Thursday 26 April 2018

O Emperor think big


IF there's one accusation that you can't level at O Emperor it is that the band lack ambition.

The Waterford five-piece, which has adopted Cork as its home, are to make the leap from playing smaller venues to a major show in the opera house next month.

For a band more used to playing the intimate surrounds of places like Coughlan's on Douglas Street and Cyprus Avenue in the past year, the show represents a milestone in their career.

"It's a step up alright, we've done all the venues around town at this stage and the idea was to do something a bit different," Phil Christie, guitarist and vocalist with the group tells The Corkman.

"It's going to be a sit down show so we will do something different with lights and video perhaps, make it more of a show that way to do something different.

"We're scratching our heads thinking of ways to make it different this time. It's a big step.

"It gives us an opportunity to bring a better flow to the songs on the album, to let them sit together and give them more attention and focus rather than banging them out over a pub scenario. It will definitely be interesting to see how it works out," he says.

Four years ago the band commissioned the RTE Concert Orchestra to provide backing to 'Sedalia' from their debut album 'Hither Tither', but O Emperor will not be filling out the Opera House stage next month, Phil insists.

"With 'Hither Tither' there was a lot more additional arrangements on the songs and recording, while there are some string parts on Vitreous [O Emperor's second album, released last year], it's an album that's more suited to a five piece band. I don't think there'll be any extra musicians, it'll be more a case of marrying up the music with the lights and putting on more of a show," he said.

While trying to sell a show in the Opera House is a big step, taking such significant leaps of faith is nothing new to O Emperor.

Having released 'Hither Tither' on major label Universal in 2010 to favourable reviews, the band parted ways with both their label and their lush, genre-spanning sound, going on to found their own studio. There, in the bowels of their new studio (Big Skin HQ on MacCurtain St), the group adopted a rougher yet no less enthralling texture for 'Vitreous'.

The reinvention has been a slow process, but has gone to plan, Phil says.

"It's been pretty much everything we expected it to be. We didn't expect any massive explosion to happen overnight, but it's been good to have all the things we need, we have the facility to do things ourselves.

"The album's been out for a while and I think it's slowly picking up more momentum. We didn't expect it to blast off, to be honest having been away for a couple of years between the albums we weren't even sure how much interest there would have been. We just wanted to do it that way anyway. If anything it's been more than we expected."

One thing 'Vitreous' has in common with 'Hither Tither' is that it was released to rave reviews and a nomination for the prestigious Choice Music Prize, with the winner to be revealed next month.

"That's been great to get, particularly because it was such a good year; there was a lot of great music released in Ireland."

Work is already under way for album number three, but Phil outlines how it will be an organic process.

"The nice thing is we can tip away at them casually enough with the studio there. Everybody has been making their own demos and doing it that way. We're going to gather them all up, go through the material over the next couple of months and see what's there.

"If it turns into something that starts to grow legs, that's even better again.

"We haven't been recording for a year so I think everybody's pretty eager to get back and do that."

O Emperor play Cork Opera House at 8pm on Friday, March 7 with support by Cork band The Altered Hours.

Tickets are €17.50 and available from