You've heard the melodic baritone of Empires' Sean Van Fleet before.
Turn on the Killers and you'll hear it oozing from Brandon Flowers, or on any of the National's dark indie-rock opuses thanks to scruffy, Oscar-the-Grouch frontman Matt Berninger. Heck, if Interpol's Paul Banks didn't bark so much (and wear so many gold chains), it'd sound a bit like him too.
Shakespeare once asked: "Can one desire too much of a good thing?" For fans of indie rock, the answer sounds like a resounding "no."
San Diego gets its chance to weigh in on Sunday, March 1, when Empires bring their golden, soaring rock & roll through Soda Bar. Where the National get mired in chamber-pop melancholy, and the Killers sound(ed?) like they're just in it for mainstream radio dominance, Empires usher in Roxy Music-fueled romps over a bed of War on Drugs-style atmospherics and a Greg Dulli-esque penchant for back alley romanticism. In other words, it’s pretty good.
And it's familiar. While familiarity works wonders for artists these days (insert Sam Smith/Tom Petty joke here), all of the bands I reference above can easily be compared to musical icons that came before them, and so forth and so on. So no, Empires don't reinvent the wheel, and yes, Van Fleet sounds eerily similar to some indie rock big shots -- but can you blame him? It's his voice. The boy can't exactly help it.
And in fact, it seems like the band is very aware of how it might come across, and has even going through a slight identity shift recently -- less Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, more Gaslight Anthem. While working on Empires' third album, 2014's "Orphan," with producer John Congleton (who lists St. Vincent, Cloud Nothings and the Black Angels on his resume), Van Fleet admitted that the producer's tutelage helped quite a bit.
"[Congleton] took the ideas we thought were golden and threw them away," the lead singer said in a press release last year. "He said, 'You need to let the song be what it is and you need to live with it.' And that's what we did. He taught us not to hide our songs, to let it all shine through."
If the initial singles -- "How Good Does It Feel" [watch here] and "Please Don't Tell My Lover" [watch it here] -- from the album are any testament, it sounds like they damn near opened the floodgates. So soak it up, arena-rock fans. After all, Mae West said it best: "Too much of a good thing is wonderful!"