Ryan: I know that you guys had been working on the band for quite sometime before
playing your first show. Is it frustrating practicing for so long without
playing live, especially when you've all been in bands that use to play on a
Geoff: In a way it has been for the exact reason that you just mentioned.
Neeraj and Tony especially had been used to pretty rigorous tour
schedules with their past projects. But on the other hand, I think
the amount of time that we've spent writing and practicing, which is
going on a year and a half, has been one of the most rewarding and fun
musical experiences that we've had. We got to try out so many
different ideas and sounds that none of us had tried before and also
didn't have the confines of touring or writing for a record - just
playing for the sake of playing; which felt very pure.
Ryan: Many of you come from playing in harder bands like Suicide File, Killing Tree,
Shai Hulud, etc. Holy Roman Empire is much different musically. Is there any
reason why you guys chose to go for a much different sound this time around?
Geoff: I don't think it was a conscious decision to shoot for any
specific kind of sound. With that being said though, we definitely
felt like we wanted to break new territory and challenge ourselves;
the hardcore and punk rock scene is notorious for recycling sounds and
retreading the same turf, which isn't very forward thinking or change
oriented or even punk rock in my book. Like I said before too, we spent a
lot of time practicing and writing, during which time our sounds and
the way we wrote and played together definitely evolved. I think we
also decided very early on that we all wanted to be in a band where
the vocalist only sang and sang well, as opposed to all of the scream
oriented bands we had done before.
Ryan: How did the band meet? Did some of you know each other from previous bands?
Geoff: Neeraj and Jay have played in numerous bands together for years,
and I actually went to the same high school as Neeraj, although we
were a few years apart. About 2 and a half years ago Neeraj, Jay, and
myself began playing together in a different project with a different
drummer and singer. After that project recorded a demo, it fell apart
quickly, but the 3 of us decided to press on and look for another
drummer and singer. We had all known or heard of Tony from seeing his
previous bands throughout the years, and a mutual friend told us he
was not playing with Shai Hulud anymore. We met Emily through another
mutual friend of ours who had seen her other band, Longdistancerunner,
and said she could carry a note and had good stage presence.
Ryan: Now that you've started to play on a more consistent basis throughout the
Chicagoland area, what have you noticed has changed / stayed the same in the
Geoff: Well...obviously some of the venues and many of the bands have
changed, but some of the same people are still instrumental in
organizing and booking, which is rad. But I think a major difference
is that there are so many bands and so many different sub-genres that
I think things have definitely become diluted. Things are very
accessible, which takes away a lot of the urgency and specialness of
going to shows or seeing certain bands. I feel like it's common these
days to go to a show and hear several extremely similar bands-
whereas, I feel like a few years ago, shows could be a lot more
diverse. I think the invention of 4 band package tours makes it very
hard for local bands to get well known in their hometown; it seems
like you have to go out on the road to get heard of at home.
Ryan: Since many of you have toured nationally and even internationally, what do you
feel is unique about Chicago's punk community opposed to others you've played
Geoff: It's huge. There's a lot to pick and choose from, which can be
nice. But I think Chicago has always produced bands that have had a
very down to earth quality. We take our cues from ourselves, not
either of the coasts, and don't seem to get as caught up on terrible
trends and aesthetics (ie. make up, leather pants, etc).
Jay: Although Emily wears makeup, and I've seen Geoff wear red leather pants. Oh, that was for Halloween.
Ryan: I recently was asked to write an article on what has kept me into punk for so
long. I know that many of you have been active in the punk scene for a while
as well and was wondering if you could share your views on this.
Geoff: I'd guess that we would all have slightly different answers for
this, but I think we'd all agree that we had a desire to make
challenging music that fell outside the mainstream and either
explicitly or implicitly carried a counter cultural set of ideals. I
think at this point as well, we've been involved in this for so long,
that punk rock isn't just a sound anymore, but some sort of vaguely
defined, underlying ethos that informs our decisions as individuals
and how we live our lives.
Jay: I agree with Geoff 110%. For me personally, it's become more who I am, where I've come from, how I make personal decisions on my lifestyle and politics. That will always be a part of me, so I guess in a sense, will always keep me a part of it.
Ryan: Do you think overall the Internet has had a positive effect on punk
It seems like punk rock staples like paper fliers and zines are being
and replaced by mass emails and webzines. What do you think about this?
Geoff: I miss the punk rock hotline (if you grew up punk rock in the
Chicago area during the 90's - you know exactly what this means). I
suppose it's nice for bands and people to have access to find out about
so much music so easily, but I feel like it's really diluted things.
It's too easy. And besides, I feel that it's definitely classist- what
about all the kids who don't grow up in families that have computers
in their homes? Whole sections of people are definitely excluded;
punk rock is definitely becoming the co-opted and commodified
rebellion of the middle class more than ever before.
Ryan: This question is for Emily. One of the first things that struck me
when I heard
you guys were the strong vocals. Can you give any vocal tips for shitty
grindcore singers like myself?
Emily: Well, warming up is essential, even if you feel lame while singing
"mee may ma mo moo." All singers, even amazing grindcore singers like
yourself, need to do this in order to maintain stamina. You won't
lose your voice as quickly. You should warm up before shows and, if
you can, before practicing too. And being a non-smoker helps.
Technically, singers should never smoke or even be around smokers.
(I'm totally quitting). But on a more emotional level, if you will, I
also think it's important to know your limits and to know when you can
push them. I used to think that I could only sing over really quiet,
acoustic guitar type stuff but my driving desire to rock helped me
discover a different facet to my vocal range. Likewise, it's also
good to know when you need to back off a little, pushing too hard may
cause you to damage your voice.
Ryan: Besides playing in Holy Roman Empire, are any of you playing in any
or do anything else within the punk rock community?
Geoff: Emily is pretty active with her other band, Longdistancerunner.
The rest of us still play with old friends and have the odd reunion
show every so often. Other than that- we work and have too many adult
concerns to mention in the context of a short interview.
Emily: Yeah, Longdistancerunner just released a full length, which we're
pretty excited about considering it took about a year and a half to
Ryan: What does the future hold for the band and who can people contact if they want
to book you? Is there anywhere online that people can check out your music?
Geoff: Right now we're about to enter the studio to record a 6 song EP
for Hewhocorrupts, Inc. and hopefully, will try to play locally as
much as we can, until we have a chance to start getting out of town in
the near future. We have a myspace page where internerds can download
a few songs and leave hatemail.
Emily: Our website, hrempire.org is up and nearly running, too.
Jay: The band e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.myspace.com/holyromanempire.