In January of this year Crown The Empire found themselves embroiled in a bitter break up with former singer David Escamilla that ended up with both parties making statements vilifying the other and enough dirt thrown to potentially damage the band’s career.
Thankfully, this four piece metalcore/post hardcore band from Dallas, Texas dusted themselves off from the carnage and set about re-establishing their reputation and music in the only way they know how – by letting the music do the bulk of the speaking.
“Yeah, it was a crazy thing to happen,” sighed vocalist/keyboards/synth/pianist Andrew Velasquez, “but we would be naive as a band to assume things wouldn’t go wrong on the path to making this into something that we do forever. It was a crazy turn of events especially seeing the way the internet reacted with the ‘high mind’ mentality. They decide… the initial seedling of a thought will escalate into this giant snowball effect of one opinion turns into truth for everybody. It’s a crazy thing to deal with and seeing the polarisation of all of our fans. It sucks to see people leave but obviously, no-one knows the true story so it’s hard to breathe life into something that’s not easy to deal with, especially being in it. But we are super stoked moving forward. Everybody that’s still here still cares and wants this more than anything. It’s crazy but we’ve all pushed ourselves further to be the best we can be as a four piece.”
After starting out as vocalist for the band, Velasquez happily stepped back duties when Escamilla joined the band in 2012 but he has now reclaimed the lead vocalist position with a minimum of fuss.
“I found it easy to step back into the role,” he shrugged. “We knew what we had to do and this is now the way it was when we started. I was not confident back then in my abilities to do everything. People kind of set up on their own laurels and rules and reasons why they can’t accomplish things and this last tour we did was the first time that we took all back tracks out of the set since the origin of the band. That’s just something that bands seem to do these days – most modern rock bands anyway – but we really wanted to see what we could do and really show our fans what we could do. Everybody has stepped up. We have Taddie (Brent, drums) and Brandon (Hoover, lead guitar) singing harmonies and Tree (Hayden, bass) helping out with the screaming so everybody has picked up the slack and stepped up to make sure we can still do it the same way. My confidence has grown as well. I’ve grown, I’ve changed since I was sixteen years old. Being on the road and understanding my voice… just the understanding of being a front man has been completely revamped and it has only made me better. It doesn’t feel like I’m limiting myself. It’s 100% honest and it feels great.”
Velasquez, Tree, and Hoover formed Crown the Empire while still attending Colleyville Heritage High School and Velasquez is quick to point out that at that stage of their lives and musical interests a sustained career in the industry was the last thing on their minds.
“Initially I don’t think we thought anything was gonna come of it,” he admitted. “We were just high school suburban kids who would rather play music than do anything else. We made music that we liked and we looked up to a lot of bands that are now our peers and that we’ve been able to learn from. People that see us and respect us and see us in a new light has been a surreal feeling since we were sixteen. Our biggest goal ever was to play one Warped tour show and now we’ve done in three times and we even did it in Australia and it’s been a wild ride. I don’t think any of us ever anticipated it to be this (laughs).”
Although they shunned thoughts of rock stardom, Velasquez does concede to having an inkling early on that the possibilities of taking the band from the realm of fun to the world of international success was there for the taking.
“We had an idea of what we wanted to be because the metalcore world was really popping and it was something that we enjoyed so I think it more happened by accident. We had a heavy, electronic and metalcore sound and just by trying new things we carved our own niche with a little bit of theatrics and we had these cinematic sounds. We used a lot of… I think The Dark Knight was something that we were all obsessed with at the time of the first album and we used all of the samples from the movie on soundbyte and we’ve always programmed to create a mood and tone that… since then I think the common thread between all the albums is we have kept the cinematic element and kept this larger than life cosmic connection that we’ve always kind of pushed. Combine that with theatrics and I guess the way that we sounded worked for us. I couldn’t tell you why but it just stood out amongst a saturated metalcore world at the time.”
Practically growing up in the music industry as a band was an educational experience for the young band, and Velasquez says that initial fears and misgivings the members had about the industry were soon put into perspective.
“There are so many fears we had about music that turned out to be false,” he laughed. “We were so naive. You think you have… people will read a thought on a YouTube comment and that is the truth. You can’t differentiate the bullshit from what is actually happening in the music industry. One is that the label controls the band, like they make them soft; they make them change their sound and it’s all the labels fault when in actuality for a lot of the indie labels – and with bands that we look up to on the label we are with now – give us more control than anybody. That was one thing that I thought: that the man was gonna hold me down if we got signed or contracts were gonna be evil but no, you just have to be smart about everything and just be educated.”
Crown the Empire’s three albums have come out in two-year cycles, with their debut The Fallout in 2012, followed by The Resistance: Rise of the Runaways in 2014 and then Retrograde in 2016, but Velasquez argues that is more coincidence than by design.
“It’s just the way it works out,” he replied. “Our label will tell us it’s time to start working on some new music and we’ll say yes sir, give us some money and we’ll make it happen (laughs). That’s just an industry standard type of thing. There’s plenty of time to work on music for the most part. Right now we have no problems taking our time and really making sure that the songs we put out are all gonna be killer. We don’t wanna make any more filler songs which is a downside to the label obligation to create twelve song albums.”
In keeping with the cycle, however, Velasquez concedes work has begun on their fourth album.
“Yeah, we have about five or six songs now,” he revealed, “with a bunch of working titles that for some reason revolve around food (laughs). There’s ‘Avocado Toast’ and ‘Creamy salmon Time’ just to name a couple. If you guys thought we were weird before, just you wait (laughs).”