The Goodnight Darlings are one of those bands that instantly become a welcome edition to your daily playlist the moment that you hear their infectious rock sounds. The New York duo recently released an epic music video for their grand dance track, “Empire Vampire.” As a bonus, The Goodnight Darlings are sharing a free download of the song to fans in advance of the fall release of their new EP, All I Ever Wanted.
AXS got a chance to catch up with Kat (vocals) and Wilson (guitars) about the “Empire Vampire” project and how it relates to their new EP.
AXS: Congratulations on “Empire Vampire,” the song is so many things at once – menacing, empowering, dark, soaring. Can you tell me a little about the song writing process?
Kat: Thank you so much, Laurie! I'm very happy because I think you're able to hear the setting in which it was written. We wrote “Empire Vampire” driving through New York City real late at night. We got the urge to play music and we were heading over to our practice studio. Wilson decided to play me some beats and synths he’d been working on over the car radio. We were flying through green lights, which are normally stuffed by gridlock, but it was that awesome witching hour when the streets are finally pretty empty. I was hit by this overwhelming love of Manhattan, and I could see the Empire State building blazing with light – and I thought of how the city belongs to me at this hour. And then I thought of all the blondes that came before me, running and riding the nightclub scene. Haha! I started fantasizing about Deborah Harry and Madonna, Danceteria and Max’s Kansas City. It’s an eternal jig. There will always be the next baby blonde giving her best on the dance floor. Trying to “take the most” of the City. Trying to “eat the apple”, the Big Apple, “all in one big bite.” These lyrics started rising up, and I knew the song was going to be about this magical NYC nightlife and the “vampires” that choose to prowl.
Wilson: The guitars during the verse came after hearing Kat’s melody. When I recorded the guitars, I recorded one ambient track of different feedback tones & bends to use here and there if needed. Nic Hard left it all in and gave it this dark, eerie feel. Perfect!
AXS: Is it difficult to turn over your song to someone else like you did for Nic Hard's remix of “Empire Vampire” or do you find that collaboration to be exciting?
Wilson: It was a little difficult for me to let go at first because I'm so used to doing things myself, my own way, and with whatever tools I can get my hands on. I just wasn't sure how much of my creative freedom I had to let go, but I was excited to see how Nic could shine up the quality of the production and couldn't wait to hear his professional input. He really made the beats thump and had a lot of input in the vocal style.
Kat: Yes, Nic inspired me a lot. He honed in on my vocal performance like a cool acting director. I studied theater at Juilliard, and I remember we’d bring in all of this heartfelt raw material, and then a great director/teacher could extract more out of your performance by asking the right questions, provoking a new angle in the process. It felt so fun to have that again, but in music. He’d give me guidance and imagery to work with, so now we have little secrets in the track that are special to me, that I hope give the listening experience a greater texture. Like Nic had me try a take imagining a certain animal while I was recording the “I’m howling” section of the chorus. That ended up being the take we liked best.
AXS: The video for “Empire Vampire” is visually striking and tells a riveting story. How did the concept come about?
Kat: Well, it’s pretty incredible. The song literally gave us a new “Empire” of friends. It was through inviting the right artists to collaborate that the story unfolded. We were touring through some Southern states, on our way from Miami to SXSW in Austin, and we played a show in Orlando. I re-connected with a beloved junior high friend of mine, Isis Masoud, who was living there. She was amazing – she promoted our show with her friends and college radio station WPRK 91.5. I was so grateful, because local support means everything to an indie band. I thanked her by giving her some unreleased songs, one of which was “Empire Vampire.” Next thing I know, she calls me saying that she is starting this incredible dance company called Close Up Experience, and could she use the song for their first full scale music video production? It’s one of those phone calls where you feel a quake as you say, “YES,” and you know an adventure just began.
AXS: Did you have this imagery in mind as you were writing the song or did these Aristocratic Vampires emerge later when developing the video.
Kat: These characters are definitely larger than life and certainly bigger than my initial ideas. That’s the best part. All I knew was that the video had to be about the greatest all-night party ever thrown, and I knew that being a “Vampire” in this story meant being your most elevated self. From there, it was really director Roger Ingraham who introduced the storyline about Goddess Iconography, transformation, and the battle of good and evil forces. Collaborating with Roger brought in a wonderful mystical energy. He had just been filming a documentary on the Zulu Shamans in Africa so he had spirituality on the tip of his tongue. Roger was also the youngest filmmaker ever to have a feature film at Sundance with a vampire film, called “Moonshine,” so he was our on-site Vampire specialist!
The look of the piece came alive because of the talented Joey Bevan, Abbi Rose, and Charlie Wilkinson of The Glam Squad UK. It was such a large cast of dancers and – even under time limitations – they worked incredibly hard on immaculate style details for every performer. We succeeded, and everyone felt like the best version of themselves. For instance, I had the most massive gorgeous braided crown on my head for the Golden Goddess look – it must’ve weighed 20 lbs! It took a few hours to weave, place, and build this wonderful tiara. And then when Isis found an abandoned Gothic mansion as a film location, we officially had a kingdom for the “Empire.”
AXS: There is a lot of performance art featured in the video. Are all of the acrobats and dancers from the same troupe?
Kat: It’s a real range. Some had never met before and some are married. Haha! It was a blend of friends from all corners of the industry – from beginner dance students, to lead members of The Orlando Ballet. Bernard Hazan, wife Alison Fraser and daughter Naomi perform in Cirque de Soleil. Bernard’s actually Cirque de Soleil's current billboard image. He did things on our shoot that I didn’t know were humanly possible. He also throws knives at his wife, Alison, which I think takes the husband and wife trust level up a notch. We got to work with a cool group of magicians too! Phillip Kaiser, Anton James, and Sword Swallower Will Rotten. The youngest dancers were students that Isis was teaching at her company Close Up Experience, which coaches them how to dance in front of the camera. Wilson and I teared up watching the students come up with their own dance solos to our music. It was so raw and sincere.
AXS: Are the other songs on All I Ever Wanted in the same vein as “Empire Vampire?”
Wilson: Not really, “Empire Vampire” is our danciest track on this EP and the only one with only drum machines throughout the song. Our other songs have drum machines as well, but accompanied by a massive drummer friend, Joe Tomino, from Dub Trio and Matisyahu. Some of the other songs have a dance element but you have to dance a bit more aggressive to it. When we play “Empire Vampire” live, it makes people dance. Being that it is a longer song, at some point or another you have to give in to the beat and move! For this one I use five different guitar pedals – not including the two that are on the whole time – Different delays & distortions for texture...
Kat: Our songs tend to explore a lot of different vibes! Like our new song "Tough Act" has the hardest edge on the EP.
Wilson: It makes your head bounce.
Kat: And it has a dub section that I love, which Wilson, Joe, and producer Tony Maimone absolutely slayed together. I think the songs each have their own character, and the common thread is simply that it's us.
AXS: What's coming up on the horizon? Do you have plans to release a full LP? Are you heading out on tour?
Wilson: We have a lot of material that could become an LP but [we're] hoping we can get investors involved so we can get back into the studio, create, press CDs/vinyl and hit the road!
Kat: We are so thoroughly open to the adventure of this. I'm so happy I get to play music with my husband, Wilson, and we can pack up our little Mustang convertible and drive around this fine country meeting people and playing shows. Arin Crumley just filmed a short video about our story, and it made me reflect with gratitude. I want to keep touring as much as possible, and hopefully overseas soon, too. The All I Ever Wanted EP comes out this Fall!
AXS: Do you have anything else that you would like to share with AXS readers about the future of The Goodnight Darlings?
Kat: Just that I'd love to meet them one way or another, and hope to hear from them on Facebook or at a show!
All I Ever Wanted by The Goodnight Darlings will be released this fall. Check out a sneak peak of their EP and click here to learn more about the team behind the making of “Empire Vampire.” Keep reading AXS for more music news, reviews and exclusive interviews.