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Empires: Raucous Chicago Quartet Show Off Their Dark Side

by Nicole Frehsee on Feb 14, 2011

. Photo by Adam Courtney.

Who: This Chicago band racked up 70,000 downloads of its self-released 2008 debut – then decided to rough up its pop-punk sound. "We're getting rid of the polish," says frontman Sean Van Vleet, 28. "I like that whole Clash/Sex Pistols attitude: 'If you don't like it, we don't give a fuck.' "

Sound: Serrated riffs, topped by Van Vleet's passionate wail. "Topics like struggle, hell and sex keep showing up in our songs," says Van Vleet. "If it's dark, it's dark."

Sweet Ride: Five days a week, the group squeezes into a subcompact Toyota Echo for the 20-mile commute to its rehearsal space. "It's extremely modest, so it represents the band pretty well," says Van Vleet.

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