London band Empty Friend’s approach of “doing things the old way, the hard way,” has fuelled a raw, grungey hard rock sound dominated by big melodic vocals and heavy riffing.
The band started when Dave Kirk (vocals), Ryan O’Hare (guitar) and Karl Morgan (drums) were inspired after going to a Soundgarden Superunknown reunion gig in 2014. All of the band’s members are veterans of the underground hard rock and hardcore scene of the early 2000s and 2010s and settled on the name Empty Friend after a song of the same name by LA band Failure.
As Dave K tells us: “After that mind-blowing show, we all resolved to start a new band in that vein, which we did in 2015. All of us had been in previous bands, and we wanted this project to be one where we didn’t have to compromise on what we wanted musically. A couple of years later we added Davvers (Dave Norman) on bass to finally settle the line-up.”
The band got signed up to MAS Records’ Development Program, which is supported by Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson, at the end of last year. However, a key part of the Empty Friend appeal – as with the vast majority of the bands we speak to on this blog – is that they are a grass roots band making music for the love of music.
As Dave explains: “So many bands out there have money, patrons or connections – almost any band you hear on the radio has a relative in the industry or someone from a famous band, or is friends with someone influential at a record label etc…
“We’re a proper grass-roots, hard-working, no egos, no bullshit band. We love what we do, and we care A LOT about our music. We don’t care about fame, or making it, or record deals, or any of it. We just want to make real honest music that speaks to people. We have our values and integrity, and if we don’t go any further than our London scene then it’s been a total blast and we wouldn’t change one thing.
“We’d just be happy to put some good records out, and maybe to influence some of the next big bands who emerge from this exciting London scene – and there will be some soon I’m telling you.”
Our latest taste of the Empty Friend sound is their second EP Falter, which opens up in fine style with the lively stabbing guitar intro to You Are Not The Sun. Big engaging vocals take over, culminating in big cries of “You are not the sun.” A second chorus drops into a cheeky little bass solo, then builds back up with lively drums and stabbing guitar chords, which feed into Dave’s energetic vocals. Check it out below:
That’s followed by the high energy Draw The Line, which opens up with a little riff that expands a little and drops into palm-muted guitars supporting Dave’s big vocals. A second chorus drops into funky high-pitched guitars over repeats of “I draw it” then a cheeky little solo feeds into big cries of “Taking it back” over heavier guitars as the track comes to a heavy ending.
The EP is packed with energetic rock, such as most recent single Neon, but then comes to a delicious more stoner, grungey vibe with final track Falter, which we played on our most recent episode of GigRadio.
Falter opens up with a delicious low-tuned riff, which is joined by another as the drums kick in. The low riff continues under Dave’s big vocals “You rode the wave and made them love you, Stoking discontent, Whipping up the people into choices they regret, Now they hate you all the more and they watch your every step, It’s one thing to forgive and another to forget.”
That feeds into a big chorus of “Well the day’s gonna come. When you falter and run, All the people as one, Baying for blood,” which drops back into the booming opening riffs. A second chorus ends with big cries of “yeah, yeah, yeah” and feeds into a delicious effects-laden guitar solo.
The pace drops as the solo comes to a close, then palm-muted stabbing guitars build up the intensity to another big chorus then the chunky riffs return again to bring the EP to a huge ending. Check it out below:
On the EP, Dave told us: “The reception has been great! We released the single Falter in late 2019 and people started to give us feedback that our sound had big influences from Black Sabbath, early Soundgarden, and even Faith No More, all of which we were really pleased to hear.
“It’s great to have new people hear our music. Some people say we’re quite hard to classify, having influences from grunge, stoner and metal, but we don’t mind. Some bands can be hard to pin down genre-wise, but at least we are original-sounding. The EP covers fast, more radio-friendly rock with the first track, more aggressive metal type rock elsewhere, and then quite a stoner/doom finally with Falter, so it’s pretty varied!”
Not at all surprisingly, Chris Cornell is a massive influence on the band’s sound, aong with the likes of ‘big voices’ like Led Zeppelin and Incubus and bands of their formative 1990s/early 2000s sound from MTV, such as Soundgarden and Alice In Chains.
While on their musical inspirations, Dave explains: “Musically, I think we are all influenced by life in London, which is an amazing city, but it’s a tough place to be sometimes. Very claustrophobic and hard from the outside, even bleak sometimes, but also varied and fun on the other hand. I think that frustration and anger comes out in our sound.
“Lyrically, I have to find a match with these big angry riffs, and that definitely steers what I say in the songs. You can’t just sing about happy life over dark, foreboding riffs. Or, well, you can, but it has to be deliberate parody. This EP covers self-determination, psychedelia, interrogation chambers, defiance against oppression, and various others, so we cover a lot of ground!”
The band is part of a collective of grunge and stoner bands called Civil War London, which organises shows for the local scene, and has plenty more gigging waiting to be unleashed.