a scarlet empire
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a scarlet empire

Band Rock Classical


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"Building A Scarlet Empire"

With original songs that blend hard rock and classical music, local band A Scarlet Empire are bringing a unique and vibrant sound to the Delta's music scene.
The band was formed earlier this year by keyboardist and vocalist William "Weejy" Rogers, 23, guitarist Wes Butler, 21, drummer Austin Britt and guitarist Coleman Card, both 22.
Rogers, who played bass for several Clarksdale bands during his teens, had barely played keyboard at all until three years ago during a brief stint living in Pennsylvania.
"I'd messed around on [keyboard]," Rogers says. "My mom had a piano and I would play around on it a little, but I'd never really sat down and tried to learn to play it until then."
Influenced by classical composers like Chopin, Rachmaninoff and Mozart, Rogers' skill progressed quickly, and he soon began writing his own classically-infused original music. Still, he was hesitant to actually play keyboard in front of anyone. Upon returning to Clarksdale, however, he showed some of his music to his friends and fellow musicians, Wes Butler and Austin Britt.
"He said he didn't even know if it was any good," Britt says. "Then he played for us and blew both of our minds."
Butler soon offered to add some guitar work to Rogers' piano music, and Britt, who had been playing guitar for several years, was asked to play bass. Britt, however, had a different idea.
"My little brother got a drum set, and I'd messed around on them and started playing them more and more," he says. "I told Wes one day 'How about I just play drums?'"
The intricate, classically-influenced pieces, however, proved a real trial-by-fire for the beginning drummer.
"I actually learned how to play drums to Weej's music, and it's full of all these crazy time signatures and tempo changes," Britt says. "At first, it would take me a long time to pick up stuff, but I started to pick it up a little easier as we moved along."
The trio soon began jamming with a mutual friend, guitarist Coleman Card, who had played in previous bands with Rogers and Butler. With the addition of Card, A Scarlet Empire's lineup was cemented.
Rogers had some melodic and lyrical ideas for his music, but never having sung lead before, he had no plans to be the band's vocalist. After singing for his band mates, however, he was encouraged to step up to the mic. He now writes the band's lyrics in addition to most of its music.
"A lot of my lyrics have to do with bigger issues," he says. "But they're open for interpretation. You can go a lot of different ways with them if you want to."
With their first live appearance at Cleveland's Other Fest in April, the band realized they had stumbled upon a sound that was special.
"It actually went amazing," Britt says. "We were blown away at the way people reacted to it. When we played that show and saw how people accepted it, that's when we were like, 'Okay, we really need to pursue this.'"
The band then set out to record some of its original music with local musician and recording engineer Walt Busby at his home recording studio.
"They really impressed me," Busby says. "They would come in and do most of that stuff live. You could tell they really practice a lot. They were right on it."
The band's sound is a dark, heady mix of classical piano, dynamic rock guitars and nimble, expressive percussion, while Rogers' clean, understated vocals recall Guided By Voices' Robert Pollard, serving as an interesting contrast to the group's thick sonic architecture.
The band is undeniably progressive, but what sets A Scarlet Empire apart from so many bands of progressive rock's heyday is its lack of pretension, which is aided by raw, barebones performances that are not far removed from the group's contemporaries such as And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead and The Mars Volta.
One of the songs the band recorded at Busby's studio is "The Lie" - a 15-minute opus hinged on Rogers' haunting piano, over which powerful, monolithic guitar lines stack one on top of another, reminiscent of late-70s Pink Floyd. The song then descends into a trippy, spacey midsection before its towering signature riff returns, marching slowly and ominously to the song's epic conclusion.
"Their music is a breath of fresh air from what I've been hearing in the music scene lately," Busby says. "They're not just trying to be like what they hear on TV or the radio. They play what they really feel."
The band is surprised by the strong reactions their music has inspired.
"It's ridiculous the way people have responded to it," Britt says. "Everyone who has heard it has really complimented us on it."
The band will be performing at The Catastrophe in Gautier on Aug. 5, and at Marlene's Place in New Orleans the next night. They are currently seeking more bookings to get their music heard.
"You can sit in a room and write a song, but it's not worth anything unless other people hear it," Rogers says. "If they like it or not, that's not your call, really. We're just going to see - Clarksdale Press Register


Still working on that hot first release.



For years, A Scarlet Empire was merely an idea conjured after William Rogers (vocals/keys) moved from Clarksdale, Mississippi to York, Pennsylvania in 2003 and started writing songs influenced by classical composers such as Liszt, Rachmaninoff, and Chopin. After a year playing, Rogers sent a few pieces to long-time friend and former band mate, Wes Butler (guitar/vocals), through AOL Instant Messenger. Butler offered to add guitar to the classically infused piano music and after another year, had hammered out a guitar riff to a song called "The Lie." On vacation from college, Rogers recorded the piano tracks for "The Lie" on an eight track recorder and Butler added the monolithic guitar lines reminiscent of early 1970’s Pink Floyd. After listening to the rough demo, Rogers and Butler knew they had stumbled on something with lasting power. They knew a band had to be formed, but still, Rogers lived too far away to practice with a band so the two shared riffs back and forth through the power of AOL Instant Messenger as they had done before. All the while, on the home fronts of the Mississippi Delta, a band was being arranged. Austin Britt, lifelong friend of Rogers and Butler was at first thought to be the band's bass player. However, after jamming on his brother's set of drums, Britt offered to play percussion. Another friend and former band mate, Coleman Card was to be added to the band as a guitarist. After the foursome had been set up, they waited as they had done for years with a fifteen minute song on musical layaway. In the fall of 2005, Rogers moved back home to Clarksdale, Mississippi to attend Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. The band finally began loose practices in December of the same year. Within months the band had crafted enough of their classically influenced rock music to play in Cleveland, Mississippi's Other Fest, where they were met with a screaming standing ovation from a crowd of nearly three-hundred. All these events strengthened the creative bond between band members, encouraging them to expand their vision and make every emotion audible to their listeners. In the following months, the band tied bits and pieces of different songs into one to create a massive release of emotion, energy, and creativity. This 46 minute track, to be called “The Mirror,” would be the complete revelation of the band’s personalities, struggles, hopes, desires, dreams, regrets, and the peaks and valleys in between. This album was to mirror their own lives in hope that listeners everywhere could sense the passion and identify with the songs. The band recorded the 46 minute track, entitled “The Mirror,” live during November 2006 at the Delta Music Institute on the campus of Delta State University in Cleveland, MS. The album was recorded by well-known producer and engineer, Willie Pevear (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Lyle Lovett). Broken into 15 individual songs, the 46 minute album is a passionate, moving display of what it means to be alive, what it means to regret, and what it means to love, and encompasses everything beautiful about the creative human spirit and its will to prevail no matter what the situation. Since recording the disc in 2006, the band finally went into production on the cd in the summer of 2007. In the meantime, the band has written more songs such as “Decisions” and “You Know It Already” that display the bands creative growth as a single musical unit. There is no doubt that A Scarlet Empire’s sound is as big and powerful as the band’s name itself. Call it classical rock, rock symphony, or art rock. Call it what you will; it is definitely a work of art.