empty coats’ new EP shows a maturity in songwriting

Reporting and writing by Michael Roberts

From the opening longing chords of “mercy” to the final complex notes of “cooler,” empty coats deliver an EP, hathor, that exhibits both technical prowess and emotional weight. The Akron-based band’s second release features a guitar heavy sound balanced with vocal harmonies reminiscent of early-’90s college rock bands.

empty coats include Jim Curtis (guitars/vocals/lyrics), Andy Flanagan (drums), Keegan Byrnes (guitars/vocals), Scott Golightly (bass/vocals) and Tommy Sprung (guitars).

Following up 2019’s full-length debut, “the fool,” proved to be a challenge during the pandemic. Jim cleared out his living room so the band could practice together safely. When it came time to record, Jim was able to pull in a favor from a talented friend. 

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“I’ve had a friend (producer) Tim Norris, and he just did all of it,” Jim says. “I just did a lot of listening and thumbs up thumbs down.” In addition to producing the album, Tim also plays slide guitar on it. 

The band formed two years ago when Jim reached out to friends to help bring some of the songs he had been writing to life. “I was humbled by it,” Jim says. “I didn’t know Tommy very well. He approached me in a coffee shop, and he just said, ‘If you are ever starting something, let me know.’”

The five-piece came together and recorded their debut the fall. The first album consisted of songs Jim had already written and brought to the band. Their new EP hathor was an opportunity for the band to write together.

“This album I only had the guitar part along with the vocals,” Jim says. “A lot more stripped down. A lot of room for these guys to just do their own thing.”

With influences ranging from Elliot Smith to Coheed and Cambria to Bright Eyes, empty coats fully utilize the contrasting styles of the three guitarists. Combined with their harmonies, they are bolstered by the strength of their rhythm section. 

Album standout “god knows” exhibits a maturity in songwriting that bands who have been together for significantly longer strive for. “oh wow” feels like it was written for a summer afternoon driving through the country.

With live shows still unsure, the band is certainly looking forward to playing out again. 

“Yeah, I think we’re gonna be aiming for shows. We don’t necessarily miss hauling gear, but it’s totally worth it,” Jim says.

Until that time, the band is keeping themselves busy writing. Jim says they’ve already written three new songs.

With the growth exhibited in just two years since forming, empty coats’ hathor is a step forward for a band that was already impressive at their inception.

empty coats’ EP hathor is available on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Music, and at emptycoats.bandcamp.com.

Michael (he/him) is a life-long resident of Highland Square, a performance artist, a traveler, a writer and a part-time mad scientist. 

Photos: Used with permission from empty coats