, Texas for this year's South By Southwest festival. Having already played there, what do you expect for your return journey?
Ha! We now know that it is hard work and very much a rat race of hundreds of bands all after the same attention but I guess hopefully going there a second time you know to expect that and are a little bit more prepared for it. We also know where the free beer tent is this time too.
You have access to your own recording studio. Does that help the creative process for O Emperor; the ability to write, record and give song ideas an added level of attention?
Yeah I think it is an invaluable asset to have and I don't think we would have made the same record if we were renting time in another studio. I think you do need the time and often relaxed pace to muck about with ideas and not feel pressured to get something down every time or keep an idea just because you spent time working on it.
Do you consider yourself more of a studio band, or a live band, or both?
We do very much enjoy both. Each has its own values and kicks you get from it. Personally I enjoy recording because I'm always looking froward to getting new material finished so that it can be played live and the set can be expanded. It works the other way too when you have jammed an idea and you get excited about recording it and getting it hear it back in a new form.
I understand that you're working with The Windish agency in the US. Do you anticipate further US tours in the near future after SXSW?
Yeah we're excited to start working with The Windish agency, they have so many great acts on their roster which we're fans off. Hopefully after SXSW we will be able to explore some opportunities touring in the US.
Any further big plans for 2014?
We're already tinkering away with some demos for a new album so hopefully sometime this year around touring we will be able to start work on the next record which I think to make up for Vitreous's half an hour length, will be a two hour prog rock double album probably released sometime this decade.
Image: O Emperor's Facebook page