A long, long time ago we were in this critical writing class (weird, we know) and on one particularly soul-crushing afternoon of classes, we had one hell of a guest speaker: KItty Empire, pop critic for The Observer. Kitty spoke and we listened and of the many tips she distributed that day, we remembered one thing more than any other: she couldn't get enough of Editors, going so far as to say they were a step-up from stateside holy cows, Interpol. Years later, Old Lady Empire doesn't look as foolish as she did that day. The four-piece from Birmingham broke UK sales records, rocked Glastonbury, and even attracted roomfuls of scroungy Yanks in these here United States. Their sophomore album An End Has A Start dropped yesterday in the UK and Europe, but for those of you that rustle up Jimmy Dean instead of bangers, well you can still listen to the album stream on their Myspace page until the album's US release date of July 17 on the FADER label. We chatted up frontdude Tom Smith on the telephone to get the scoop on invading the States, coppers and margaritas.
Can you talk a little bit about how you guys have been received in the United States?
Yeah, we spent quite a long time there. I think it was like 14 weeks touring in total. It’s a big place. We had a great time; we always have fun touring America. I think it went well. I can’t really put my finger on it. We can play to 2000 people in New York and LA and then across the middle we play to 40 people in the back and beyond. That’s fine. We don’t expect, because we have a certain level of success in the UK, for it to be the same in America. We know it’s going to be different and we know it’s going to take longer and be a lot of hard work. I think we have the right frame of mind to do that. The people that are getting it in America, even fans of the first record seem to be getting it for the right reasons. They’re proper music fans and they’re really kind of immersing themselves in it. So, it’s been good to us so far, America. We’ll probably spend more time there with this record and move forward.
Any major differences between UK and American audiences you’ve noticed?
The thing about American fans or crowds is that they want to talk to you more. They want to come and pick your brains after the show and I guess, get to know you more. In the UK people come to a show, watch it, enjoy themselves —or don’t enjoy themselves— and then leave. I found when we’re playing in America and we’ve gone about after shows, people try and get inside your head and talk to you. They’re very vocal in expressing what our music means to them. That’s amazing.
Have you had any weird experience with American police forces or Homeland Security?
No out of the ordinary dealings with police; we’ve only had problems with police in Germany so far. They came and stopped a show we were doing the other night in a church because it was noisy.
Where was this?
It was in Cologne a couple of weeks ago. They were armed police and they told us we had to stop, so we did. The local residents were fed up with the noise and the police told us to stop. It was towards the end so we only lost a couple of songs. It wasn’t the end of the world but it’s never happened before.
It didn’t get violent did it?
No, no, God, no. We controlled the people (laughs).
You guys studied Sound Technology in university, yeah?
We did. We weren’t very good with it. I still to this day do not know why we did it but if it wasn’t for those courses I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.
How have those courses shaped the band’s sound, do you think?
(Laughs) It hasn’t at all. I think in our minds we wanted to be record producers or work in studios. We wouldn’t produce our own records at this point in time. Our brains don’t work in the right way; we don’t have enough knowledge. But we know our way around the studio better than most, but nowhere near enough for it to have an effect on what we do—that’s why we get producers to come in and give us a hand.
Do you guys have a drink of choice on tour?
Drink of choice? Ooooh, we always have a Jagermeister midset! We get off for the encore, we have a Jagermeister and then come back on again. Other than that, lots of white wine because it keeps you afloat. I can’t sing very well if I have red wine. Margaritas always go down well after a show.
Yeah, we drink a lot of margaritas in the States.
That sounds like a dangerous combination: wine, margaritas and Jager.
It’s dangerous, but it’s fun. All the best things in life are bad for you, aren’t they?