Young Empires unite! 

indie dance quartet play Longhorn on Wednesday

click to enlarge PHOTO BY DAVID A. PIKE
  • Photo by David A. Pike

Young Empires want to bring people together. These guys are people people. You can hear it in their music, blending African and Latin influences with Western electronic beats and indie rock in what they dub "world beat haute rock."

Their live show is a communal, electrified dance party, where the bandstries (and succeeds, by most accounts) to erase the borders between audience and band — between every person in the room, in fact — so everyone in the room bonds through the collectivity of the music.

It's a beautiful thing, when it comes right down to it. But the primal aspects of their gigs are only one part of what they do. It's a new day in the music industry and Young Empires — vocalist Matt Vlahovich, guitarist Aaron Ellingson, bassist Jake Palahnuk and drummer Taylor Hill — like to hobnob.

"We all really enjoy the networking within the industry aspect of it," Vlahovich says. "I mean, the reality is this is one where the better your networking skills, the better you can advance your career forward."

This is the way it is for a young band circa 2012. Idealism? Dead. A rotten economy and limited job prospects for Generation Y has seen to that. But where some artists might wallow in what they see as the tragedy of it all, Young Empires see it for what it is — an exceptional opportunity to connect with people outside of music.

They've launched House of the Young Empires, an umbrella under which they run a clothing company and other entrepreneurial pursuits that are aimed at reeling people into the house that they've constructed.

"You always have to be innovative in trying to connect with people and it's not always the music that they're going to connect with first," Vlahovich says.

That's not to say that these guys are low-talent schemers. Their debut EP Wake My Youth is an impressive display in blissed out indie-dance pop. The songs ooze with the kind of elation in the every day that comes so easily for kids, and adults are forever struggling to regain. Each track embraces the wonders of youth — of dancing, of falling hopelessly in love, of smiling unremittingly because it feels good. That's it in a nutshell. Wake My Youth feels mighty good.

So good, in fact, that "White Doves" and "Beaches," a perennially danceable slice of sun-soaked bliss, have appeared on episodes of Jersey Shore, among other mainstream media, The band has played in support of Chromeo, Foster the People, Vampire Weekend and Dragonette. They're being cranked through the media hype machine, with publications in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. embracing them as rising stars before they'd even released an album.

Not bad for a band that met through Craigslist. Palahnuk's former band Turn Off the Stars had dissolved and he posted an online wanted ad, attracting Ellingson, who had recently moved to Toronto from Edmonton. They auditioned different musicians, none of whom worked out, but the two formed a bond. They approached Vlahovich after seeing him perform with his synth-pop solo project Golden Girls. Within a week of forming, they played their first show with U.K. electro-pop group We Have Band.

"We had to learn to write songs together very quickly. I think that was quite important," Vlahovich says.

They made a decision in the very beginning to embrace electronic and dance music as a way to capture international audiences.

"When we formed the band, we said, 'Let's create a blend of both worlds. Let's have those electronic drum beats and those percussion rhythms and mix that with indie rock, but that's only a product of the kinds of music that we listen to."

Young Empires has recently launched the first ever Facebook Connect interactive music video. Directed by Miles Jay, it mines each viewers Facebook account for photos to include in pivotal points in the video's storyline.

"More than press recognition, all we wanted was to do something interesting for fans

It's an innovative and very well-produced experiment that at first blush seems like a gimmick, but when its considered along with what Young Empires are all about, it makes perfect sense — they're simply reeling people in to share the experience together.

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