Interview: Kyle Barton (Empire Festival)

This weekend the city of Sheffield plays host to the very first Empire Festival. Developed by Empire Promotions, the festival will take place at two different venues in two days with a host of up-and-coming names from the burgeoning UK pop punk and emo scene set to play.

Empire Festival will be headlined by Roam and Apologies, I Have None with the rest of the bill including emerging names such as Trash Boat, Six Time Champion,
Milestones, Downers, Landmarks, Waster, Big Nothing, and Castaway. The festival will also include acoustic sets in between sets.

In a crowded UK festival market, it’s a brave move by Empire Promotions to create Empire Festival. Nevertheless it’s a festival with a purpose; to bring emerging talent to the city of Sheffield to play to a passionate and appreciative crowd.

To get an insight into how the Empire Festival came to be, we spoke to Kyle Barton from Empire Promotions. Kyle discussed the fesitvals aim, the Sheffield music scene, stepping into the UK festival market and more.

AH: To begin with can you tell us your role within Empire Promotions and what you do for Empire Fest?
KB: My role is mainly as a promoter; booking bands to come play shows in Sheffield – tour packages or one offs. We are very open to who we book and who we want to work with. For Empire Fest I did most of the booking, alot of the organising; when bands should arrive, what to bring etc.

AH: This is the first time Empire Fest has took place. How did the idea come about?
KB: The idea came about when we gathered a good set of people in the Empire team. We were booking shows very regular and wanted to give it a try to see who would be interested and what bands would like to play. I had a festival last year that fell through due to the venue closing down.

AH: When you started planning the festival, what was your main aim?
KB: Our main aim was to bring touring bands at a small level to Sheffield as it is a major touring place for the bigger bands, so gives the bands a chance to play here.

AH: You originally announced it as a one-day affair before adding a second date. Why did this happen?
KB: One of our team had a show the day before, so we thought why not add a second day. We had 5 bands already and it worked out pretty well.

AH: Empire Fest is playing host a whole load of underground UK pop punk and emo bands. Does this show how strong the UK scene is right now?
KB: Definitely! It shows what bands can offer in terms of their music and advertising. There’s alot of bands on the bill I haven’t seen yet, so I’m excited to have them on.

AH: With festivals like Slam Dunk just around the corner, has it been difficult getting people interested in the festival?

KB: It has been and especially with the exam period too. Personally I have a 9am English exam the day after. As for the festival, we have done pretty well on our pre-sales and expecting more on the day.

AH: Similarly with so many small/mid-level festivals happening all over the UK throughout the year, how does Empire Fest stand out in a crowded market?
KB: As its our first year and being booked so fast, we feel next year we want to stand out a bit more in terms of bands/venue and probably a different month, but we are all confident of it doing well. We hope it progresses for next year so it becomes a more talked about festival.

AH: For those who aren’t familiar with the Sheffield music scene, how is it at the moment?
KB: Sheffield has had its ups and downs in terms of pop punk. We’ve had bands take off like Rookie League but after disbanding, bands have changed genres or members have left for a different style, its still very strong and will continute to be.

AH: Can you talk is through how the line-up came together, especially to those who are thinking of heading to the festival?
KB: The line-up came together as what bands were making an impact at the time of when we booked it. Bands like Roam and Trash Boat have been signed to major labels are on this festival. We saw alot of bands touring towards the end of 2014 and to the start of 2015, so we snapped bands up quickly before the gradually got bigger.

AH: For those who aren’t familiar with the 2 venues where Empire Fest is taking place. What can festival-goers expect?
KB: DQ on the Saturday is pretty much your average nightclub venue; very small stage, rised to about a step high, no barrier. It’s going to be carnage! Whilst The Hop is a very chilled venue. The staff are lovely. Personally it’s one of my favourite venues in Sheffield. We have a balcony viewing there also, and again, a small stage with no barriers.

AH: From a personal perspective, what bands are you looking forward to seeing this weekend?
KB: I’m looking forward to seeing Six Time Champion. Their latest EP (‘Expecting Honesty’) is so good. I’m also looking forward to seeing Milestones. I remember when Matt (Clarke – vocalist) was forming the band and asked me if I knew anyone looking for a band. I just missed them at their recent show, so it’ll be good to see them this weekend.

AH: Finally why should Already Heard readers head to Sheffield for Empire Fest this weekend?

KB: Already Heard readers should come down because I will buy them a beer. They can come to next years when its much bigger.

Empire Festival takes place at DQ in Sheffield on Saturday May 16th and The Hop in Sheffield on Sunday May 17th.

Weekend tickets are £10 with day tickets priced at £6. Tickets can be purchased here. Alternatively weekend tickets will be priced £12 on the door with day tickets costing £8.

More information about Empire Festival can be found on Facebook.

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86)

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