Monday, August 20, 2012

Interview With Keith Latinen (Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) & Count Your Lucky Stars)

Any fan of the recent surge in twinkly midwest emo bands knows about Empire! Empire! (I Was A Lonely Estate) and Count Your Lucky Stars Records. Keith Latinen started both of those projects, and has remained an extremely influential figure within emo music. Keith answered some questions from us at MuzikDizcovery, concerning things such as Empire! Empire!'s new music (including their upcoming full length), split releases, represses of older material, and much more that you can read below.

Firstly, can you introduce yourself?

My name is Keith, and I play a lot of things in Empire! Empire!, and I also run Count Your Lucky Stars.

You guys are just beginning to release new material for the first time since the end of last year. How’s it like getting back into releasing music again.

I guess I have never thought of it like that.  That is to say, I don’t ever really feel like there are periods where we aren’t actively working on something- because really, there aren’t.  It usually takes a while for a release to come to fruition, so I think I can understand how it may seem that way.  It also hasn’t really been that long since our last release. 

I actually recorded the music for the most recent batch of songs last year, and did the vocals early this year.  They have been finished for quite some time.  I think part of it is I have never really been that good at keeping everyone else updated on what we are working on, and I don’t tend to share songs before release dates.  I think a lot of other bands are very vocal about these things, and so when we do end up releasing something, it’s like “Oh! When did this happen? I don’t remember hearing about this!”.

Your latest release, the Count Your Lucky Stars four-way split, features “Everything Small is Just a Small Version of Something Big,” a very different kind of song for you guys. It’s a little more upbeat and far groovier than you guys usually do. Was this more of an experimentation for a song, or is this more of the direction you want to go in for the next full length?

It was more of an experimental song.  So was our song on the first four-way.  Splits and comps are fun because you can get away with things that wouldn’t necessarily fit on a full length or even an EP.  I think the majority of my music will always be slow and boring.  Expect that from the full length.

You also just announced two new splits; one with Arrows and one with Rika. Splits have long been a big focus of the band throughout the years. Why do you insist on focusing on splits?

I never planned on it them being such a focus, but I can’t deny that they certainly became one.  There are several reasons for this, starting with the idea that I have always had a hard time saying no.  Couple that with a rare-track complex and that accounts for a lot of it.  I also love splits because it really cements our connection with another band- it creates a bond that can’t be reciprocated any other way.  Not even through touring with another band.  It is much more permanent thing.  I think growing up and seeing bands I like releasing 7” records and splits really influenced me, and I wanted to emulate that.

Splits are also shorter and much less of a commitment, so it’s easy to knock one out.  We are on the road a lot, so when I’m home I sometimes have far too limited time to do something more than a few songs here and there.

I think the final reasoning was the way the band was built.  We were a solo project, we gained full-time members, we lost members, we gained members, lost members, and then were whittled down to just me and my wife.  But because I could play all the instruments, we didn’t need to stop recording in between periods of lost members.  In fact, very few of our other members ever even appear on our recordings.

You guys have said that the full length is due to be out this year. Do you have any idea when that is going to be?

I don’t.  I keep trying to find time to start writing for the full length, but the label and touring keep pulling me away from it.  I’ve written two songs on guitar that I really can’t remember what they sound like, so I doubt they will ever see the light of day.  I am starting to doubt it will be out by the end of this year, but I at least hope to have it all recorded by then.

Is there any more finalized information about the full length yet, such as length, album title, or anything else of the sort?

All I can say is that it will fit on one 12” LP.  It will probably be around 40-something minutes.  I have no idea past that.  I don’t name songs until they are completely finished, and the album title usually comes last too. 

Are any of the songs from the recent splits going to be on the full length?

Nope.  I always have hated when bands do that.  Each song I have written is intended for one specific release and nothing else, except when it winds up on a discography or something.  I would rather write new songs than rehash old ones, and I am also of the mind that the original will always be better.  I think most fans feel that same way, and the last thing I want is someone listening to our new stuff and telling me they prefer a particular version better.  Better to just have one.

Keith, you have been featured on a couple tracks this year by label mates, such as Dowsing and Joie de Vivre. Will there be any label mates featured on this record? If not, is that something you plan to do in the future?

I’m sure there will be some that will end up on our record, but I haven’t made any concrete plans for the record yet.  There are certain people I’ve wanted to work with a long time, so if we can’t make it work out on this record, then we will find another release for them to be on.

Along with being a part of Empire! Empire!, you also run Count Your Lucky Stars Records. Is running a label something that you want to keep doing even after you finish making music?

I think so.  Everything has a finite period, but I’d like to think the label will outlast my band.

Which is more work? Running the label or focusing on your own music?

Definitely the label.  100% the label.  It actively robs me of time to write music.  It’s kind of a funny situation to be in, because at the beginning I really feel that both were mutually beneficial and helped each other grow.  They both have come a long way and both vie for my attention more and more, but I only have some much time and resources.  The band loses out more often than not because it is my project and I can’t let myself detract any attention from then bands on our label.

Do you guys have any plans for represses of any of the older material, such as the album or the earlier EPs?

We are currently remixing When the Sea Became a Giant for vinyl, which will mark the first time it has ever been released on that medium.  Its five years old, which is absolutely crazy.

I know a lot people have been asking about a repress of What It Takes to Move Forward on vinyl, but honestly I’m not sure we will ever repress it- or at least not in the near future.  The plates got damaged and it is going to cost a lot of money to get new ones made, and I would rather spend that money on other bands releases or new Empire! Empire! releases right now. 

It is kind of funny that a majority of our catalog is out of print, but through the power of the internet, no release ever really goes out of print anymore.  You can always download it somewhere if you look.

Are there any upcoming tour plans for the upcoming months in support of the new material?

We are going to the UK in the fall with the Reptilian, but we are purposely trying not to play shows right now so we can actually write out new album.  Tours have definitely gotten in the way of writing the new album.  Actually, going on tour has a twofold effect, because we can’t write when I’m gone and when I come back I have a million things to catch up with on the label, and it takes me a long time to get in a place where I can even pick up a guitar.   

Any final things you want to say?

Thanks a lot for asking me to do the interview and for featuring us as an artist of the day!  We just uploaded another rare track for free download at the Empire! Empire! Bandcamp and everyone should check out the exciting releases at the Count Your Lucky Stars website.  

I'd like to thank Keith again for answering our questions. Count Your Lucky Stars houses some of my favorite bands, and Empire! Empire! has been surging up the list of my favorite bands. As stated above, the band has several recent splits, all of which you can order at the Count Your Lucky Stars website. Also, all of the band's material is up for stream on their Bandcamp page. The On Time Spent Waiting 7" is one of my favorite EPs of recent years, and is an absolute must-listen.

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