Strabane is a town with an ever growing musical reputation and this week’s act are hoping to be the North West’s next big thing. Toyko Empire are an exciting Indie Rock band with a vast wealth of musical experience between the 5 of them. As a band they “Hope to bring our brand of melodic and upbeat pop/rock to the masses”. We love a good mission statement!
▶ Tell us about your stage name?
Sean: Chris wanted to use the word Tokyo in the band name. He was obsessed with that word! Also there are many, many t-shirts already in existence with Tokyo or some variation on them so we figured if everyone already wears it on their shirts we might as well capitalize haha. We tried a few different words after Tokyo and Tokyo Empire looked and sounded the best by far so we just went with it. No great story or anything behind it. Picking a good band name is difficult!
▶ When did you start playing music and how long did it take to find your own sound?
Me, Chris and Sod have been playing in one form or another in various bands for a few years. We started out together as kids in Eve’s Majesty and were even signed to BMG for a while. After that we were in King Coma and eventually Tokyo Empire. We are also part of Dance/Pop act Professors of Noise (https://soundcloud.com/professorsofnoise). So our sound have just always been there I guess! We grew up with it.
▶ What releases have you put out thus far, and which would be the one to listen to for the uninitiated?
We have one EP complete so far but have been mainly using it from promotional purposes and not really selling them, however if anyone would like one for themselves I will happily oblige! It’s self-titled and has 4 tracks (On My Side, Say Anything, Barcelona and Summertime) They are all available on our soundcloud page (www.soundcloud.com/tokyoempire) along with 2 others that will likely be the start of our next EP.
▶ Is there a particular live show that stands out amongst all the rest?
We haven’t done many live shows yet so this one is pretty easy! I’d say supporting Heathers in McHugh’s in Belfast was the one that stands out the most. Heathers are pretty well known in Ireland and they have a great following so the place was rocking that night. It was a great show and we came away with a lot of new fans.
Any time we play in our home town of Strabane is also a highlight because the crowds are great and there is so much great up-and-coming talent here that the line-ups are always fantastic!
▶ Can you talk about a Highlight and a Lowlight of the journey so far?
I don’t want to be predictable here and say there hasn’t been any lowlights, so ill say the lack of gigs thus far has been the lowlight. But that’s a minor gripe and we will be rectifying that shortly and doing as many as we can! There haven’t been any big fallouts or anything (yet) haha.
The highlight for me is recording. Every time we go into the studio it’s a highlight. That’s why we have spent a lot of time as a band so far writing and recording. To go into the studio and record something you can be proud of from scratch is a great feeling every time.
▶ What does ‘success’ mean to you?
To be able to play music for a living would be a personal aim for us. We’re not asking for bags of money, just enough to be able to keep on making music to a high standard for as long as possible! Obviously, it would be nice to headline Glastonbury, Coachella, Pukkelpop and the rest, but we’ll settle for opening if it means we’re out there doing it!
▶ You are in control of forming a 4 piece ‘super group’ – who is in it and what do they do?
Vocals – Michael Jackson. I considered putting Layne Staley or Maynard James Keenan here but if you are gonna put a successful band together you might as well start with the greatest of them all.
Bass – Krist Novoselic. I’m not a flashy bass player myself, which is why I’m picking Krist. He doesn’t do anything spectacular, he just plays what he has to and does it really, really well. The bass sound on every Nirvana record is great.
Guitar – Johnny Marr. Just for something different. Johnny Marr is extremely creative without breaking out the 5 minute guitar solos. He combines rhythm and lead guitar brilliantly.
Drums – Joey Kramer. He’d bring that big stadium rock feel to the band!
▶ If you and 3 bands of your choosing were to do a world tour, who would the other 3 bands be
Of all the bands in the last ten years who are still active I have 3 favourites. TV on the Radio, Foals, and Friendly Fires. 3 Extremely talented, innovative bands who have brought different types of alternative music to the mainstream. So I’d pick these 3. Getting to watch them all night after night would be great.
▶ What will be the 3 strangest things on your rider when you’re able to make any demand?
I’m not really one for wild rider demands, I still be in shock when I play a gig with a rider. I’m like “They’re giving us alcohol, food and water for free? What’s the catch?!?”
I’ve read that when The Verve last toured they had a 5-a-side football pitch built backstage at festivals. That would be pretty cool! Also, we’re TV addicts so any of the shows we might have missed while gigging should be recorded and ready to be watched when we come off stage haha.
As for a third, since we’re going for strange, and in light of recent events, ill take a James Gandolfini statue for the side of the stage!
▶ Finally, in a climate saturated with bands vying for listener attention; why should the good old folks at home listen to you guys?
Because we love doing it! And hopefully we can keep on making music that people enjoy for a long time.