Tom McKean and The Emperors


Tom McKean: vocals/guitars
Bobby Williams: guitars/vocals
Andy Simms: keyboards/clarinet/horns
Iain Ross: drums/vocals
Ed Miller: bass
Also with Fay Walsh (cello and banjo), Nick Loe (bass) and John Parker (double bass)

Sounds like: a smoky, back alley gin joint.

Evocative and cinematic, the Emperors explore the darker shadows of rootsy blues and jazz with the moody maturity of experience and stellar musicianship honed by years of playing.

McKean's deep and scruffy voice draws inevitable comparisons to Tom Waits , and the band's overall tone may remind some of Nick Cave's latter-day balladeering as well. As usual, though, name checks really only provide a point of reference. The Emporers varied sound won't neatly fit a single genre: clarinet and guitar swirl jazzily through "Fever," while "This is the Year" has the same quiet, heartfelt energy of Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." Other songs like "Heart of Mine" and "One Thing On My Mind" smolder with a subdued, moody simplicity, and the live video for "This is a War" captures their ability to positively set the house on fire. (Their live sets come highly praised...)

The Emperors are not, by a far stretch, your generic one-hit indie wonder four-piece, but instead a fine assemblage of musicians who have stayed in the game without losing their passion. Quoting the band themselves: "Through the vagaries of luck and hard work we’ve found ourselves making the kind of music we always wished we could." Lucky us that now we get to hear it.

Favorite song: A Little Something

Video: This is a War

Other opinions:
Strummerville calls them one to watch in 2008

LISTEN | Several free downloads if you join their mailing list: theemperors at