O Emperor
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O Emperor

Waterford, Munster, Ireland | MAJOR

Waterford, Munster, Ireland | MAJOR
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"HOT PRESS - JULY 15th 2009"

"Gentle and delicate songs, guided by intricate urgently-picked guitars, grinding electric lines, expansive piano playing, some electronic tomfoolery, and wonderfully harmonised vocals - there’s a straightforward sincerity to the music of Waterford band O Emperor. Sounding a little like the Beach Boys, The Band, and The Smiths being digested by a cannibalistic Lee Mavers from the La’s, O Emperor haven’t even released an album yet and they’re already better than many decades-old bands I could mention..." - HOT PRESS


"BBC Website - Live review of O Emperor at The Electric Picnic Festival 2010"

Rating: 8/10

Cosby Stage, Sunday 5th September, 2.00pm

Describe in a tweet: Electric Picnic delivers the goods again as we stumble upon greatness.

What happened: Sometimes, with so many styles, genres and gimmicks knocking about, it's good to get back to the core of things - the song. O Emperor are a band who strip things back to the very essence of what they do, and focus on delivering classic songwriting, in the most accomplished manner possible. These songs sound timeless, recalling the dramatic dynamics of Villagers, the psychedelic rush of Mercury Rev, and the laid-back atmosphere of 'Wish You Were Here' era Pink Floyd. It may not be an especially fashionable sound, but the quality of the performance is staggering, with everyone in the packed Cosby tent captivated by what is happening on stage. It's still early days, but O Emperor seem to be the lord of all they survey. Now it's time to find a few more subjects to rule.

Electric Dreams: New single 'Don Quixote' finishes with an absolutely unforgettable display of melodic guitarwork. Then it all ends in a shimmering psychedelic crescendo, leaving us to hear the sound of many jaws hitting the floor.

Ants at a Picnic: The band came on a little earlier than billed, depriving us of more of this delectable performance.
- BBC


"State.ie "Hither Thither" album review [Ocotber 6th 2010]"

Hither Tither’s been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for release back in October 2009, O Emperor decided to hold off and go for the major label jackpot. A year and a hard-won deal at Universal later, the album’s been partially re-recorded, and the Waterford four-piece has taken the very vaguest hint of a step into Irish music royalty. It’s difficult to pin the band down. Opener and latest ‘Don Quixote’ begins with an overwhelming, operatic vibe that’s not unlike Matt Bellamy’s quieter moments; beautiful but not exactly setting the tone. Older single ‘Po’ is a starker, more grounded poppy number that reeks of summer cider....O Emperor incorporate piano and guitars in almost equal measure, and at times delve into a hazy, punch-drunk sound that messes with the mind on surround sound and demands further listening just to pick out some of the deeper layering. In the slower moments, the likes of Midlake or Grizzly Bear stand out as influences: the similarities are sometimes obvious, but equally, some parts of this album could be by an entirely different band. The only factor that keeps it strung together as a whole, in fact, is the voice of Paul Savage. He sometimes strains for the top notes but uses the single to liven up a style that’s otherwise sublimely, memorably morose. Album taster ‘Don’t Mind Me’ – a track reminiscent of The Great Escape era Blur, whistles and all – is the perfect example...Such a long wait for a debut comes with certain expectations, and O Emperor more than surpass them. Hither Thither is sophisticated, genre-blending and explores more accessible (yet creative) weirdness in the likes of Heidelberg than plenty of bigger name acts do in their entire career...points to a band heading for something outstanding. - State.ie


"The Irish Times - "Hither Thither" album Review by Brian Boyd [October 1st 2010]"

Rating: Four Stars

CD CHOICE: As debut albums go, this is fantastically assured and accomplished. As Irish debut albums go, it’s in a league of its own. There are moments on Hither Thither so musically resplendent, so lush and layered, that you’ll be put in mind of a Kid A, a Dark Side of the Moon or a Gideon Gaye. Given O Emperor’s neophyte status, there’s a remarkable grasp of instrumentation and arrangement on show, along with the sort of eclectically shimmering sound that, historically, Irish bands have always made a hames of.

From Waterford, O Emperor have, despite a major label deal, crept up quietly over the last while. While a previous EP promised much, Hither Thither surpasses all expectations. From the snarly menace of the opener,Don Quixote , to the blissed-out Spaceman 3-like closer, Fat Lady Sings , O Emperor have taken the scenic route and found some very incredible new vistas. The sheer range is impressive in itself: Po has an insistent and jaunty pop guitar melody line that wouldn’t be that much out of place in Laurel Canyon in decades past. By utter contrast, Heisenberg is a woozily paced spectral affair. At different times you’re listening to West Coast FM sounds/post-rock wig outs/alt. indie Americana. And any band that can sonically reference both Jackson Browne and Syd Barrett in the space of a few minutes are well worth further investigation.

Highlights here include Don’t Mind Me (which is screaming out for a Sean O’Hagan remix), the beautifulSedalia and the rolling melodies of Catch 22 and December . Throughout, O Emperor use a judicious amount of instrumentation and, given the width and depth of their sound, manage to steady themselves as they scale some pretty vertiginous musical heights. As intriguing as it is absorbing, this is very splendid stuff. - The Irish Times


Discography

Po (Single) - Released Nov 2009.
Persephone (Tour EP) - Released Jan 2010.
Reverie (EP) - Released Apr 2010.
Hither Thither (LP) - Released Oct 2010.

Photos

Bio

Hailing from Waterford in the South East of Ireland, O Emperor are:

Paul Savage (guitar, vocals), Richie Walsh (bass, backing vcls.), Alan Comerford (guitar, backing vcls.), Philip Christie (piano, vocals), Brendan Fennessy (drums, backing vcls.).

O Emperor have been together in one form or another for the best part of a decade, the band-mates met while still in secondary school and played together all through college learning to write and perform their own material. It was during this period that they began to cut their teeth on the vibrant Waterford live scene, performing covers under various band names. Their first pub gig took place in The Hog’s Head, a well-known local biker bar, as Paul recalls:

“We were barely 17 or so but it was a great grounding for us and it gave us a taste of the rock and roll lifestyle.”

They went on to play in most of the other venues on the local circuit right through their college years, linking up with other bands along the way:

“We’d lend out musicians to each other or borrow someone if we needed them. We didn’t appreciate it at the time but there was a really strong local scene back then.”

However, while performing covers night-after-night brought in much-needed cash, it wasn’t a viable long-term option for a band with artistic ambitions. It wasn’t until they formed a separate, creative platform that they started crafting their own material in earnest, as Savage explains:

“We’d always dabbled in songwriting but the pub gigs were mostly about doing The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd stuff. It’s a cliché that if you know all the great masters, then when you go to write your own songs, you’re probably inspired or influenced by them to some degree. We had a mish-mash of styles at first but it all eventually came together when common influences emerged. It took us about a year of playing our own stuff to come up with a set-list of songs that we were happy with.”

A crucial turning point came when they shifted their gaze westwards and started listening to the new crop of American bands and solo artists that had emerged in the previous decade.

“We heard people like Elliot Smith, Wilco, Flaming Lips,. It was then that we realised there was this other music that was way more interesting. What we liked about those bands was, they were paying homage to classic song-writing which is what we were into. We had always done vocal harmonies - Phil and Alan especially are big into stuff like The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. and we liked a lot of 60s and 70s artists like, The Beach Boys, Bread, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac.”

With a batch of original songs and a new band name in O Emperor (inspired by a character from a 1970s children’s TV show) they decamped to a rented house in the harbour town of Kinsale, West Cork, where they set up whatever recording gear they could cobble together. Over a six-month period, they laid down the tracks that would form the basis of their debut album.

“We never had high-end gear or expensive instruments,” Paul notes. “It was all about the performance and especially about the songs to carry us through. But we always like to layer the song with the instruments and, seeing as we all sang, it was a natural progression to have harmonies as a prominent feature in the sound.”

Initially planning to release the album independently, they began to have second thoughts about going down this route, as Paul elaborates:

“We realised there was a good chance that it might go unnoticed in the wider world without some outside help. So I got hold of the Hot Press Year Book directory and sent a copy of the album out to every company listed. Out of this we hooked up with a management company and after a few months later we got a recording contract with Universal Records .

We realised however, that it didn’t make any sense to release the album as it was, given the time that had elapsed and the fact that they’d a batch of new songs that were fast becoming crowd favourites at gigs.

“So we went in to record the new songs and ended up re-visiting some of the original album songs. We were able to record in a big live room, the mood was relaxed and productive, the energy was much greater and overall, the sound much more natural.” .”

By this time O Emperor had begun to attract a growing live following and they set about gigging relentlessly in anticipation of the album’s release. By the summer of 2009 they had made a headline appearance on the New Band Stage at Oxegen and a slot at Dublin’s Hard Working Class Heroes festival. Later in the year they released their first single, the jangly, mid-paced, ‘Po’ to a positive response from the music media (it garnered the Single of The Fortnight accolade in Hot Press magazine.)

The first half of 2010 saw them touring Ireland and the UK as guests of the hugely successful Mumford & Sons as well as gigging across the UK and throughout Ireland in their own right.