Idle Empress EP
A little more than a year ago at the weekly open mic at The Plus, a singer named Lauren Anderson would occasionally step up to the mic holding an acoustic guitar. At open mics, you see a lot of people step up to the mic holding acoustic guitars, but none of them have a voice like Lauren’s. She started out mostly doing covers of Fleet Foxes, or even a Daredevil Christopher Wright song or two, and never let the nerves of garden-variety stage fright stop her strong voice from warmly filling up the room. After waltzing through Eau Claire’s bustling house show circuit as a solo act, Anderson started writing original tunes, proving there’s a honed songwriter behind that voice. he then connected with friends Josh Frederick (from the now-defunct Softly, Dear) and Elliot Heinz (who, despite primarily performing improv with Glassworks, is a gifted drummer) to form a power trio, adding depth and dynamics to Anderson’s solo stuff. The resulting band-de-force is known as Idle Empress, and they’re all set to unleash their five-song, self-titled debut EP on the Chippewa Valley and beyond. The songs are well-crafted, tight, and catchy, despite some of the poignant themes behind them. “It’s mainly a lot about growth and introspection,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of anecdotal stuff, a lot of stories.” The songs were all written over the course of the last year or so, except one track – “Certain” – which Anderson wrote in high school before the full band repurposed it. We got an early taste when the band dropped their first single “Woods” in October. It takes a decidedly electric approach at a quick 6/8 time signature with some psychedelic chords that set this knockout track apart from some of the other straightforward cuts. In their live show, Idle Empress does something magical: A truly faithful cover of The Daredevil Christopher Wright’s “A Conversation About Cancer”. If you’re familiar with the former local folk pop group’s music, you’ll know the twists and turns in that song are not easily replicable, let alone could they capture the distinct energy behind the tune. But they kill it. They played it at one of their first shows ever in the back room of The Plus in October. And since that show they’ve honed a distinct live sound you won’t hear much of in the Valley. Straight-up female-fronted really-good folk-rock is, to be honest, a niche that needed to filled here. A testament to their tight live sound, the group sat down and punched out a recording session with Leo Strei at Lake House, a house venue in Eau Claire, in just a day or two. Strei handled the production and engineering on the record, while his sister, Ella, did the cover art. After a few live group takes, and a little spitshine, the songs came out sounding clean and beautiful. You can just tell this band likes playing music together, and it only helps that the music they make is really, really, truly, good. “Playing makes me happy,” Heinz said. “Especially this season whenever I get down, if I get a chance to play again, it brings my spirits back up.” “Especially in the winter, it’s nice to just get together,” Anderson said.