You join us as Mike Vennart and Simon Neil are attempting to identify the moment their extra-curricular band, Empire State Bastard – ESB for short – was born. Drilling down into the bedrock of facts, Mike has gone right back to the point in his life when things were flipped upside-down forever. He’s gone back to first principles. Because for him, the genesis for all this stuff can be traced back to an adolescent evening of volatile surprises in a sketchy part of a Northern city some 31 years ago.
Because the thing of it is, in a specific sense, it’s kind of difficult to nominate the exact point at which this new creation was born. Certainly it was a while ago, maybe as far back as 12 or 13 years. The location was likely the back lounge of Biffy Clyro’s tour bus – Simon Neil, of course, being that group’s singer, guitarist and principal songwriter, with Mike Vennart ably deputising as a touring guitarist since 2010 – where, back in the fragrant plumes of time, according to Mike, “there was an awful lot more partying going on, so specific vivid memories are absolutely out of the question”. So as the Good Ship Biffy ferried its passengers from city to city, these two music-makers created a new band made only of words. But their talk wasn’t cheap. The pair have been friends for more than two decades. Both of them knew they were playing for real.
“We just knew that one day we were going to make a racket together,” says Simon. “It just had to be the right time, is all. It wasn’t just a case of, ‘Oh, let’s have some fun and make a racket.’ Because what we owed to whatever we ended up doing together was that it was the best thing it could possibly be.”
And so the clock ticked, and tocked, and ticked, and tocked…
“To be honest, the title of the project came around first,” Simon says. “Empire State Bastard. That was probably about 10 years ago. I mentioned the name to Mike, and we both just knew that that was the statement that was going to describe the music we make. So, yeah, it all happened a little backwards.”