Crown the Empire just released their power-rock, spacey ‘Retrograde’. The band is currently ripping it on the ‘Retrograde tour’ where they’re headlining along with openers such as Blessthefall, New Year’s Day, Too Close To Touch, and Light Up The Sky.
I got the chance to interview frontman Andy Leo at the Baltimore date about the new album, new tour, influences, music, and much more.
Q: So I like to start this off with a different kind of question, so what’s your favorite thing about Baltimore?
A: Favorite thing about Baltimore, um, you know what. Every time I play here theres a restaurant right next to the water and that’s really cool to see it. Texas is just so land dry and it’s just really really shitty. People don’t even go to the beach like ever. I guess being close to the water is always nice like its something you don’t always get to see. There’s a restaurant right around the corner, I think it’s called like Charlie’s or something? It’s FIRE, like they got like seafood and stuff.
Q: I know you guys just started the cycle for Retrograde with this headliner, how have the new songs been received live and been going over?
A: Uh great. We’ve been trying to figure out we’ve changed around the set a lot. But since we’re not able to just kind of pick and choose what songs go over well and what we think the fans wanna hear versus what we wanna put out there. You know it is the retrograde tour so we did try to pick the most hype songs from the album to kind of mix with the old stuff just to get everybody into it, keep everybody happy and introducing playing these songs for the first time. It’s awesome, so fun.
Q: I was actually just about to ask about you guys changing the setlist a bit and switching around songs throughout this tour. What was the thought process behind putting this particular setlist together?
A: We’ve taken feedback and we’ve practiced all the songs and rehearsed them so that we can just like move them around if something doesn’t feel right. We’ve been able to change the set a bunch. We’ve got it on lock right now I think. Taking fan feedback and a song that went well in practice and we think will go over well live and doesn’t do well at all. So, you kinda have to take into count what people vibe.
Q: I heard Retrograde a couple months ago and there’s definitely a ton of different sounds on this album. What were the influences for the band or yourself coming into the process of putting this record together?
A: We took a bunch of stuff from like modern rock stuff and you know and there’s a lot of movie scores. You know we’d always been pretty much just cinematic on the last record. Pretty much made everything like ‘The Dark Knight’, you know we took that dark approach and sounds like that but with this album we kinda branched off and did a little bit different kind of cool maybe industrial mixed with like these like jazzy like more complex chord shapes that can express what we’re doing better instead of you know just going for heavy all the time. You know you can be aggressive without being Dun dun dun dun dun all the time. So just kind of doing that and shaping that was the most fun part of making it and creating those songs.
Q: I also noticed Retrograde is a pretty drastic and progressive departure from your previous albums when it comes to your sound. What was the idea behind changing and reconstructing the band’s sound for this record?
A: Going into it, we didn’t wanna put out any more bullshit. It seemed like everybody in our scene took a cool idea that kind of stood from underground like passion and screaming parts into whole verses into breakdown and it got to the point where it was such an inbred mutant baby of all the bands similarly kind of did. We knew we couldn’t do that because people stopped giving a fuck. A bunch of tours aren’t doing well and a bunch of bands aren’t selling nearly as many albums as they were. You just can’t do the same thing and not expect everyone to get bored of it. Knowing that we knew we had to do something different and there was some risks because if you change your sound at all, everybody’s gonna talk shit no matter what. There was obviously a little apprehension to do the initial jump but once you’re out there and once you started creating for the sake of creating and not necessarily targeting it towards anybody. Like let’s make some songs for ourselves and as long as they’re good songs, that’s all that matters.
Q: You guys have a pretty wide catalog in your career at this point. So, if there was any song you could bring back from your back catalog. What would it be and why?
A: There was a song on The Fallout called ‘Two’s Too Many’. And it was like this weird almost Panic! at the Disco kind of vibe but like a poppy weird sing-y kind of song and I think it was a really cool idea and it was something different on the record compared to like The Fallout or any of the heavy stuff on the album. We were scared to not play heavy because we felt we had shit to prove to everybody and we were doing some metal tours, we toured with like Born of Osiris all these like actual heavy bands. I think it’s hard to be in that league so I think had we just embraced the fact that we were a singing band more than we were a screaming band, that song would’ve got more exposure. We played it once, it was just so different that we were half scared to do it that we never did it again.
Q: I don’t think bands get asked this question enough since there’s too much focus on their music, but what albums have been on your rotation lately?
A: I listen to anything that comes out that you’ve heard people talk about I’ll listen to. I was like obsessed with the new Frank Ocean for a minute and it’s so weird but I think it’s so familiar using weird R&B choruses and like singing it and using like a vibe that’s like, just had a conversation and really hasn’t done. Obviously that’s the reason why like Drake is the biggest guy right now because he’s for like really any group of people. I think that one was just really weird and it talks about like acid and stuff and I think that’s like not very mainstream culture in like rap like nobody really raps about that stuff so I think its just a different perspective on hip hop I think is needed right now. Same with rock. I like nothing but thieves is something I’ve been jamming. Bands like Glass Animals are really awesome and weird movie scores. I think Before the Flood was a Leonardo DiCaprio documentary that Trent Reznor did the soundtrack for and it’s really cool to see textures and ambient kind of cool patterns and beats that are amazing and really out there. I like that kind of stuff.
Q: I know labels and management usually pick the lineup for tours like these. But what was your guys’ thought process for putting the lineup for this headliner together?
A: Shit, we didn’t have a choice at all. Honestly, in headliners it seems like there’s a lot of politics involved where a label will weigh and say, “We need you to do this. We need you to pull a younger band”, which is fine. A lot of it is favors for say…managers. I don’t know, but I’m happy with the way it’s turned out. If I had it my way, I would obviously be touring with nothing but homies. Bands that I’m actually friends with and stuff. But you know, it is what it is.
Q: I won’t take up much more of your time. So to finish, what does the future hold for Crown the Empire?
A: Who knows my dude. We’re always writing and coming up with new weird ideas. We’ve been talking to a lot of our behind the scenes people and just kind of figuring out what direction we wanna take and how we wanna keep pursuing making this album more content for this record and as well as writing new stuff for fun in the mindset of making new music.