Philadelphia’s Empath are one of the most exciting new bands of 2018. On their 17-minute whirlwind of an EP, Liberating Guilt and Fear, and their recent Environments 7-inch, the four musicians who make up this Artist You Need to Know crew balance punk noise with a wild, anything-goes approach to psychedelic sound. Their live shows are fast and loud, and their records make you want to hit replay as soon as they’re done. No other outfit is offering thrills quite like this.
Rolling Stone recently visited Empath at their home base in West Philly to find out how it’s done. Singer-guitarist Catherine Elicson, drummer Garrett Koloski, keyboardist Emily Shanahan and synthesizer player Randall Coon let us inside their rehearsal space and explained their creative process, which begins in Elicson’s bedroom.
“Usually I’m sitting on my bed in my room with my acoustic guitar and my Voice Memos open on my phone, and once I feel excited about something I’ll usually work on it with Garrett,” she says. “Sometimes I don’t even know what the song sounds like until we record it.”
Their studio approach leaves lots of room for spontaneous, left-field choices. Koloski explains how Coon helped them get the perfect watery sound effect for one song: “He just blew into a bong for, like, four minutes.”
The drummer also breaks down the astrological ties that bind Empath. “Randall and Emily are Tauruses, and Catherine’s a Virgo and I’m a Sag,” Koloski says. “So Catherine and I are really motivated together, and then the Tauruses in the mix, they just ground us.”