So far, so good.
Holy Rolling Empire have been on tour supporting their just-released, psychedelic-pop debut Gigantis for more than a week, and they're incident free.
There haven't been any blackouts or trips to the emergency room. They haven't had to assemble a search party for AWOL band members, and no one has felt the need to punch someone.
Not a single member of the Tucson-based quintet has been incarcerated.
And these days, that's just how they want it.
“We've definitely had to take it down a notch,” guitarist Ian Carstensen told CityBeat from a tour stop in Portland. “We're not 21 years old any longer. Broken legs, vans breaking down, people getting drunk and lost for a day or two, getting in fights, getting arrested—things of that nature can't happen anymore. This is our career; it's not just a party.”
Perhaps it's that the band was recently picked up by indie label Burning House Records, or that they secured a slick distribution deal through Warner Bros. that has prompted them to tone things down. Or maybe it's the fact that they're on their biggest tour to date and things have been going smoothly.
And so, Empire will calmly move down the Pacific Coast promoting the new album, and while they aren't ready to sell their souls just yet, the recent help has come in handy.
“It's just easier now,” Carstensen said. “Whether it's booking or press or whatever, saying you're on a record label and have Warner Bros. distribution makes it simpler. We were just doing a radio campaign, and they were giving us the ‘Ah, well, we don't work with just anybody' until they heard who was helping us put out our album. It all just makes it easier for people to work with us.”
Singer Orin Shochat and drummer Dave Mertz have been making music together since they had a heavy-metal band in middle school, but the current lineup really assembled around foosball. Carstensen would throw parties focused on the table-soccer game, and Shochat, along with friends Bryan Moran and Noah Horton, would attend. It wasn't long before Carstensen was asked to play with the band. They've been together ever since.
In addition to their infamous road debauchery, a penchant for funny song titles like album opener “If You Can't Beat it, Fuck it” and single “Bi-Polar Bear Mania” have contributed to their perceived lack of serious commitment. But the purveyors of classic rock, pop and stoned-out space jams just never saw it like that.
“It's funny,” Carstensen said. “We didn't realize how much that would come up. I guess we just haven't put that much stock into song titles. We do try to maintain a sense of humor about things and we never want to take things too seriously. But we are very serious about the music and what we're doing.”
Their newly acquired mindset not only landed them a label and distribution deal, but also recent invitations to the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, plus a handful of comparisons with the Fab Four.
“We're definitely influenced by The Beatles,” Carstensen said. “I mean, pardon my language, but every fucking thing they put out was solid gold. Creatively, they aspired to do something that wasn't being done, but produced it in a peak professional manner. That's pretty much exactly what we want to do.”
With legitimate backing, comparisons with music legends, a more serious attitude in place and even prefacing swear words with an apology, Holy Rolling Empire are ready to take it as far as they can. They're more committed to their vision. Although they've altered their behavior a bit, Carstensen promises that no matter how many breaks come their way, their attitudes won't change.
“We're just five best friends who love making music,” he said. “That hasn't changed, and it won't. We've put in a lot of hard work, and it's finally starting to come together. We'll always have the music and each other to rely on, and I think that's the proverbial dream.” Holy Rolling Empire plays with Transfer and Head Like a Kite on Friday, May 1, at The Casbah. www.myspace.com/theholyrollingempire.