Never Mind The Breakdowns: Crown The Empire's New Acoustic Album Is A Thank You To Their Fans

Reimagining old songs to celebrate their 10-year anniversary, Crown The Empire’s Andy Leo reflects on a decade flying the metalcore flag

Never Mind The Breakdowns: Crown The Empire's New Acoustic Album Is A Thank You To Their Fans
Jake Richardson
Lindsey Byrnes

Crown The Empire were in South East Asia when the coronavirus pandemic began to take hold. Playing shows in Taiwan, the band were acutely aware that the atmosphere was different. People were nervous and guarded, with a palpable feeling of tension in the room whenever the metalcore four-piece took to the stage.

For affable frontman Andy Leo, it was an unsettling experience.

“Coronavirus completely blindsided us,” he begins. “Things quickly got serious on that tour. Travelling between countries in Asia was very unnerving, and eventually we had to cancel our show in Hong Kong because the authorities told us if we went in, they wouldn’t let us out. Fortunately, we made it back home a couple of days before travel started getting shut down.”

As a singer with asthma living in Los Angeles – a part of the U.S. that’s been hit hard by the virus – Andy bluntly describes the threat of infection and the potential for lung damage as “a death sentence to me.”

“I was scared,” he reflects. “And I guess I still am.”

Admitting that he went “a little crazy” getting used to life under lockdown, Andy and his bandmates – guitarist Brandon Hoover (who tested positive for the virus in March), bassist Hayden Tree and drummer Brent Taddie – eventually decided the best way to maintain their sanity was to be as productive as possible. That realisation led to the birth of 07102010, Crown The Empire’s new acoustic album, recorded during the pandemic and released today to celebrate the 10-year-anniversary of the band’s first show.

“It was fun because we were doing things like we used to,” Andy says of the recording experience. “Going to each other’s apartments to work on this was like when we’d record demos and start ripping in the garage after school. Making 07102010 was a cathartic experience, and a way to simultaneously do something for the fans whilst making sure each of us in the band was coping alright at this time.”

10 years on from the birth of Crown The Empire, Andy is in reflective mood as he and his bandmates gear up to unveil this collection of new takes on set staples. Recalling the first Crown The Empire show – at a local church supporting Memphis May Fire – he remembers lying to his parents (who didn’t approve of screaming) about his new band’s music, and how Crown The Empire quickly wrote five songs for the gig that were all “really bad.”

But while his journey with Crown The Empire has covered many highs and lows, when Kerrang! asks Andy to point to both the pinnacle and rock-bottom moment of his career with the band, he reveals that the past few months have contained his best and worst moments as a musician.

“Before we flew back from the last tour we played a festival in Japan,” Andy recalls. “It made me think about how, sometimes, you don’t see the progression in yourself, because I certainly didn’t envisage us having so many fans in that part of the world, but going there and playing that festival in front of 18,000 people who all seemed to know the songs was incredible.”

However, despite doing their best to ride off that invigoration, quarantine presented Crown The Empire with the arduous task of confronting a few home truths. 2020, Andy confesses, has been a year that’s forced Crown The Empire to reflect on the aspects of the band that could be better.

“We’ve had to confront everything we’ve been putting off as a band,” Andy states. “We needed to acknowledge the parts of Crown The Empire that required fixing, and that’s tough to do, because it’s not that we haven’t supported each other over the years, but we’ve all at times sacrificed our own welfare for the benefit of the band. That comes with consequences, and after 10 years I’ve had to own up to things and apologise for the ways I’ve fucked up in the past. Clearing the air in that way has allowed us to move forwards and rekindle the relationships that Crown The Empire is built upon.”

07102010 finds Crown The Empire taking their first steps into an uncertain second decade for the band, but despite all the problems currently faced by the world at large, Andy, Brandon, Hayden and Brent are throwing themselves into their music with gusto. Writing and demoing for the band’s fifth album-proper – the follow-up to 2019’s Sudden Sky – is well underway, and having honed their technical abilities on this acoustic effort, it should stand CTE in good stead as they aim to progress to the next level over the coming decade.

“One of the biggest things we’ve learned is that if a song sounds good on an acoustic guitar, it’ll sound good in any setting,” Andy says of the band’s creative process and the way in which they stripped back their metalcore maulers. “A big staple of our music is soaring, uncomplicated choruses, so that’s made it easier for us to recreate the songs in an acoustic format. It’s felt weird taking the breakdowns out (laughs), but it’s been cool to strip the songs down and still be left with tracks that ultimately invoke the same feelings as their originals.”

As well as 10 acoustic versions, 07102010 also includes one brand new song, Everything Breaks. A sombre, piano-led track built around Andy’s impassioned vocal delivery, it’s a fine piece of songwriting, but one that very nearly failed to see the light of day.

“It’s a demo from the last record,” Andy explains. “Thematically, we touched on some relationship issues we were going through – it felt like trying to capture lightning in a bottle, honestly – and really opened up about some shit we were experiencing. It’s a fucking miserable song, though – the reason it didn’t make the album is because it’s so sad. It was one of the first songs we finished, but it didn’t feel like an out-and-out Crown The Empire track at the time. That said, I’m stoked that we finally get to release it.”

Despite Andy admitting that Breaking Point isn’t indicative of the direction Crown The Empire will head in with future material, the intensity and raw emotion of the song – and the fact that it’s a million miles away from its creators’ signature metalcore sound – promises that however the next phase of Crown The Empire sounds, it’ll be damn exciting.

Acknowledging the current plight of the music industry, but with a hope that a brighter tomorrow beckons, Andy ends our conversation by contemplating the incredible ride Crown The Empire have been on over the past 10 years. He’s keen to highlight the role the band’s fans have played, and how thankful he and his bandmates are for the support they’ve received over the past decade.

“If coronavirus has taught us anything, it’s that your favourite bands will never take you for granted ever again,” he concludes. “Our experience so far with Crown The Empire has been absolutely crazy, but in the best way. What we’ve created with 07102010 is a thank you to those who’ve supported us, and, more than anything, a show of our appreciation and love for everything they’ve allowed us to do.”

07102010 is out now via Rise Records.

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