Beginning 2018 on a fresh note, Denver indie-rock band Instant Empire decided to take a new approach to creating and releasing music. The bandmates titled the project the 12x12 series, aiming to drop a new single each month instead of packaging new songs into one album as they have in the past. Thus far, each new single has showcased the band's range of sound, from the melodic, upbeat "I'm Alive" to the politically charged "Tomahawk Tongues."
The outfit's single for March, "Broken Arrow," takes a fun turn, with lyrics inspired by nights the indie-rock band spent at the hippie haven Sancho's Broken Arrow, on Colfax. Westword is premiering the song below.
We caught up with vocalist Scotty Saunders via email to discuss the 12x12 series and the inspiration for "Broken Arrow."
Westword: Tell me more about the 12x12 series and the intent behind it?
Scotty Saunders: We have released a number of LPs and EPs over the years, and we just felt like it was time to take a totally different approach to releasing music this year. It felt like a challenge that would be fun and that would keep us in a constant state of creation throughout the year. Don't get me wrong: We love creating full albums with complex motifs and interlocked themes, but it has gotten harder and harder to keep people's attention. We thought that small snacks each month might be a better way to deliver our music, as opposed to presenting people with one ten-course meal once a year.
What has surprised you in creating and releasing these singles for 12x12? Does it allow for some creative freedom and experimentation with Instant Empire’s sound or your individual strengths?
I think what has been most surprising is how much work it has been so far! It feels like we've barely gotten out each tune by the end of each month. But as far as creative freedom, it feels like we worry so much less about the little things with these tunes. Sometimes when you are creating an LP and you don't have a hard deadline, there is an endless amount of time to tinker on sounds, song structures, etc. You can get bogged down, and it can be a bit tiresome. But having a such tight timelines for this 12x12 series has actually been liberating. We write something, we spend time to flesh it out, we record it, and then we move on. We aren't overthinking anything, which has been really fun.
What was the inspiration behind "Broken Arrow?"
Oh, man. This one is a bit ridiculous. About a year ago, I was driving by Sancho's, and I got stopped at the light. I was just looking at their sign, which says "Sancho's Broken Arrow – A Thinking Place," and I jotted down the first line in the song while I was in my car: "Spent a decade drinking at a thinking place.” One of our guitarists, Lou, always made us go to Sancho's, presumably because he likes the vibe and the foosball. So we have spent copious amounts of time there over the years. That is initially how the song started out.
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But as I continued writing the lyrics, the song quickly morphed into more of a character study of a somewhat pathetic guy, wandering around the bars, just desperate to find connection. Sancho's feels like the perfect setting for such a story. It's a Denver institution. It's funny that Instant Empire is possibly the furthest thing from a jam band, but for whatever reason this became one of our go-to places to hang out. I blame Lou entirely.
What makes this song stand out from your other work?
We were writing this ridiculously dense and complex eight-minute song before we wrote "Broken Arrow." So when we started writing it, we sort of naturally just wanted to write something much more concise and energetic. This was possibly the most fun we have ever had recording a song. The lyrics are over the top throughout, and we would just be cracking up laughing while we were recording. It's a fun song, in spite of the character's desperation. Hopefully that fun comes out to whoever listens to it.
Instant Empire, Left Hand Shakes Record Release Show, 9 p.m., Saturday, April 21, Syntax Physic Opera, 554 South Broadway, 720-456-7041, $7