Returning to the scene after a break of a couple of years, O Emperor leave behind their hang-ups, delving into a free-spirited, avant-garde, industry-ignoring new phase. The Waterford act are back, but not as you know them…
When they burst onto the Irish music scene with major-label debut Hither Thither, O Emperor were a band known for their meticulous attention to detail. They wrote beautiful, haunting indie-pop songs that meandered wonderfully, every note carefully adjusted in agonised-over studio recordings.
That startling attention to detail was a blessing and a curse: at times a constraint on the release of the band’s music, but creating a distinctive and much-loved sound that propelled them to national attention. In hindsight, frontman Paul Savage admits “We needed to let that perfectionism go and accept that at a certain point what we’ve done is actually fine. We used to obsess over things like the exact level of reverb. Looking back, I don’t think other people really notice or care about things like that.”
After a couple of years away, O Emperor returned having done a full 180. New single ‘Make It Rain’ is the first offering from an as yet untitled new album, and the first of a series of pre-album singles set to come out over the course of a year. The band also completed their live return with first show in some time last week at Cork’s Quarter Block Party.
“We did most of the recording two years ago, but we’ve only got to mixing now,” Savage explains. “We’re very bad at taking our time with things. We got a notion to go ahead with it now, though, so we’ve gone ahead. We’ve gone really rough and ready with stuff. It’s actually written live. It’s just live jams. We recorded two to three hours of us jamming and picked out bits we liked, and chopped up and constructed some bits in the edit. Then we added the vocals later, but even the vocals were kind of made up on the spot in some cases.”
“It’s influenced by things like Sun Ra, Can, and krautrock stuff, and really concentrates on atmosphere. It can actually be quite difficult to reproduce live, and it’s really radically different to anything we’ve done before. It’s already evolved quite a lot from the record in rehearsal and in the live show, as it’s very difficult to actually reproduce what you did before. There are clashed notes, odd chords, stuff like that.”
“We’re trying to base the live show in a framework and jam around that,” he continues, “which can be hard to do, especially where you’re nervous. It’s easy to mess up on the spot, but it’s really exciting to do.”