When you see the pieces of the puzzle that make up Eye Empire, they shouldn’t even need an introduction. Vocalist Donald Carpenter (Submersed), Bassist Corey Lowery (Dark New Day, Stuck Mojo, Stereomud), Guitarist B.C. Kochmit (Dark New Day), and Drummer Ryan Bennett (Texas Hippie Coalition) make up the hard rocking four piece. What started off as a limited edition single disc called Moment Of Impact, it has just been released bigger and better as a double album titled simply Impact. With a little help from some little band called Sevendust along the way, one of the most energetic and solid live shows in the business, and loads of talent thrown in, Eye Empire is going to make one hell of an impact for many years to come. Coming off of tours such as Wayne Static, Volbeat and Sevendust they are preparing to kick your ass some more with both Nonpoint and Seether tours in the near future.
John Gehrig: How are things on your end?
Donald Carpenter: Things are okay, we’re finishing up our first ten day break of the year that we’ve got to spend at home. It’s been fun, we’ve kept ourselves busy but now I’m trying to make sure to tie up all the little loose ends before I leave home again.
JG: At least you get to see the family for a little bit.
DC: It’s a blessing for sure. Gotta refocus on what you’re fighting for.
JG: I’ll start from the beginning. How did you guys get the idea of Eye Empire since everyone had all of the other bands?
DC: You know, all of those led to this. it was a situation where I was going through my own little road of self discovery after Submersed. And Corey and Brad had met at the end of Dark New Day and the end of Sw1tched. It was something where our collective journeys brought us together and once we got all of the pieces in place it seemed natural. It’s something that’s encoded in our DNA. It’s something we feel like we’re here to do and we’re very happy to have each other.
JG: I guess a couple of years ago now on Myspace there was an announcement that “Submersed would return”. Is that ever going to happen or is that done?
DC: Probably not. There’s always gonna be some fun opportunities for some jam sessions live. Eric and Garrett just put out the new Tremonti record and who knows if they’re gonna be able to tour with how busy Mark is. It’s just one of those things where not everybody is born for this. A couple of those guys come from small town Texas and it just wasn’t the life for them. I don’t think it’s anything they’re longing to get back to. Sometimes other situations in other bands, it seems to work out that way. For Submersed it was what it was. It was an opportunity to kind of learn some valuable lessons going into this new opportunity.
JG: Does it help being off of Wind-Up [Records] and doing your own thing now?
DC: Yeah, it’s a new day and age. It’s a new business. Wind-Up was one of those labels that’s gonna transition very easily into the new era. It’s a very DIY type of mentality now. It takes a lot of hard work and a lot of development and for a lot of labels and a lot of situations like that; they need something that’s gonna be successful right out of the gate. For us this was a really great way to simplify the overall picture and stay more focused on the relationship between us and our fans. I guess in many ways it benefits not being on Wind-Up.
JG: Is this everybody’s main focus now?
DC: The idea is the more music the better as far as we’re all concerned at this point. Clint [Lowery] and Morgan [Rose] just came out with Call Me No One aside from Sevendust. And John [Connolly], Vinnie [Hornsby] and E-Rock [Eric Friedman], Flip [Scott Phillips] from Alter Bridge and Creed just started Projected. So we’re kind of in the middle with all of those guys. Corey and the Dark New Day fellows decided to release the second record. There’s a lot of music out there, a lot of contributions to the pot.
JG: So how do you feel about getting the “supergroup” term since everybody is from so many bands?
DC: It’s a remainder of the dying business. It’s the way that people like to word things in order to market them up and hype things. It’s one of the things we love about our situation. We’re earning every bit of our respect by going out and doing it. It’s not something where people get an impression because there’s words like supergroup and things like that attached to it. We feel like people are here and supporting us because they come out to the live shows and see how passionate and how real it is and they hear it and feel it in our music. They take ownership of it and they spread the word. So things like that, I don’t even know if people pay attention. It’s so cliché and kind of easy, and for us it doesn’t really seem too warranted. I think everybody would agree that it would take a certain level of success to earn that type of name.
JG: I didn’t know if it was a lot to live up to since everybody gets that title even if they’ve been in bands that never really made a name for themselves.
DC: Like I said, it’s a sensationalizing type of society. We understood that when you start a new band there’s not much to live up to except for your own expectations because it’s a brand new band. A lot of these guys are finding this out when they’re moving on to try other projects. Regardless of who you are and what your success has been, you still have to go out and prove what the new sound is.
JG: Why did you put out Moment Of Impact so quickly? It seemed like I had just heard of you and the album was being released.
DC: Why did we put that out like we did? The reason was is we knew it was going to take a long time and the fact of the matter is music fans are extremely fickle and they want, want, want, and it would seemingly be easy for us to write, record and release but it takes a lot of time and effort. The time you’re in recording, it’s not like you’re working another job and making money, so you have to make sure that you’re physically in the position to record. So the process of getting music out we knew was going to take a while but we needed something out there to appease the fans. You can only talk about it so long before you have to get something out there to fuel the fire. We felt that was a creative way to put a disc out that would be limited and essentially would be a collector’s item. There are no more of those in print. If we can go on and move many, many records from here on out, there’s only going to be 1,000 of those and they’re all hand numbered, hand signed. We just thought it was unique to do something special that went that extra mile for the fans, and in my opinion we gave those early fans something special to hold on to throughout our career. It’s just one of those things when you’re doing it independently you can do that. You can come up with ideas and just kind of go with it. Some of them work, some of them don’t, but I felt like that was pretty cool.
JG: I thought it was definitely cool. You guys did the autographed thing and you sold out of that I believe and now you’re doing the new double album, Impact, for like ten bucks. It’s very interactive and very hands on and makes you very accessible. So why don’t more bands do it?
DC: Ten bucks, for two discs, like you said. Even if you don’t like it, you don’t feel like you wasted your money. It’s a great deal and that’s the reality of being able to do it like this. It gives us a little more leverage to make those types of decisions and a lot less red tape for us to work through to finalize those types of moves. It’s cool, it’s exciting.
JG: How were you able to afford to go out on tour this much doing it by yourself?
DC: Well right now, that was the big final piece we put together was our partnership with Bulldog Productions and our management company SKH which is run by a longtime friend of mine, Steve Karas. He came from Wind-Up Records, he helped build that label back in the day. We found the right people to put into place in order to provide the capital we needed in order to operate our small business. It’s a partnership, and they really do have our back and they are extremely supportive. They don’t just invest in our business, they help invest in our family and provide for our families and make sure we all have our heads on straight when we go out there and do our job. It’s a blessing for sure and it wouldn’t be possible without them.
JG: You guys have gotten on some pretty awesome tours like Volbeat just recently.
DC: Yeah, we’ve been able to put together some really good spot opportunities to develop some relationships we feel are going to be key at going into the future. We have our sights set on Europe, we feel like we could have really great success over there. Volbeat, they obviously have monumental success over there. They’re probably one of the biggest bands in Europe. The Five Finger Death Punch guys here stateside are guys that we have a lot of respect for. Some of the other tours we went out with like Mushroomhead and Wayne Static and those, it was good work.
JG: You have Nonpoint and Seether I believe as the next two tours right?
DC: Yeah, Nonpoint and Call Me No One we have about 12 or 14 dates with that lineup which is going to be a lot of fun. Then we are going to do another two or three weeks with just us and Nonpoint. That will roll into September which I think we’re gonna go out and headline for the month and work our way out west where we’ll meet up with Seether, Sick Puppies and our boys in Kyng. We love those guys a lot. We tour October with them. It’s all a bunch of friends. This past year, we’ve been plugging away headlining. Playing for the 20, playing for the 50, coming back playing for 150 and slowly building it old school style. It’s gonna feel good to get the smaller set, play a little earlier in the night and enjoy ourselves a little bit.
JG: Are you guys already planning another album or is that way down the road after touring?
DC: Yeah, this one just got released. Even though some of us have been around for a while supporting it, we want to see what it’s got. We need to give all of these songs a fair chance. As far as we’re concerned we’re never really finished writing, we’re always creating and stockpiling ideas. I was just talking to Corey this morning, we’ll have an album worth of material by the end of this year for sure. Whenever we actually take the time to stop and record it and put it out, we’re not sure. But we’ll have the ability to release some spot songs every now and again.
JG: Why didn’t you just do an EP after the regular release of the one disc album? Was the double disc just your idea of being awesome?
DC: Yeah, that was an option. It was something we mulled over. For us the impact was minimal. It was a few thousand, 10, 20, 30, whatever the social networking says as far as our impact. There’s a lot of people out there that don’t know and this is a gigantic cornucopia of music that is all brand new for them. The ‘I Pray’ and ‘Feels Like I’m Falling’, ‘The Great Deceivers’. All these songs we’ve been holding to our hearts for a while, they have yet to affect a lot of folks out there still. We just felt like it would be a little more creative and eye catching to slam everything together and put some brand new stuff nobody has heard and some extra goodies on there.
JG: Did Morgan [Rose] do the drums on the added songs as well?
DC: Since Ryan has been in the band he has been playing drums on everything. ‘Angels & Demons’, ‘Don’t Lie To Me’ and those songs that came out on the last one all the way through ‘Hopeless’, ‘Obvious’ and ‘Revolution’ is Ryan. It’s about half and half now. It’s been three years now, half this record was done and Ryan wasn’t even in this band and it’s been a growth. That’s what’s really going to make it cool once we make the second record. Rather than just rushing to over consume the early fan base, we’re just going to be excited to take the next step.
JG: Having such strong ties to Sevendust, does it make for the Sevendust 2.0 type of comparison come out?
DC: Everybody is gonna grasp at something when they try to explain us which is natural when you’re trying to communicate about something that somebody else doesn’t know about. I think it’s a great comparison. I think our styles and passion in music mirror each other and I think our mentality and approach in how we treat our fan base in touring mirrors each other a lot too. They’re great guys to look up to and they’ve had an extremely respectful career. They’re a fan’s band, and if we can have a career of 7, 8, 9 records, I’ll be happy.
JG: I know you have toured with Sevendust before, but have there ever been talks of touring with both them and Call Me No One and making like a family type thing?
DC: I don’t even know how bands would do that when you have to do multiple performances in a night I don’t think it’s sustainable. It may be very interesting obviously and cool to think about. It’s like stacking your team on NBA Jam. Just putting everybody on the same team, after a while it’s not interesting. It would be fun if maybe we could throw some songs in there where they kind of go into a Call Me No One track. That would be fine but it’s hard to go out there and sing one set let alone two or three sets.
JG: I didn’t know if it was ever thrown around as an idea for a one off thing or anything.
DC: You always see that. From a band’s perspective you always get a lot of suggestions on where to tour, how to tour, who to tour with. That’s always a wish list. People are like “Man it would be awesome if Dark New Day, Submersed, Eye Empire and all of these bands would come together”. Let’s think about that, how does that even work? It’s fun and that’s what’s cool about having a lot of music out there.
JG: I noticed with the album there are sounds of each one of your previous bands in there. Is that a natural sound that comes to you?
DC: Yeah, it’s gotta be. We were all the preeminent writers in each of our bands so those influences are going to come together. The reality is that we all have abilities that we weren’t able to work with being with our other counterparts. So there may be areas or places they couldn’t go with their vocalists in the past but now we have a little more freedom. Same thing on the guitar end or the bass end. We’re at the point now where there is no predetermined expectations for us. People are just wondering what we’re going to come up with. It makes it a lot of fun because I think a lot of those things come through naturally, but it’s nothing we’re focusing on. We’re just trying to create truly honest music.
JG: Who are some of your favorite vocalists? At times you remind of Chris Cornell who is one of my favorites.
DC: Hands down, he’s my number one guy. He’s reinventing himself right now and he sounds better than ever. Cornell is the guy and Sarah McLachlan is my girl. I love Steve Perry and a lot of great musicians, a lot of great singers.
JG: Do you play any instruments or do you just do vocals?
DC: I play guitar, I write on the piano and pretty much stick to those two.
JG: The one question I’ve been dying to ask you is that I noticed you thank Johnny Damon and Bronson Arroyo. Who is your team?
DC: I’m just a baseball fan. I grew up in Texas watching the Texas Rangers and Nolan Ryan and some really exciting moments and players. Probably about the first two or three years on Wind-Up I had the fortune to meet some great players and make the friendship of Johnny Damon, Kevin Millar, and Bronson and those guys when they were all with the Red Sox. That was 2003 when they lost to the Yankees in the heartbreaking ALCS and then the next year they came back to pull off the miracle sweep. I don’t know, when you’re going through those types of moments you kind of inspire each other. We were always there for the music and they were always there providing the ‘I’m freaking Johnny Damon and I respect you’. We talked about it a lot, surrounding yourself with people that can inspire you does a lot. I felt like I had to thank them because those were guys that were always supporting me and believing in me when I was out of music and didn’t know if I was going to get back and I really appreciated it.
JG: Did it break your heart when he [Damon] went to the Yankees?
DC: (laughs) Yeah, it was definitely heartbreaking because it was such a special group of guys you wanted to see them play it out but I understand that side of the game now especially since I’ve seen a lot of friends move around. A lot of people just seen a lot of friends get traded this last deadline last week. It’s the nature of the game but that’s why I love baseball. It’s the most dynamic and in depth as far as personalities go and they’re always coming and going and inspiring different people along the way.
JG: Anything you want to tell the fans or the people who are just reading about you for the first time?
DC: For us, we’re always going to be here to uphold our end of the bargain. We’re always going to try to be honest, write music and provide our fans with music they can relate to. But in the end I feel like the success of music and success of the band comes down to the fan’s involvement and for us it’s about being present and being active. If it’s something you want to be a part of then come along for the ride, we’d love to have you.