Over the past two years, Tom DeLonge has been the go-to guy for head-scratching, “Wait, what?!?” statements about the importance of his band (well, either him or Brandon Flowers).
To wit: In September 2005, he declared his new band, Angels & Airwaves, to be “the greatest rock and roll revolution for this generation.” Then, in October of that year, he proclaimed A&As’ debut album, We Don’t Need to Whisper, would “compete with the greatest rock records of all time.” That December, he predicted that the album would usher in an “entire new culture of the youth.” And finally, in May ’06, he foresaw its success leading him to “conquering the globe.”
Of course, whether any of those things actually happened is up for debate. Whisper sold well (more than 509,000 copies), and the band did embark on a fairly lengthy tour. But we’re still waiting for much of the promised revolution to happen. And now, with the second A&A album, I-Empire, due to hit stores November 6, you’d think DeLonge would perhaps want to temper all that bold-faced bluster.
But you’d be wrong. Seems the reason we haven’t noticed the revolution is because we’re currently living in it. And there’s more to come.
“Before We Don’t Need to Whisper, I came out and said that it was going to change the face of rock and roll,” DeLonge said. “What I meant was over a 30-year period. It’s been one year — wait 29 more and you’ll see how different your life is. Because it’s still happening. What happens over the next six months to a year with I-Empire is going to continue that thought of what I really wanted the last record to do. It’s a lot harder and a lot more ambitious than what I ever believed it to be, but what we’re going to continue to try to do is to change a lot of things about music.
“We were trying to [deal with] an industry that was in crisis,” he continued. “Records aren’t selling anymore; people are burning music. So what we wanted to do was try to communicate our records across different formats. We were willing to put ourselves out there and try to make movies … to make short films and do live events. It was very difficult. It took a lot of money, it took a lot of ambition, and it took a lot of risk. And it’s very easy to tear a band down for trying.”
Fair enough. But for a guy who’s constantly touting the powers of his band’s music, you’d think DeLonge would be willing to can the chitchat and let that music speak for itself. Apparently, that’s not the way things are done in the A&A camp. After all, there was much talk of a CGI-heavy World War II film that was supposedly going to accompany the release of Whisper, and the plan seems to be the same for Empire.
“When we created We Don’t Need to Whisper, the priority [was] to be the tip of the spear of what was changing in music, not only technologically, but what was going to happen with the industry as a whole,” he said. “The film we made, we wanted to lump it into the documentary side of things, because there’s so much of a story to tell with us as human beings, and how we made the record and what we wanted to do with people. That documentary has been in production for two years. We have filmed most of it. It has live performance, it has documentary, and it has these epic visuals of war. And that’s almost finished. But when we started I-Empire, our grand vision of being able to communicate music with cinema started to materialize. And that has started to be filmed. We’ve released a trailer for the movie, and it’s in production through the beginning of next year, so we expect it to hit theaters — to what degree, we don’t know — in the fall.”
Despite all the talk of ongoing revolution and theatrical releases, there’s very little we actually know about Empire. DeLonge described it as “the second part of a two-album story.” What does that mean?
It should come as no surprise that DeLonge is more than willing to tell you: “The first record was about an idea that if you can see yourself differently in the world, you might actually change the world around you, if not the world itself. The new record is about that idea taking place, and the personification of that philosophical statement, that you can actually change the world by seeing it differently.
“There are lots of things happening in the world right now,” he continued. “When you watch the news, it’s really negative. When you listen to music, it consistently seems [like] bands are angry, or they’re covering themselves in makeup and crying and being weird about it. But with us, we like the idea of being optimistic, and to be optimistic and to believe in something greater than yourself seems to be the most uncool thing in the world, which makes it the coolest thing, since we’re the only ones doing it.”