Platinum records and world tours? O Emperor just want ‘simple pleasures’ – Hula Hoops and new curtains

By Ella Murphy

With a name like O Emperor, you can imagine you’re in for quite a ride.

The Irish quintet are bringing their unique brand of psychedelia, folklore and rock to Manchester next week – and MM caught up with lead vocalist Paul Savage ahead of the Emperor’s coming…

O Emperor have been causing a stir in the music scene for some time following the release of their critically acclaimed debut album, Hither Thither – which rocketed to number 6 in the Official Charts and later earned them a nomination for Irish Album of The Year.

The five-piece’s psychedelic tunes have secured their places touring alongside the likes of

Villagers and Mumford & Sons and now they are ready to conquer Manchester promoting their second album Vitreous.

“We’ve only played in Manchester once before and it went really well so it was always a place we wanted to come back to again. I can only say that we had a great time playing here and judging by the number of great bands from Manchester, I’ve always associated it with being a great music city,” said Paul.

Barely breaching their mid-20s, the band have taken a DIY approach towards the vicious music industry and fashioned their works by recording and producing two albums themselves, with their latest crafted within their own studio Big Skin HQ, Cork.

“Building our own studio gave us a positive focal point and we could just meet up and jam and sort of take this record at the pace we wanted,” he said.

“Big Skin is slang for buying a pretty slow racing dog in Waterford. It’s kind of tongue and cheek for owning a small label that won’t make you much money but you love it known the less.”

Despite stellar reviews of Hither Thither, Paul told MM that they didn’t feel the pressure when entering the writing process once again.

“I think we were more excited than anything to get going on this record because we knew we had a lot of ideas and new things to try. It has more room to breathe, ironically as it’s only half an hour long and with nine tracks.”

The newfound freedom since splitting from Universal Records Ireland and the band’s relaxed attitude has clearly affected the way in which they created Vitreous.

“I think the trouble in the end was it was too laid back and we had to really buck up at the end to finish it,” Paul explained.

“We nearly lost our whole studio due to our careless nature and some dodgy curtains hanging over a light, so that was our main inspiration – to stop faffing about around and finish the thing before anything else bad happened.”

Even the title Vitreous came late in the day.

“We did come very, very close to calling it ‘Ablum’, some other suggestions were: ‘Flop’, ‘Who’s

Purrfect’, ‘Bonestorm’, ‘Good Morning Bitches’ and ‘Cadillacs and Dinosaurs’.”

Fortunately the band settled on the name Vitreous which came about in a number of ways.

“We kind of had this idea of ‘the communal brain’, all working together with varying ideas to come up with this one kind of weird piece or album.” 

Paul went on: “I designed the album cover based on that, it’s made of different pieces of glass all put together to form a head. From this we kind of started to like idea of Vitreous because it has a connotation of glasslike or colourful transparent layers, which I think translates into the sound of the record.

“There is a definite psychedelic or retro feel to this record. We were listening to a lot of early Brian Eno, T Rex, Bowie and stuff like that. We also got our hands on this old analogue synth called the Roland Juno. It features heavily on the album and gives that very colourful retro feel in a lot of places.”

Vitreous sounds completely unique compared to anything that is around right now and is also generating outstanding reviews. We asked Paul how O Emperor feels music has evolved since the 1970s.

“I think it evolved massively and in a distinct way up until a certain point and then styles started to merge and splinter off into different sub genres. Now you can’t really define an era of music anymore I don’t think, which is interesting in itself.

“I guess what dominates our era is the internet’s involvement in music for better or worse. For a small band like ourselves, it’s invaluable for being able to tour around in new places and get people to the shows as they can check you out on online and see if it’s for them or start following a band they would otherwise never know about by just stumbling upon stuff browsing through Spotify or Facebook etc.”

We also asked about the current controversial craze surrounding paying for meet and greets with bands and whether they’d ever consider it.

“We have to get in on this! To be honest, if we were to charge, we’d be somewhere between asking for a packet of Hula Hoops or the end of a pint,” he said in jest.

So why should you come down on September 10 to Castle Hotel, Manchester to see O Emperor you may ask?

“With the new album songs in the set, our live show is as strong as it’s ever been and we’re really starting to have fun playing the songs live and putting different twists to them. It’s a different beast than what’s on the record but I guess you have to see for yourselves.”

Last but not least we enquired: what’s the ultimate dream for your band? Headlining festivals, platinum records, world tours?

“Getting a fire extinguisher and new curtains for the studio would be great. We’re a band of simple pleasures,” he joked.

O Emperor will be co-headlining with Delorean on September 10 at the Castle Hotel, Manchester. Tickets are available through See Tickets.

September 7 – Sebright Arms, London

September 8 – Louisiana, Bristol

September 10 – The Castle Hotel, Manchester

September 11 – Moles Club, Bath

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