Empra portraits in MelbourneMelbourne band Empra are traversing the country with their brand spanking new EP, Strange Condition. Singer/guitarist Sanny Veloo speaks with SHANE PINNEGAR ahead of their launch show at the Rosemount Hotel this Sunday, September 29.

Empra’s star is definitely on the ascendant, with their EP’s title track shortlisted for a Vanda & Young Songwriting Award (eventually picked up by The Preatures), and their winning of the prestigious Live Nation Global Band Competition at the Los Angeles House Of Blues club earlier this year.

“Yeah, we’re really just building from strength to strength,” enthuses singer/guitarist, Sanny Veloo. “We’re really lucky we had a couple of good breaks. We even had word that Triple J are getting behind the new EP. They don’t play much rock’n’roll nowadays, so that’s exciting.”

The EP sees the band’s sound having progressed from their Foo Fighters-like debut album to a more modern pop-rock sound, whilst still retaining a strong organic feel and keen ear for hooks, hooks, and more hooks.

“It’s kind of like an in-betweener,” opines Singaporean-born Veloo, “from where we are right now and where we’re going to be next year when we finish the album. We didn’t wanna just do something that sounds like part II of the first album – we really wanted to try to do something that sounded more like Empra, the way we were at this point – something that sounded fresh, but still rock’n’roll.

“We made a conscious effort to listen to a lot of new music,” he explains, “like, shitloads! I’ve been listening a lot of Japandroids, Alabama Shakes, Cage The Elephant, Born Lion, British India – a lot of new rock’n’roll that’s emerging in 2012-13. Even hip hop and that sort of stuff – everything seems to have a bit of cool that you can go, ‘hey that bit here, or that bit there is really rockin’, and then we go, ‘let’s do this song this way’. Because we would usually do things one way, let’s deliberately not do that, let’s try and do something else!”

The Live Nation Band Competition win came about when Veloo’s microphone failed mid-song. Instead of giving up, the four-piece never missed a beat, the singer jumping into the crowd to lead an unplugged singalong.

“I was just, ‘oh fuck this, man, not right now!’,” he laughs in hindsight, “but okay, fine. I jumped down into the crowd because the mic failed, and fortunately they sang along, man.

“The judges, they said it was because of the mic failing and how we handled that, that’s why they made us win. Because they said, that’s what a great rock n’ roll band is like, they keep everybody into the show and make everybody feel good – that’s why we won!”

The prize included enough cash to finance the EP and a stunning video clip for the title track, as well as getting them the support slot for Fall Out Boy’s Singaporean show. Veloo says the chance to play in front of his family was an emotional homecoming for him.

“It was the first time my family sees Empra,” he says, “and it means a lot to me that my family sees the band, and what I’ve been up to in Australia for the past three years. And the first time my family see Empra, it was with Fall Out Boy in front of 3,400 people – they were all so pumped, man.”