“Lifers,” the second single from Chicago-based four-piece Empires’ upcoming album Orphan, couldn’t possibly be a song from a first album: it bears the weight and seasoning of experience, and particularly of experience in the music industry, which has a way of coaxing musicians’ best work out of them even in the face of all its hardship.
In fact, Orphan is Empires’ third full-length since forming in 2008. Compared to the band’s earlier work, “Lifers” is more reflective and less anthemic, more Wilco than Springsteen. It’s a welcome development; the band wears weathered poignancy well, and the languid, deliberate pace of “Lifers” betrays a quiet confidence. The haunting effect of lyrics like “I remain on highways and small stages… see my friends on jet planes and big stages, and I’ll wave, and they’ll wave back, it’s all I ask,” sneaks up on you: it’s a song about loneliness and melancholy, but acceptance, too.
“The lyrics came after a friend who was producing a record for a major pop artist had me come out to New York to sing backup vocals on the record, which didn’t turn out,” lead vocalist and lyricist Sean Van Vleet explains. “I stayed with him for a few days on a couch in The Trump. Ironically enough, this was where the chorus lyrics were written while he was working. I felt bittersweet-ish about the differences in our careers, but wrote a song about owning up to my future.” We’re looking forward to it.
EMPIRES’ EP HOW GOOD DOES IT FEEL IS OUT THIS TUESDAY, JUNE 17, AND THE BAND WILL PLAY MERCURY LOUNGE IN NEW YORK ON JUNE 18. ITS THIRD FULL-LENGTH ALBUM, ORPHAN, IS DUE OUT THIS FALL. FOR MORE ON EMPIRES, VISIT THEIR WEBSITE.