A good friend of mine at Rocklahoma went to high school with the drummer Eli Syed and bassist Jeremy Dodd, and told me a very funny (and maybe a little bit embarrassing) story about Syed when he was a gangly teen:
He would walk down the halls every day at school with his headphones in, air drumming, completely oblivious to those around him.
“I’m always trying to better myself,” defended Syed. “[I’m] very critical of my technique and how I approach the songs that we create…. I try to give every drum its own voice, make it musical, and just have fun with it.”
Not only is Syed dedicated to achieving perfection, he applies that to the band's sound as a whole.
“Every time we mess up, he gives us this serious look,” said guitarist and lead vocalist Tyler Lee. “Eyes are wide and he just stares at us any time we make a mistake…. It helps us because we know we’ll get ‘the look,’ even if we’re on stage, we know it’s there.”
Keyboardist Justin Harter adds, “But we never make mistakes on stage, so that’s okay.”
One song they wrote when they were sixteen years old and just beginning they’re rock journey has a rather interesting story. “‘Journey of the Mind,’ is kind of our muse,” explained Syed. “We want to make it a three-parter, and make it a concept album of just that song but with different parts…. It’s just one of those songs that has stood the test of time. We keep wanting to work on it and improve it.”
Right now, with five songs recorded, Empire Grey is looking to hit the studio. They’re hoping for their debut record to come out “after Jurassic World and before Terminator Genisys,” said Lee. Look forward to that coming out by the end of the summer.
If you haven’t heard by now (and if you haven’t, your head must be stuck in the mud), Rocklahoma was insanely wet, windy, and muddy. Empire Grey was stuck in tents during the night of craziness when Linkin Park’s show was cancelled due to “inclement weather.”
“We were drowning in our tents, which blew away,” said Harter.
During the tormenting weather, the members of Empire Grey got together with the epic band Lovebettie (interview coming soon!) and played some impromptu acoustic music together, which I wish I had been there to hear.
Lee appreciated the experience as a way to network and continue to grow as a musician. “That’s how you learn the best, is from others,” he said.
“She’s terrified of me,” said Syed. “She won’t come close to me, but she loves my drums.”
Lee added, “I’m out there, practicing by myself, and she’ll come out and grab his drumsticks and start banging.”
“She likes the really big floor tom, the sixteen inch,” laughed Syed.
Childhood memories of course came up when we began talking about children. Syed remembers seeing Porcupine Tree with Lee and Dodd, and it being a conversion experience for them.
“The three of us were just star-struck,” recalled Syed. “They just blew us away. They’re very precise, and that’s something that we crave. We want to have precision, we want to have the stamina to do what they do.”
Based out of Oklahoma City, Empire Grey will hopefully be heading out on a national tour this fall. If they do, and make it out to your area, I suggest going to their show. They have great energy, their music is fun, and talking to them afterward will be a blast.
Zoe Adler is a music journalist from Long Beach, California. Besides her website, which is her pride and joy, she works with the GRAMMY Foundation and the Long Beach Independent. Additionally, Ms. Adler is a musician, spending half of her time playing the flute, piccolo, trombone, and marching baritone. She has been with TeenView Music since the very start and hopes to make something of it in the future.