Though it’s only taken to area stages under its current name since the spring of 2012, Valley band Empty Banks has a history that extends back to 2006.
That was the year when Dan Vaccari (drums), Joel Cameron (electric and upright bass) and Dan Babineau (keyboard, synth) met and started performing together at Greenfield Community College, where all three were studying jazz and creative musicianship. The trio then played out for two years under the name Nobody’s Fat before switching to its current moniker.
“We had an identity crisis,” says Babineau. “[The name] Empty Banks is derived from the idea of creating something from nothing. It’s a name that everyone can perceive their own way, so it’s hard to put one definition behind it.”
Babineau also finds it difficult to pin down Empty Banks’ sound. While tracks like “Kill The Things You’d Die For” display clear roots in jazz, there is also a harder edge to the music that is capable of keeping even the most casual listener hooked.
Babineau says, “We play music as if sound was a malleable substance, like Play-Doh—an orgasmic display of erotic carpentry, of floral sound. A typical performance includes trance-fusion-dance beats, rock, and other palatable soundscapes, like Play-Doh.”
Another key element of Empty Banks’ sound is the use of electronic implements like a Korg synthesizer, drum sample pads and effects pedals. Even a didgeridoo has made it into the mix before, but Babineau maintains that, no matter how interesting a sound may be, every element is up for dissection and discussion by the group.
“Our songwriting process is very interactive and collaborative,” he says. “Most commonly, a snowball effect takes place with a riff or an emotion kicking it off. Each idea and addition is on the chopping block until a finished product emerges, although every song can be put up for review.”
In a live setting, Empty Banks has seen its fair share of unexpected moments. Though the focus of each gig is typically building a solid groove and entertaining the crowd, the band has also produced some more interesting reactions.
Babineau says, “We’ve had a guy dance himself sick and puke. [We’ve] shorted out fuse boxes and we’ve been called a public health hazard from an elderly woman.”
Empty Banks also prides itself on “filling a room with a sound unbelievably created by only three members.” But for the foreseeable future, the group doesn’t have any immediate plans to book new concerts.
“Our schedule is pretty open,” Babineau says. “We are focusing on writing and recording at the moment, and the shows seem to find us. We’re always creating music and looking forward to recordings.”•