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The PV Q&A: Crown The Empire's Brent Taddie Talks The Fallout, The Apocalypse, Unity + More

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It's rare to find a band that knows how to balance melodic hardcore and electronic elements, a positive message and a lyrical depth, a drive for success and a genuine relationship with fans, but Crown the Empire aren't your average band. 

Within a year, the Dallas, TX natives have released their stunning debut full-length The Fallout, hopped on tour with the Used and We Came As Romans for the Take Action Tour, been hand-picked as direct support for Like Moths to Flames on the Rise Records tour, and show no sign of slowing down.

We caught up with drummer Brent Taddie over the phone to discuss the metal outfit's speedy rise to the top, the apocalyptic storyline running throughout The Fallout, and why they will always make an effort to take time for their fans.  

PureVolume: You’re getting ready to wrap the Take Action Tour in a few weeks, so I’m sure you’ve heard some inspiring stories from those in the crowd by this point. Are there any that have reminded you this tour goes a lot deeper than your average trek?
Brent Taddie: Yeah, for sure. We see the “It Gets Better” banners at the show every night. We mention it on stage. And we’re reminded by the fans who come up to us saying that between the new album, us being on this tour, and us spreading a positive message, it’s changed their lives. We get notes every week from fans saying how this has meant a lot to them, so the more we interact with them and continue to see that, the more we’re reminded of what we’re actually doing. It’s amazing.
PV: You guys are very public about how much you care for your fans—you make a very genuine effort to be there for them. It’s one thing for fans to support musicians, but it’s special when that support is also returned to them.
BT: Right! Before we were doing this band, we were fans, too—and we all had our own favorite bands. The reason this band got so big so quickly is because we’re always out there talking to our fans.

We’ve stayed true to them since day one, starting with the Limitless EP, where we started doing things like that and showing everyone that they could be limitless. We continued that on the second record, writing songs like “Venice” and “Evidence” that are about speaking out against bullies, standing up for yourself, and being your own person.

Everyone’s different and everyone identifies with different things, but our fans seem to all identify with our music, so it means so much to us to see that. We’re more than happy to talk with them for as long as we can.
PV: You recently posted a picture on Twitter of a massive crowd in Oklahoma, noting how the last time you played that venue you were playing to 60 people. That alone stands as testament to how quickly your career has progressed just within a year.
BT: It’s just shocking to us. It all happened so quickly. Like you said, last time we came through, we were finishing up a tour with Our Last Night. We did one night headlining in Oklahoma City and we had about 60 kids there. When we played there again in Tulsa, a lot of those 60 were in the crowd—and a few of them we had on the guest list—so just seeing the same kids coming out and singing along to the words is so surreal to us.
PV: Shortly after the Take Action Tour, you’ll be jumping into the Rise Records Tour. Can you talk about the importance of label tours and what you personally gain from touring with bands on the same label as you?
BT: It’s great! We always have our management and our label come out to a lot of tours and we go out afterwards with everyone. It’s even cooler on a label tour because everyone already knows each other.

Rise was so supportive of our album—they really let us write and release the album [the way] we wanted to—so just to be considered for that tour and to be doing it as a direct support band is big. We try to do something on Rise that not a lot of other bands are trying to do, so it’s great to get recognition for that and be put on the tour. We’re really excited for it.
PV: Can you tell us more about how [Crown the Empire] are different from other artists within the Rise family?
BT: We’re just trying to take a little bit of a different influence with our music—more influences by bands outside of the genre like Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Panic! At The Disco, even the Used...especially on this tour when we’re writing music for the newer records and we’re looking at bands like the Used in comparison to bands in our genre, or other heavier bands. So that, I think, in itself kind of distinguishes us from other bands in the scene.
PV: The Fallout also sees a lot of electronic elements fused into modern metalcore, which is another huge distinguishing factor. What inspired you to begin integrating those elements?
BT: In writing the album, we tried to paint more of a picture with the songs. For a lot of the songs, we had specific movies in mind, like we wanted this song to sound like the beginning of The Dark Knight and so forth. By adding theatrical elements to the music, the only real way to express that and have the songs sound like that was to add the production of electronic elements.

But still: On top of that, we recorded all real drums and guitars, and all of the music is very organic. There aren’t any vocal effects at all. Songs like “Oh, Catastrophe,” that’s just Andrew [Leo] and the microphone and pianos in the background. So I think we have a good balance between the raw music and the post-production electronic elements, and we’re going to stay true to that


PV: Lyrically, The Fallout seems to tell the story of an apocalypse brought on by humanity’s negative actions and selfish desires. Is this an idea you were inspired by while writing the album?
BT: Yeah, for sure. The overall storyline of the album takes place in an apocalyptic world. “The Fall Out” and “The One You Feed” signifies the apocalypse itself and then we kind of [play with the idea] of how, in times of panic or crisis, you realize what is important to you.

It’s kind of this love story that’s happening at the end of the world, but there are also these other struggles that are going on with the two main characters. They learn how to deal with these problems [while living] in such a strange environment. By taking place in a setting that’s a little more vivid and less confusing than every day life, the songs really allow kids to see what’s important to them. It makes it more theatrical, but the subject matter is still really true.
PV: It’s interesting though, because “Johnny’s Revenge” closes out the album on a very different note than the one that remains dominant throughout. A majority of the time, there are these themes of resisting indifference and hate, but then “Johnnys Revenge” shifts perspectives and depicts a character that seems to represent those things.
BT: Right. “Johnny’s Revenge” is a little bit more like an alternative ending, and there was deliberation on how it fits with the story. We justify it as that was Johnny’s way of surviving the end of the world. At the end of everything, these problems still aren’t resolved.

We kind of leave it up to the listener to decide how they’re going to deal with their own problems. But at the end of the day, the only way Johnny was able to survive the end of the world was to go back to being the way his original nemesis was. So, at the end of the story, he actually has to face what he’s been afraid of the whole time.
PV: So then “Children of Love” represents the other possible ending of Johnny’s story?
BT: Right, they’re basically different interpretations of the same ending. In our band, there are a lot of different (opinions). We’re not going to say we’re Christian-influenced—some of the members are and some aren’t—but we wanted to express that everyone is different and everyone can overcome things in their own way.

What works for one person might not work for someone else, and this provides two different ways to interpret the situation: You can take a strong, forceful approach or can take a slower, more indirect approach—it’s just up to your own personal interpretation.
PV: A lot of the album’s themes address issues about humanity that we should take into consideration, because they are negative and they may land us in an eventual man-made apocalypse. What do you think our generation can do to start restoring positivity?
BT: It’s just speaking out and showing unity—that’s kind of what we’re leading into with our second full-length. If enough people agree that the world needs to change, and that there is all this greed and corruption that needs to be fixed, then they’re going to change it.

You have to first find out how you’re going to get all these people together, and then everyone has to know they’re uniting under a common goal. Once they’re united they [have to] get on board and actually accomplish that goal. The complaining and whatnot can only go so far. If we’re going to be proactive and change the world, we have to unite together and actually do something about it.

PV: The album artwork is so striking and really speaks to the storyline you’ve crafted. Who did you work on that with?
BT: We worked with our artistic director and writing partner Brendan Barone. He brainstormed with us, and when we came up with the [album’s concept] of an end-of-the-world love story, we thought, ‘Well, why can’t that be the album cover? How can we make [the artwork] look like that?’ So, we created a Twilight-looking, Notebook-esque love scene that would normally take place in a field or on a boardwalk somewhere, and we said, ‘How can we set a background for this that will look striking and get that post-apocalyptic, I Am Legend feel?’

The scene behind it really sets a contrast and that’s kind of how the album is. There’s a lot of heavy elements, with David [Escamilla]’s screams, contrasting with Andy’s clean, melodic vocals and the orchestra in the background—so the contrast of the album art really does go with the contrast of the [music], and that also goes with the contrast of our live show. We want to make everything about Crown the Empire reflect the band in its entirety. So the live shows, the songs, the subject matter, what we stand for, our Internet presence—it’s all about the same thing.
PV: So you’ve been writing for the new album while on tour?
BT: Yes, we never stop writing. Right after we left the studio, we went out to the UK and did some dates with Pierce the Veil—who were amazing, by the way—and we were writing over there. With the last record, we actually had 26 songs before we narrowed it down those 11. We always have a lot of ideas.
PV: What are some of the ideas you have for the new record?
BT: We kind of have a main idea for what we want the songs to sound like . . . but who knows how that can change two months into the record?

We normally seem to have sets of songs. We have one set of six-eight songs, and another set of six-eight songs, that each has more of a similar style. So we can say, ‘Oh, these are the songs we wrote about four months ago,’ or ‘These are the songs we wrote two months ago,’ and ‘These are the songs we wrote yesterday.’

So they’re going to sound a little bit different, and when we get closer to the album’s release, that’s when we can say, ‘Okay, we can go in this direction and sound more like this or we can go in this [other] direction.’

But they’re all still going to be Crown the Empire songs. There’s going to be progress, there’s going to be maturity, and there are going to be some different elements—expect a lot more of David singing and less of him screaming—but it’s definitely going to be a heavy record too
PV: You’re going to be on the road for a while still, but do you have any immediate plans to break up touring with some studio time, and start working with the new written material?
BT: I think we’re going to be on the road for a good bit of time, but I know there’s going to be some new stuff released really soon. We’re always doing everything—playing shows, releasing music—and we will for as long as we can, as long as the fans still want to hear.

 
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