By Noe Gutierrez
La Quinta rockers Empty Seat earned ‘Best Alternative Band’ and ‘Best Frontwoman’ at the 2019 Coachella Valley Music Awards and although it came as a shock to the band, they were ready for the spotlight and continue to achieve objectives set out years before as a band in Los Angeles. Always willing to step out of their comfort zone and forge ahead, the band recently recorded a collaboration with one of Rock and Roll’s most undisputed ‘queens of noise’ Cherie Currie, former lead vocalist for The Runaways.
Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last three decades, you know that Currie was a member of the first all-female Rock band to make a meaningful impact on the world. Currie sang lead on The Runaways first three albums, ‘The Runaways’ (1976), ‘Queens of Noise’ (1976), and ‘Live in Japan’ (1977). After leaving the band in 1977, she established a remarkable solo career that, along with her time in The Runaways, has entered her into the realm of rock royalty.
Trailblazers The Runaways included drummer Sandy West, guitarists Joan Jett and Lita Ford, bassist Jackie Fox, and of course the impassioned Currie. With the passing of time they have been looked to as pioneers for not only women in Rock like Courtney Love and Taylor Momsen but to bands like The Adolescents and Rhino Bucket.
Currie’s solo career includes her first release, ‘Beauty’s Only Skin Deep’, in 1978 and more recently in early 2020, ‘Blvds of Splendor’, featuring guest collaborations with Billy Corgan of Smashing Pumpkins, Slash and Duff McKagan from Guns N’ Roses, as well as Juliette Lewis, Brody Dalle, The Veronicas and ex-Guns N’ Roses, The Cult and Velvet Revolver drummer Matt Sorum, who also produced the set. She’s also appeared on albums with Rick Derringer, Marky Ramone and Lisa Loeb and now you can add Empty Seat to that list!
Releasing their first single in over a decade, just as the pandemic was setting in, Empty Seat delivered the song ‘Won’t Wait’, which showed their rockin’ and fun side that is big as life and demonstrated in the official video, a live performance with a pre-pandemic crowd of notables at Little Bar in Palm Desert, CA. With ‘RISE’, the band displays their versatility and gives the world an anthem to embrace to help see us through the darkest of times.
The song was recorded at Modern Fuzz Recording Studios in Downtown Pomona, CA with Mike Jimenez at the helm and mastered by David Williams at Melrose Music Palm Springs/Hollywood.
Coachella Valley Weekly was able to speak with Empty Seat and Cherie Currie to learn more about the collaboration and what each artist is up to.
CV Weekly conversation with Empty Seat:
CVW: Mark, you’re the newest member of Empty Seat. What has it been like for you the past few months?
Larinde: “I’m just staying positive, healthy and playing as often as possible. Joining Empty Seat has been truly amazing and working with such a talented group of musicians continues to be a wonderful experience. I am looking forward to the band’s future success and adding my bass to make it happen.”
CVW: To the rest of you, what can you say about your newest member?
Ferrer: “I met Mark back in early 2011. We started out rehearsing around that time working on new material and fixing some older material as well. We stayed in contact online over the years and when we needed him the most he was available to help finish our newest single ‘RISE’. It’s a true blessing to reunite with Mark.”
Red: “Mark is a friend we have worked with before in a side project while we were taking a break from ES. I have enjoyed working with him so when the opportunity for bass was open we called him first. He fits well with our sound.”
Villalobos: “Mark is a breath of fresh air and has lots of experience. I think he came in at the right time to help us finish our upcoming single. We are all glad to have him on board for the ride.”
CVW: Now that the song ‘Rise’ is complete, how does it feel to have recorded a song with one of the greatest Rock voices of our time?
Red: “Wow, just wow! We are still tripping out how this all came about. It was my idea to step outside of the box and do a Cameo video with Cherie to help promote our last single ‘Won’t Wait’. She went over and beyond for us. She messaged me and I mentioned working on the new single and she offered to put her voice on the song. We couldn’t believe it. Coming from a front woman rocker myself it’s a dream come true.”
Ferrer: “I still do not understand how this is all fell into place, I’m still in awe every day. Cherie Currie contributed way more than we thought and I’m truly grateful and ready to see what’s next after the release!”
Villalobos: “It’s still feels surreal and I’m pretty sure the rest of the band feels the same. Every time I hear the song, it trips me out on how great Cherie did on her vocals. I honestly think she made it sound 100 times better!”
CVW: The first single, ‘Won’t Wait’ and more recently ‘RISE’ are two very distinct tunes. How did Empty Seat become so diverse in its songwriting?
Red: “I would have to give credit to Anthony, he is the riff maker and he comes up with the melodies for the songs. He has his own style and that combined with the rest of us makes that ES magic. We have done many styles of music starting with Punk with Rockabilly and Jazz pieces all mixed together. I can honestly say you will never know what you are going to get with ES, that’s just how we are, we’re similar to The Beatles, they changed whenever they wanted but the music was still good. We play from our soul and love all styles of music not just one genre.”
Ferrer: “When ES started we played in various Rock scenes around Orange County and the inner cities of Los Angeles and Hollywood. We played along-side Blues, Hard Rock, Metal, Punk, Rockabilly and Psychobilly bands. We always had a unique set of songs that we can pull from at any time. As times changed and new music was being born I listened to ‘new’ up and coming bands. I listen and learn no matter the genre. Inspiration is everywhere. Rock music has so many sub-genres, the possibilities are endless. Rock is not dead!”
Villalobos: “I think we’ve always been diverse with our song writing, but we always stay on that Alternative Rock sound. I feel like we keep it interesting in our songwriting due to so many different influences in music we have.”
CVW: You’ve been in the desert for about five years and just in the last two years reunited as Empty Seat. You’ve accomplished a great deal in a very competitive market for local original artists. Before that you began and developed a large following in the Los Angeles area. What makes Empty Seat so different?
Red: “We took an eight year break and got the itch to play again. ES is ‘old school’ we started in 2002 and we’ve done a lot since then. There was a point we were rehearsing and performing twice a week. There was a lot of work put into the band including time to write original music. We have always focused on original songs. I grew up listening to my dad play and write his own songs so I already had that knowledge growing up. I started writing my own songs in my teens along with poetry. My writing along with Anthony’s riffs produces magic. I’ve always felt outside of myself when we come up with a song; a spiritual experience. Anthony will play the riff and the band goes with it and I just sing whatever comes to my mind and record it. Most of the time there is something there to write the song, I have always written that way. I let the music bring the words to me.”
Ferrer: “Yes the ES re-boot in the desert was not foreseen. We entered a gig, the ‘Almost Acoustic–Palooza’ a few years ago and have not stopped since. It inspired us to write new material and plan bigger than we ever have before. I think the ES sound is very upbeat, but as we move on, things are changing to a much more serious trip. Now that we are working with some major artists like Cherie it’s time to focus on great song writing. I think we are merging our Alt-Punk roots into something bigger. We are different because we are not afraid to go in any direction at any time musically.”
Villalobos: “Our sound and style separate us. As a drummer, I have a very Punk and Rock driven influence in my playing.”
CVW: The pandemic really has stalled a lot of artists’ hopes and dreams. What has kept Empty Seat motivated?
Red: “For some it has been devastating, for us it’s been pretty good. We keep working and writing and have been given opportunities that probably would have never happened if not for COVID-19. It’s how you think as well. We try to stay positive and focus on the good. Just because you can’t play live shows doesn’t mean you have to stop playing and creating. Take this time to regenerate and be ready when things do open up again. We made a single and are working on video ideas. There are still things we can do.”
Ferrer: “COVID-19 really stopped us from live rehearsals at first, but we kept writing from home. I was working old riffs into new ideas and recording on my equipment and started really focusing on how to make better arrangements, revisiting old material and unheard demos. The down time from playing live/rehearsing live really gave me time to go into the ES archives and see what I had left unfinished.”
Villalobos: “I think we have always kept each other motivated even through the hardest and craziest times. If anything, we’ve got stories, maybe one day we will write a book about it! But during these difficult times, we have kept in touch and motivated to keep working because we do have something to share with the world. We like lifting spirits up. Hard times seem to come easy but they don’t last long.”
CVW: With two new songs complete, what’s next for Empty Seat?
Ferrer: “The next step is to keep on going! We have a decent back-catalog of three albums worth of old material and tons of new ideas already lined up. We are gonna be busy for years. Also, the next video is in its planning stage and we will be dropping it before the end of the year.”
Red: “The sky’s the limit! Next for us is the video for ‘RISE’. We have the songs that we want to re-record, plus new songs still in the bag. Our sound has evolved so we want to redo some of our best older songs. We have a lot to work with at this point.”
Villalobos: “After the video, my guess is more studio time. We’re gonna keep dropping music till hopefully we’ll get back to some kind of normalcy and play shows again next year.”
CVW: I hear you may release ‘Rise’ on vinyl with a ‘Won’t Wait’ B side.
Red: “Thats the goal, ‘RISE’ is something that is very special to us. We would like to have something special made to remember it.”
Ferrer: “It will be a limited release and would be awesome for all vinyl collectors to have this rare piece.”
CVW: What is the release date for ‘RISE’ and how can fans access your music?
Red: “‘RISE’ will be released October 16th on all platforms!”
CVW: The main theme of ‘RISE’ seems to be in line with current events and how we must have hope that we can get through this tough time. Can you share more about what it means to you?
Red: “I wrote the lyrics to ‘RISE’ about my relationship with Anthony, our collective life struggles and dealing with comments and opinions of us. Through it all we stay positive and I wanted to share that with the world. I believe it can help anyone through a dark time. It will also be released at a time that it could be related to current issues. It can relate to a lot of things and you can use it for your own personal struggles in life. The main point is that anyone can fall at some point in their lives but they can always get back up and dust themselves off. You can always ‘rise’ again. Don’t worry about what people think or say when you are at your lowest point. Focus on your goals and stay positive and good things will happen.”
Ferrer: “Things are changing, the world will never be the same but we can always ‘rise’ to a much more positive place inside our minds. This song might be able to help somebody through these times. For me, this song represents a type of change for the band as well. We can always come back and move on to a higher place in life, soul and unite for the better of mankind.”
Villalobos: “For me, I think this song came at the right time, especially with what is going on in our world and around us today…it’s intense man…to me this song tells me life can never be perfect but it can still be great! Rise! We will rise again!”
CV Weekly interview with Cherie Currie:
CVW: What would you like to share about the song ‘Rise’ you recorded with the Coachella Valley band Empty Seat?
Currie: “Erin reaches out for a Cameo and I loved the single they were pushing so I mentioned that I’d sing back-up for her on a tune. She sent me ‘RISE’ with just a scratch vocal and free rein. I had fun and she’s a great singer! Love the band! I always love supporting good bands and COVID-19 has freed me up to do just that.”
CVW: You recently recorded a wonderful version of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song “What The World Needs Now Is Love” with Dave Schulz (Goo Goo Dolls). The lyric, “What the world needs now is love…It’s the only thing that there’s just too little of” really strikes at the heart of what’s missing today as we navigate our singular and collective issues. What is your interpretation of the meaning of that song?
Currie: “I’m old school. That song is fabulous because it’s simple and true. It will always be true regardless of how this world seems to be changing. I guess the truth will never go out of style.”
CVW: The development of your ‘Blvds of Splendor’ (2019) release began in 2010 and features guest appearances by Billy Corgan, Guns N’ Roses’ Slash, Duff McKagan, Matt Sorum, Juliette Lewis and Brody Dalle. Since starting the project in 2010 how has the meaning of the album changed for you?
Currie: “This is the album I always dreamed of making. I wish it could have come out in 2011 when it was done but I’m glad it’s out. Great music will always stand the test of time and this album is definitely worth the wait.”
CVW: What do you hope people who listen to your audio book ‘Neon Angel’ get out of the experience?
Currie: “This was hard… no easy way to say it. Gut wrenching really. I hope people feel what I felt reliving it. And come away from it knowing they experienced something unique and riveting.”
CVW: It’s well-documented that you prioritize helping others, especially those who suffer from addiction. What is your favorite part of walking with someone in their recovery?
Currie: “This disease is a burden that would not be heaped on a weak soul. That is my main message. I’ve never met such talented, strong beings as those in recovery. And it never ends or goes away. It’s always going to be a struggle but I think if you believe in God, a ‘Higher Power’ you know you were given talents ‘in exchange’ for this dreaded disease. We understand that.”
CVW: What can you share about what you’re currently working on?
Currie: “I have a few surprises coming and another video from ‘Blvds of Splendor’ I’m working on! This quarantine has been hard but good! When we are given lemons we make lemonade! No other way to be!”
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Find ‘RISE’ on all major music platforms October 16th!
Apple – Music – iTunes – Spotify – Deezer – Amazon Music – Google Play – YouTube
Stay up to date on Cherie Currie below:
What The World Needs Now Is Love – Cherie Currie and Dave Schulz / CoVideoStars Episode #5