Having just touched down in the UK to fill their supporting slot on the new Of Mice & Men tour, we caught up with Crown The Empire vocalist Andy Velasquez, even if he was wrapped up in his duvet by the time we got there.
This being their first tour to showcase their new album ‘Retrograde’, the set at Manchester’s spectacular O2 Apollo is going to have a few new surprises. From the last time they touched on our shores, they’re also a man down, Guitarist Benn Suede announced his departure from the band last year forcing them to go into the studio with a whole new mind-set. ‘Retrograde’ is considered a far cry from their usual cinematic fantasy work so we were happy to pick Andy’s brain on touring, the new album and that new My Chemical Romance cover.
So I want to start out by saying the first time I saw you guys was with Pierce The Veil in 2013. Looking back on that specific tour, how has it changed for you to now?
Andy: It’s a world of difference. That was our first time ever overseas, and so we lost money out of the ass. Like nobody bought our t-shirts, nobody knew who we were. We were pretty polite about the whole thing, we didn’t know the etiquette of being on tour with a band like Pierce The Veil. I think ‘King For A Day’ had just come out, before they could even play a show in the US with it. Like there’s definitely a tour etiquette between bands that we didn’t know about yet, I was only 18. I got so drunk! ‘Cause drink age in the US is 21 and it was my first time away from home, that was pretty much my college-esque experience, it was a shit-show. As far as crew and crowds, like now we have our own bus! It has an insane amount of bunks, like sixteen bunks and only eight of us living here. It seems excessive but I’m not gonna complain about having a bus!
So you have some bunks that are just full of bags and stuff?
Yeah that’s what I mean, everybody has closet space!
Back then you had the matching outfits with the bowties and the blazers and things, to go with the whole narrative of, was it the EP that was just out?
Oh man I finished recording like the same day we had to fly out, so yeah we were touring off the back of the EP, but we had just finished The Fallout. We were still in that whole mind-set though…
Who came up with the idea of the outfits?
So you were just like ‘you guys have to wear this’?
Yeah! I got so much push-back at first, but it was very much a cliché… not a cliché but I can’t think of the word for it. I’m so jetlagged! Not a cliché but something like that almost like ‘look at us, look at us!’ It worked though that’s the thing, people who didn’t know would be thinking ‘who’re these fucking guys, like the Backstreet Boys or something?’ We’d get jokes all the time but yeah it went with the narrative. We burned them, we ran over them with cars, we lit them on fire.
Are you glad you get to wear what you want now?
Yeah the new stuff is tailored towards that vibe we’re going for. It’s still very much a part of us, the reason why people liked us at first was because there was very much a look to it that separated us from that music- before we knew who we were musically and we just made Risecore stuff. Moving in that direction and having a fresh style, people came up to us a bunch like ‘you don’t look the same!’ and we’re wearing pink flower shirts and stuff.
You just finished Warped Tour, is it your third year?
Yeah it was our third year!
What is that like, as a mind set to be on a tour like that for so long?
Yeah, it’s definitely weird, it’s like a whole town that’s set up in a day. There are so many people involved, every crew, every band, every bus. And that’s not everything, there’s I think six stages that are set up every day, and there’s non-profit organisations like Peta is there, the army is there recruiting kids. It’s a huge, weird kind of bohemian gypsy town of people. We’re all just fucking drunk, you make friends, there’s cliques for everything! Have you ever heard of Magic the Gathering? It’s like a card game, like Pokemon cards and every Friday night they would have a table with like LED lights and they would sit and play cards across all bands; like there’s nerd and pop-punk and metal and different kinds of people kind of gravitated towards each other. It’s exhausting because it’s so hot but it’s like a camp, you hang with your homies.
Your first few albums, like you said are very narrative led, was that something you had in mind, or was that something you all had in mind?
I think that just came from who we were, like we were suburban kids in school, and we were just angry at everything, just being teenagers. So having a parameter to write around is easy. It’s like a colouring book, you’re not having to just draw something like ‘what the hell do I make, I have no idea what I am’, but if you have a colouring book you just fill it in. That’s what it kind of felt like at first. It was easy but as we got older like our musical tastes changed and so did what we wanted to do, so we just kind of went away from that.
Was it nice to have a different creative writing process for this new album?
Yeah absolutely. It was still difficult, there was still a lot of things we had to work out internally, but it was a really fruitful thing and I felt like it was something that had to happen with the band, regardless of the end result.
Do you think if you’d have pushed to make an album like the last two, it would have tipped you upside down in a way, almost as if this is what you needed sort of thing?
I feel like we needed this for our own wellbeing and for the sake of the band. We were lumped in with a bunch of bands that kind of made the same kind of music, that’s why the ‘Risecore’ thing happened- it was a very distinguishable sound. Being the big fish in a little fish tank is not cool. Once we got to Warped Tour, that was the goal for us as teenagers we were like ‘gotta be at Warped Tour it’s the biggest thing ever!’ Then you see real shit going on like Download where there’s like 50,000 people. There’s maybe 50,000 people on the whole Warped Tour combined after a month of doing it. So getting a perspective change on there’s real shit going on is a game changer for sure, and changed our entire outlet.
This new album has a bigger personal vibe to it, how have the fans reacted?
It’s exactly what you’d expect, any band doing anything that’s different, they’ll be like “fuck you, you sold out” and “you guys have changed”. There is a degree of truth to abandoning. There are bands who have done it, metal bands who will put out a 5 Seconds Of Summer record. You can’t fool the fans at that point. They’re not idiots, and to be like “yeah this is how you make it” is the wrong way to approach it so what we did was tried to take what was cool about us initially, minus the ‘Risecore’ stuff, the thing that everybody doing. Looking at ourselves introspectively like that and being realistic, thinking “why did people like us at first?” The cinematic stuff, the visuals we always had going along with what we were writing were unique and that was pretty much it. We have to combine those things and make them unique to ourselves so that people know, that you hear a guitar part and it’s Crown The Empire. Did you listen to The Resistance at all? Do you know how Bloodline is like thrashy metal and then we had Millennia on the same. We didn’t know who we were yet as a band. There’s heavy without being ridiculous, there’s different ways to approach it. Just being older and getting with that is definitely is something that was scary. For the fans to be like “we hate you.” We knew it was going to happen either way. Look at Bieber, he’s doing the same stuff, but it doesn’t matter you’ll get hate either way. Any Youtube comment on anybody, somebody will be talking shit. We had to do it for ourselves, like I said. For the evolution of us as musicians and as people, to be able to talk about things we are worried about, it’s hard to do.
If you had made another album that still had the cinematic feel, people would have been like “well, you don’t change.”
The same thing, yeah, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
There was one track on the album ‘The Fear Is Real’ that interested me, it had the length of a full track when I glanced at the track listing but was entirely instrumentals, was this a way to break up the album?
With our music we’ve always tried to have a setting, like when we had the concept albums, some kind of shape the world with sound, like you picture the visuals with. We are all huge fans of long introductions like the one on the album (SK-68). But this one, it was a mind-set that we were in, that was induced by the amount of creativity that was going on at the time, it’s a long story. It’s an atmospheric thing to try and help you paint a picture of what the rest of the album is going to be.
This is the first time in the UK that people are going to hear the new tracks, what are you hoping for?
We don’t really know the energy of the songs, this is the first time we’re playing them for anybody other than ourselves. To figure out the vibe is definitely the hardest part. I don’t really know what I want. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be like, but were working on it. I like opening with ‘Are You Coming With Me’, that’s what were opening with on this tour. It just kind of sets the tone of what were doing. I think it’s a really cool and really fun intro song to do.
Rocksound described your music as ‘My Chemical Romance- esque’ with ‘fantasy elements’ and you just did the My Chemical Romance cover, did it hit you that you had the biggest song on the album?
Honestly, im honoured. I love that album, that was my teenage album, everybody knows that album and everybody knows that song. So obviously were never going to say no to that. But at the same time, trying to do that song there is so much pressure. Obviously you’re never going to be Gerard Way so approaching it and doing it in a way that sounded like us was a fun thing to do but it was definitely a little bit daunting. I haven’t read a comment about any of it.
No. Fuck no, I don’t even want to know. I apologised already for not being Gerard Way and we did the song so just take it.
I’ve had it on in the car a lot, there’s some really good ones and some not so great ones too.
The Twenty One Pilots one is fire. But yeah I haven’t listened to any of it really, let’s just skip over that whole thing. I should listen to it eventually.