Ceasar Rodriguez
Empty Seat. Credit: Ceasar Rodriguez

An alternative-rock band gained success seemingly overnight after winning the first round of CV Weekly’s CV Music Showcase last year—and Empty Seat was soon performing at various venues and winning local awards.

However, these weren’t overnight successes at all: The band has actually been around since 2000.

Empty Seat originally hails from the Los Angeles area. Erin Marie (aka Red, because of her hair) is the frontwoman and lead vocalist, with Anthony Ferrer on guitar, Danny Broussard on bass and Rickey Villalobos on drums. Their take on alternative rock features Marie’s vicious and powerful voice as the driving factor.

The band just released “Won’t Wait,” a new single with an accompanying video that is very pop-punk and grunge-esque. Marie’s attacking vocal lines clash with Ferrer’s guitar chords, creating an all-around rock punch to the face.

“It’s been almost eight years since we’ve written new music,” Marie said during a recent phone interview I had with the band. “We took an eight-year break before we started in the valley last year. We had two old albums that we took off the internet, because our sound changed. It’s important that we get this new music out quickly so we can build some better relationships with venues and people.”

Villalobos said the group recorded “Won’t Wait” last fall, and planned to release it soon after.

“Time started passing, and things started lagging, and we were very eager to get it out as soon as we could,” Villalobos said. “It was planned to be released earlier, but with everything going on in the world, we decided that this would be the earliest we were able to get it out there.”

Added Marie: “We had some issues … that held us back, but it eventually did come out. We wanted to release it alongside the video, so we matched the times up with when the video would be finished. Now we are getting ready to come out with another single. If everything goes OK, our next single and accompanying music video will be out by August.”

The band is planning to adjust its release strategy to stay relevant.

“In the old-school days, you did an album, then tour,” Villalobos said. “Now it’s a single, then a music video, then another single, and repeat. That’s what I’ve seen from other artists nowadays—just dropping singles. You can drop the whole album, but not everyone’s gonna buy the whole album; everyone will just take their favorite tracks and move on.”

Marie added: “In today’s age, dropping an album or EP with six to 13 songs all available right away causes some people to forget about it. People listen to all the tracks, and then within a week, it’s dark. When you do a single at a time, you constantly keep people’s attention. There’s always something new instead of just dropping everything at one time.

“We’ve been a band for almost 20 years now, and we have a lot of songs not even recorded yet. We have a lot in our bag; we can drop one every six months or so for a while.”

Empty Seat admits that some changes need to be made in their merch department, too.

“I still see some physical CDs at shows, but bands that are more advanced have download cards,” Ferrer said. “As we start to play live shows again, I’d love to include those to get our singles out to people. It would also be cool to have vinyl records for sale. When you become more advanced, you need to add to your merch to make things more exciting.”

Ferrer said that the members of Empty Seat are willing to evolve their sound, too.

“I don’t care what genre we play,” Ferrer said. “It could be punk, slow, etc. If it’s good, I’m going to try to get the band to work to make the song. There might be something new coming out of this that is different from our usual sound. It’s going to be interesting to see how we evolve. I can’t wait to kick some ass and play a great show again.”

Marie added: “But it’s mostly about having fun. One of the reasons we’ve been together for so long is because we’ve been having fun. If you look like you’re having fun onstage, the crowd is going to have fun with you.

The beautiful production on “Won’t Wait” is owed to local producer and friend of the band David Williams, of Melrose Music.

“We recorded the song at Modern Fuzz Recording Studios in Pomona, and had David Williams master it,” Marie said. “For the next single, we’ll do the whole process with David Williams. We’re planning to start the first week of July. We met (David) when we first performed at the CV Weekly Music Showcase last year. He was one of the judges, and it was a huge coincidence that he has a studio in both Palm Springs and Los Angeles. We’re previously from L.A., so we had a lot in common that helped sparked up our friendship. He’s been one of the most supportive and nicest guys to us.”

Ferrer added: “He’s in the video, too! He showed up for the taping of the ‘Won’t Wait’ video, which was super awesome. People didn’t have to show up and support us, but he came, and it was such a huge deal.”

The music video is a performance of the song at Little Bar in Palm Desert, with Chelsea Sugarbritches, BB Ingle and other local luminaries spotted in the crowd. Spliced in is footage of Ferrer and Marie cruising the streets of Hollywood.

“We wanted to be really supportive of the valley, and we got so lucky that Little Bar in Palm Desert gave us full control of the bar, with no cost and no strings attached,” Ferrer said. “We wanted to film here and really showcase that this is where we’re from.”

Marie added: “We also have shots of Hollywood. We’re really a part of both scenes, and our drummer still lives out there. The video is really a representation of both sides of us.”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/EmptySeatband.

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Matt King

Matt King is a freelance writer for the Coachella Valley Independent. A creative at heart, his love for music thrust him into the world of journalism at 17 years old, and he hasn't looked back. Before...