Holy Roman Empire may have started out as a project for a number of hardcore and punk superstars, but the female-fronted indie rock group has quickly evolved into one of the most intriguing and fresh sounding artists in all of music. Scene Point Blank spoke with guitarist Jay Jancetic about the recording of their debut full-length, defining the band's sound, and inspiration.
Scene Point Blank: You're about to head out on tour in support of Rise Against. Though Holy Roman Empire is obviously not new comers to the stage, at least not individually, the sizes of the venues Rise Against has been playing lately have been expanding. Is there any sort of nervousness playing to that many people, especially considering they're not necessarily there to see you?
Jay Jancetic: Rise Against is for sure getting some well deserved growth and exposure, playing much larger venues. Even though many of us in Holy Roman Empire have some experience playing some large places, the majority of these dates we have with Rise Against by far overshadow any past experiences. But quite honestly, we're not really nervous at all. We are just overcome with excitement to be a part of this tour. This is the moment we've been building towards for a couple years now. Being able to get on a larger tour and just hit the road running that is. So, any feelings of nervousness are far surpassed by enthusiasm and excitement.
Scene Point Blank: What would you like the kids experiencing your music for the first time to take away from it?
Jay Jancetic: Simply said, an appreciation for some music that's a bit different than what they may be used to. We pride ourselves on trying not to be a band that is just releasing more of the same rehashed and formulated music currently out there. We just want kids to appreciate something that steps outside that box and maybe even introduce them to some of the bands that have influenced us.
Scene Point Blank: Your debut full-length, The Longue Durée, was realized earlier this year. How did this experience differentiate from your previous times in studio, as the music is quite a change from your efforts in different bands? Alternately, what was the writing process like?
Jay Jancetic: Well, it was a lot different for us this time around mainly because of the time and money allotted for The Longue Durée project. Not that we had a huge budget by any means, but in comparison to the demo and the EP, much more time and money and attention to detail went into this. This is something that is a major change for us as well when doing a band that contains something other than guitar driven music with screaming over it. Don't get me wrong, we still love that and that's where we came from, but Holy Roman Empire is a different animal and we had to learn how to approach that.
In addition, our prep time on pre-production was just insane. We did it all ourselves with a sixteen-track, but it was months and months in the making. And we were beyond the point of normal scrutiny. It was just downright ruthless. But this makes for less prep time in the studio. So when we were ready to go in, we were very prepared for the task at hand.
More than anything I'd like to add this too. The biggest change was in focusing our writing on Emily and her abilities. Previously to The Longue Durée, due to time constraints and the simple fact that she was thrown into a band with four guys who had a bunch of songs written, she was simply adding vocals over music that already existed. Writing music for The Longue Durée we felt almost liberated in a way because we were able to change our focus over to Emily and her incredible vocal abilities. We really wanted to progress towards music that was more cohesive and vocally driven. We just gave her the ball to let her run with it.
Scene Point Blank: Are there any plans for a video/single release?
Jay Jancetic: Well, we consider "Undeserving You" and "An Alliance of Thieves" the "singles" if you will. But there's no formal release of these as singles just by the nature of us not being a large enough band to make that happen. We'd love it if those got some radio play somehow though. As far as some new videos for those songs, we tried planning a shoot for "An Alliance of Thieves" a couple months back and it simply fell through. We're still trying though. A lot of people got a kick out of the goofy video we did for "Guards Off" on the EP and ask about a new video, so we want to try and deliver on that.
Scene Point Blank: Speaking of your previous bands, as a collective Holy Roman Empire have a lot of history behind you (for the record, the pun was intended). With fans of your other work paying attention do you think there are a set amount of expectations/demands how your band should sound?
Jay Jancetic: Yeah, there are some expectations for sure. We run into this a lot. Not as much now that the band has become a bit of its own entity as we did in the beginning, but it still happens. Even in some record reviews, or simple website comment posts, we may get slammed for not sounding like we "should" or not being "heavy enough," or even worse for having a "chick singer." Now that's really intelligent and freethinking. Something the indie/punk world should be real proud of. I seem to remember that people got into punk and all of its related hardcore, indie, and metal sub-genres because it was trying to do something "different." Funny how these days it's become a bit of the antithesis of itself. In those situations, I think the indie world as a whole needs to take a step back and take a serious look at itself. In the meantime, we just take the hits as they come. Besides, it's rewarding to watch our real fans come to our defense.
Scene Point Blank: In a previous interview you had commented that the music scene, specifically the punk music scene, had become too easy. Lately, in a lot of my interviews, I've been toying with the hypothesis that the Internet, and the ability to massively consume music, has lead to the superficial listening practices of the general public, which doesn't allow them to appreciate music as an art form. What are your thoughts on this?
Jay Jancetic: I do sort of recall saying that. In general I do think that the explosion of the Internet has really just helped contribute to the over saturation of music to both "the industry" and consumers alike. It's very strange because in the past twenty years or so, as consumers we've seen the music and entertainment industry completely changed by two major factors: first the introduction of MTV and its spin off's. And now more recently the overwhelming explosion of the Internet. It's really a double-edged sword in both cases too because obviously you want to be able to reach as many people as possible and both of these medias enable you to do so. However, I think it's grown too fast and become corrupted by too much of the same garbage, each with less and less quality than the one before it. Just look around you. Nowadays you can walk into Target or Hot Topic and get a crappy "signature" guitar or some churned out "punk uniform." It's just not the same. It seems that these days all it takes to get a career in music is the right haircut, a little "guyliner," some rehashed version of another bands hooks, and a Myspace page. Hell, you'll be on tour and playing SXSW or the dirt floor of Warped Tour before you graduate high school. This is what labels are looking for now. It's really sad.
Scene Point Blank: I've been using this as a closer for awhile now, and always feel the need to preface it with explaining it's more for my own personal use than anything. I've been trying to come up with a cohesive response to why artist are drawn to their work. That being said, why do you create music, and what does that do for you?
Jay Jancetic: This is more of a personal response for me, but I feel it can be universally applied as well. I have always had an artistic itch to create. I guess it runs in my family. Before finding punk and hardcore, I was an artist from the moment I could pick up a pencil. I think to some degree people like myself just have this energetic insatiable need to create. If I am not creating, I feel lost, almost useless in a way. Creating music seems to be the ultimate form of art. (Assuming one approaches it like an art and not like a clique or a fashion trend). The sensation of reward to something you have created is the greatest feeling I've experienced. This is why we do what we do. Because we're simply passionate about it and we want to make it our lives. It's a hunger that drives us and others who share this sentiment.
Scene Point Blank: Anything you'd like to close up with?
Jay Jancetic: Just that we appreciate your time and interest. It means the world to us. Thanks so very much.