Credit where credit is due, the six members of Crown The Empire are onto a winner with their chosen sound. A think tank of shady old music industry types must be kicking themselves that they didn’t think to combine today’s popular metalcore with the breakout pageantry and pomp of vintage (yes, vintage) My Chemical Romance before the young sextet totally nailed the formula. Hell, “clean” singer (can we get rid of that term already?) Andy Leo even has hints of Cute Is What We Aim For’s Shaant Hacikyan in his vocal delivery.
Crown The Empire have taken another leaf from the MCR playbook by delving deep into the concept album approach; heady stuff for a band whose peers are content to mix electro squelches with open E chugging. The Resistance: Rise Of The Runaways is the sequel to the world the band first detailed on The Fallout and as Leo says, was the only way they wanted to approach their big follow-up.
“Our last record was a concept album about the end of the world and people’s last moments; what would you say to the ones you loved? It was a cool little story. We wanted to continue that so The Fallout was the setting and this new album is the actual chapters and acts. The runaways are the faction of people. A lot of people survive in this wasteland, and they come together against this oppressive faction that has taken over, who are the scarecrows.”
If this all seems a bit confusing, never fear as Leo says it will all make sense in the album context. Which is handy, as confusing yourself while trying to create a record sounds like a recipe for disaster.
“We’ve always – as a band – wanted to do something different,” Leo explains. “With all the different influences and the way we do things, after doing The Fallout and all the songs we ran with it, we wanted to do more as it’s this huge story. Personally, it’s a lot of fun writing with a story in mind and making it work. It’s not a blow-by-blow narration, it takes the listener to a certain place.”
So what came first, the emo revival stylings or the will to create conceptual music?
“When we first started, we were making songs just to get our foot in the door. It was straight metalcore, there wasn’t really anything to set us apart. Then we got signed and we had the support to do what we really wanted, something that we were all really into and stoked on doing.” As Leo explains it, Crown The Empire pulled the classic bait and switch – they were always gunning for the big time.
“Let’s be real, the scene that we’re in and the group of bands that we’re a part of tend to get made fun of and it’s definitely oversaturated. We always knew we wanted to be set apart from that, something more worthwhile.”
While the band exclusively worked with producer du jour Joey Sturgis on their debut, for the followup they also went with noted US rock producer Dan Korneff (Breaking Benjamin, Paramore) for an entirely different approach. “Joey has a specific sound, you can listen to any of his songs and know that he mixed and mastered it,” Leo explains. “Really epic, big and quite synthetic. For this record, everything was real – drums, strings by the guy who has worked for Beyonce… It was a totally different experience to have these real instruments, real everything. It was super cool.” For a recently-turned 20-year-old musician who has grown up with bands entirely using digital production means, it’s interesting that Leo and his bandmates are so set on using authentic methods of recording.
As he explains it, “As musicians, everyone wants to have that experience. Honestly, it just sounds better. The old school way is just super fun and something we wanted to do as a band. The cool thing is we got to do that but then have Joey take it and polish it, so it’s very big and heavy with his touch.”
Musically, Crown The Empire have a lot going on. And according to Leo, their influences come from everywhere.
“There are guys listening to old school punk, traditional metal and Avenged Sevenfold. Then there’s My Chemical Romance and 30 Seconds To Mars and The Devil Wears Prada. Every song is so different on this record, we wanted to show that we can get heavy – straight screaming and breakdowns – but also use piano and cello for ballads, acoustic guitars and singing.”
Leo isn’t joking – “Millenia” could have slotted in seamlessly on the second half of Pierce The Veil’s Selfish Machines while “MNSTR” is a crusher worthy of Motionless In White’s goth metal steez.
Leo continues: “We started this band three years ago and it’s been an awesome experience playing with all these scene bands. We listened to lots of these bands as fans first of all. I remember the first Asking Alexandria record coming out and freaking out about that. I’ve loved every second of it but we do have plans in mind to tour with different kinds of bands and see just how far we can go with our music.”