Empty Orchestra

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Stephen Wisniewski: Vocals, Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Bass Guitar, Harmonica, Banjo, Electric Air Organ
John Duffy: Electric Guitar, Slide Guitar
Mark Michalik: Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals, Machines
Vince Moreno: Electric Guitar
Chris Thibodeau: Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Brandon Trammell: Keys, Backing Vocals
Jeff Buffmyer: Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals
Michelle Lukezic:
Bass Guitar, Backing Vocals
Nick Mayberry: Bass Guitar

Base of operations: Flint, MI

MP3s at www.myspace.com/emptyorchestra
Website at www.hereliesemptyorchestra.com

Empty Orchestra (the English translation of the Japanese word “karaoke”) is a band from Flint, Michigan that features Stephen Wisniewski and his close friends out on the road and in the studio. The band, forming after the hiatus of Wisniewski’s former act Lingua Franca, have been touring and recording for two years and already have an EP, a full-length CD, and over 100 shows performed to their name.

What kind of circumstances might breed such a tightly-knit, motivated, and hard-working band? For one, they’re from a town that has been suffering from the departure of General Motors (famously depicted in Michael Moore’s Roger and Me) over the last twenty-plus years. The effects of this environment are seen throughout their newest CD, Here Lies Empty Orchestra, but most prominently on the subdued track titled “What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?” Sparks of Bruce Springsteen and Woody Guthrie flicker and become ghosts as Wisniewski sings, “They tore down the machining plant and paved the river and we still believe in smokestacks here/Go figure…/And it will take more than iron and light bulbs to help us get better.” Wisniewski wrote the song as an attempt to write a modern labor ballad, although he says it also speaks of “labor ballads as song structures.” “It’s about how labor and capitalism have changed so much since the ‘30s and ‘40s. It doesn’t mean the same thing to strike today, if globalized capitalism makes it possible for companies to just leave.”

Other songs on Here Lies Empty Orchestra, such as “I Forget,” “It Gets Better,” “Vaudeville Tears,” and “Always Already” deal with the relationships between memory, history, and writing. Wisniewski uses the songs as a way to document the events and experiences that he feels doomed to forget, but also to ask questions about how memories and history are made and re-made through the process of songwriting. “It must have rained for my face to be so wet, unless something happened somewhere that I forget,” Wisniewski exclaims in the upbeat, Wilco-esque album opener “I Forget."

Empty Orchestra are constantly touring and have already shared the stage with great acts such as Lucero, Crooked Fingers, Onelinedrawing, Jeremy Enigk, City On Film, Murder By Death, Shooter Jennings, Scouts Honor, Bear Vs. Shark, and Xiu Xiu to name a few. Check them out on tour this Fall and be sure to pick up your copy of Here Lies Empty Orchestra

Similar artists: Wilco, Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Lucero, Crooked Fingers, Sixteen Horsepower

V/A "Ten Years Of Thinker Thought" Thinker Thought Records 2011
"Here Lies Empty Orchestra" Thinker Thought Records 2009 (CD reissue)
"Here Lies Empty Orchestra" Thinker Thought Records 2009 (LP reissue)
Split 7" with The Silverbird Band Capeside Records 2008
"Saturday Afternoon June 7, 2008" Self-Released 2008
"Get Well Soon" Thinker Thought Records 2008 (digital reissue)
"Here Lies Empty Orchestra" Thinker Thought Records 2007
"Get Well Soon" Karaoke/Acutest 2006

Empty Orchestra press photo 1
Empty Orchestra - Download printable press photo 1 (1596 x 2400 jpeg) - by Brett Rhoades

Empty Orchestra press photo 2
Empty Orchestra - Download printable press photo 2 (2400 x 1596 jpeg) - by Brett Rhoades

Empty Orchestra press photo 3
Empty Orchestra - Download printable press photo 3 (1596 x 2400 jpeg) - by Brett Rhoades

THI 997 - Empty Orchestra "Get Well Soon"

THI 997 - Empty Orchestra "Get Well Soon" 7-song download
RELEASE DATE: August 26, 2008
PDF Press Kit
BUY IT NOW: iTunes
Download printable cover art (1500 x 1500 pixel jpeg) - by Stephen Wisniewski
Track Listing:
1. Fuck The Party
2. Civil War
3. A Sense Of Place
4. Bible Black
5. The Fire
6. Down Down
7. Get Well Soon

"I remember seeing Empty Orchestra open for fellow Michiganders Chiodos some months ago. The only thing I recall about Empty Orchestra’s set was wondering why they were on the bill with Chiodos, Emery, Scary Kids Scaring Kids and the Devil Wears Prada other than being from Michigan and presumably being friends with the headliners. Problem was, I wasn’t really in the state of mind to hear a band a little more up the alley of people who like Cursive or even Murder By Death, so I passed on them. However, giving them a second chance here is a pleasant surprise, as Empty Orchestra certainly have a talent for writing catchy, yet minimal folk-indie-rock and prove it with the seven tracks onGet Well Soon, a re-release of the group’s original EP by new label Thinker Thought Records.

"The somber, yet gritty 'Fuck the Party' starts off a bit slow, with talking-like vocals and a total u-turn bridge that is filled with maracas, hand claps and hi-hats. Besides keeping you on your toes, the song climaxes with the honest shout of ‘Fuck the party’ at just the right moment of returning to the beginning guitar attack. 'Civil War' opens up with a bright acoustic guitar-led melody, giving way to a less abrasive vocal front, one that is (occasionally) backed by a wonderful female voice. Big sounding drums led by moving cymbal patterns further accentuate the power of the simple melody in the chorus, making this one of the biggest moments on the disc. Slowly plucked acoustic guitars lead off 'A Sense of Place', driving the song with an accompaniment of earnest vocals (‘Ladies and gentlemen / are we not lucky to have such things as memories?’) until the stripped down drums come in with a simple, but effective backing beat.

"'Bible Black' is more in the vein of 'Fuck the Party', with a grimy guitar melody and bar-ready vocals. It is almost like another side of the band when they go into this sound, for better or worse. While this side of Empty Orchestra is arguably the better half, it is welcome to hear them move into something less groovy and a little more airy on the prior tracks. Slowing down the groove in 'The Fire' has its ups and downs, as the track is certainly interesting enough with just guitars and vocals to keep your attention, but it just keeps asking for something a little bit more. 'Down Down' starts off sounding like something out of a nu-swing group, but ends up showing itself as a dance-evoking tune for bargoers and bartenders alike. “Get Well Soon” ends the album with a country-tinged acoustic flair, and even has a harmonica to boot. It is a fitting ending to the EP, filled with twangy melodies that blossom in slow motion.

"Somethings deserve a second chance, like a band in a situation like Empty Orchestra. If you haven’t given them a first chance yet, let this be your opportunity to get to know them. You won’t be disappointed. 3.5/5." - Jason Gardner of Wonkavision Magazine

"Originally limited to a pressing (do you still say pressing for CDs?) of 300 copies, new home to Empty Orchestra, Thinker Thought Records is reissuing the Flint, MI band's early EP ala the internet. A littler gruffer than the proceeding full-length, Get Well Soon features plenty of memorable albeit depressing songs as opener 'Fuck The Party' alludes to. Lead singer Stephen Wisniewski's vocals stand pretty heavily in the mix, but with a lot to say, it's not hard to see why. Somewhere musically in the ilk of darker alt-country and kindredly in the sentiment of most rustbelt hardcore, it's definitely worth the e-purchase." - David C. Obenour/Ghettoblaster Magazine

"Sounds Like: The experimental side of Wilco, the dust-blown beauty of Calexico and the smell of brimstone evoked by Sixteen Horsepower – all soundtracking a spaghetti-western movie directed by indie auteur Jim Jarmusch." - The Flint Journal 7/2/06

"The MoodieVeto were followed by Flint's Empty Orchestra, who played a wound-up set of their whiskey-drenched rock & roll. Great band that you all should see. They just got back from a bit of a midwest tour and will be headed into the studio shortly, but there's three more chances to see them before that. Get to it!" - Semi Live

"Empty Orchestra was the first and best band of the night. The band is a side project fronted by Stephen Wisniewski, leader of the band The Lingua Franca. If you were to look at a list of Flint's best kept secrets, Wisniewski and his projects would top it. He has already amassed music sensibilities that many major label artists never seem to reach. With those sensibilities he has crafted a dark minimalist sound that isn't very common in mainstream music. Though such descriptions makes it appear as if the sound isn't diverse. Those who have been reading my column should know that if a sound isn't diverse, I'm not too interested. Songs contain pieces of classic rock, country, salsa, and blues. Often the music is sparse, with a guitar (played in a variety of styles) leading the melody. This is accompanied by the competent and full voice of Wisniewski, who gives the songs a necessary cohesiveness. When I was thinking of writing the article though, the best description I could think of was a strange one. The music seems totally at home in a David Lynch film. Ok, so that's a pretty odd way to say it, but those who've seen Lynch films can attest that they contain theatrics and substance in a surreal equilibrium. The music follows suit, giving off a mysterious yet supremely enjoyable vibe." - Roneesh

"The night was highlighted by the performance of Empty Orchestra. This band’s lineup is a who’s who of the Michigan music scene: Stephen Wisniewski, Vince Moreno, Mark Michalik and Michelle Lukezic. Their collective experience could be measured in decades, and it showed. The set list was filled with songs from their debut CD, Get Well Soon, which was being released at this show. Since I loathe hyperbole, I’ll just be straight with you: you must see this band. From their show opener, the propulsive “Fuck The Party,” to the somber closer “Get Well Soon,” there was never a moment when my attention was not focused directly on the stage.

"Stephen’s work with Empty Orchestra ranks as his best. His voice has never been stronger, and his songwriting never tighter, and this new band feels like they’ve been at it for years. If you see that Empty Orchestra is playing near you, go. Yes, they are that good." - Uncommon Sense 3/11/06 (Live Review)

"If Tom Waits met Mike Patton in a bar, then a mellower Gogol Bordello walked in, they all shared a couple rounds and wrote a few songs together, this is what it might sound like. Not that it's predicable or formulaic, as singer/songwriter Stephen Wisniewski shares a unique, winding journey that suggests he sees himself as a loner. Empty Orchestra definitely evokes a low, bluesy, sloppy kick-about in the back of dive somewhere in Detroit (or, hey, Flint) where a soulful Motown grumble churns and moans, like on the song 'Bible Black,' which definitely makes you want to raise a glass." - The Flint Journal

"While it is somewhat sad that Lingua Franca went on hiatus last year after releasing a stellar EP, the outcome of that hiatus is quite rewarding in itself. Vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Stephen Wisniewski started a new project called Empty Orchestra in which he is joined by a rotating cast of musicians on his debut EP, Get Well Soon. As Wisniewski has been a part of the Flint music culture for many years now it makes sense that this disc was recorded in Flint, Michigan with Flint music devotee Mark Michalik. In addition, the record was put out by a Michigan label called Acutest Records.
With seven tracks, Get Well Soon is a great introduction into the new musical outlet for Wisneiwski. As someone that has lived near to the Flint scene, Wisniewski has always been a big part of things with his energetic voice and unique music. This EP is no different. While the sound is based in classic and indie rock as well as a bit of storyteller folk, it has the ability to leave a unique impression on the listener. The opener 'Fuck The Party' showcases how Empty Orchestra in-fact relies on rather simplistic guitar to help drive the rhythm-based sound. A majority of the songs stick to a mid-tempo beat while one track in particular, 'Down, Down', is as upbeat as they get. The production value in this song and others is rather raw but it fits the music very well. Wisniewski sings in his commanding yet energetic tone throughout while a slick groove sets in via extra percussion and basslines. As for the lyrics, you can always bet that he’ll have something to say. It may not be the perfect correlation but 'Civil War' seems to talk about the dullness of a town, possibly Flint, via lyrics like 'this town is all grey/ and we’re all blue' while offering a glimmer of hope in the end ('every wood-frame house in our neighborhood will go to heaven or wherever houses go when they’ve been good'.

There’s no doubting the uniqueness of the effort as a whole. Wisniewski has proven once again that his talent for indie songwriting is great and worthy of praise." - Acclaimed Punk Dot Com

THI 013 - Empty Orchestra "Here Lies Empty Orchestra"THI 013LP - Empty Orchestra "Here Lies Empty Orchestra" LP THI 013 - Empty Orchestra "Here Lies Empty Orchestra" Digipack CD Reissue

THI 013 - Empty Orchestra "Here Lies Empty Orchestra" 11-song CD/LP
RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2007 (CD) & March 24, 2009 (LP) & November 17, 2009 (CD reissue)
PDF Press Kit
BUY IT NOW: Interpunk CD/CD/LP & iTunes
Download printable cover art (1415 x 1415 dpi jpeg) - by Stephen Wisniewski

Track Listing:
1. I Forget
2. Always Already
3. Vaudeville Tears
4. This Heart is a Monster
5. Words and Music
6. What Do We Want? When Do We Want It?
7. It Gets Better
8. Like Pianos
9. World On a String
10. Someone Else's Grace
11. Lonesome

"Empty Orchestra's skill for earworm jangle and twangle comes courtesy of leader-guy Stephen Wisniewski, who, in an earlier time (say the mid-'90s), woulda been a bona fide contender for the kind of major label bidding war that brought us such awesomeness as the Jayhawks, the Bottle Rockets and AM-era Wilco... I'm loath to pigeonhole the goods on offer at their MySpace page, so check for yourself. I will say that there's a grand pop sense at work." - Detroit Metro Times, 8/6/08

"They're torchbearers of the rough edge urban folk of Billy Bragg, or the smoky idiosyncratic poet-blues of Tom Waits and a revival of classic 70's singer/songwriter balladry--only amped up with a squadron of talented musicians bringing a fire to even the slower tunes...The distinct sound of classic American R&B, that meloncholic escapism, that near-bluesy visceral howl and that near-country twang, combined with a distinct whirlwind alt-rock urgency, beautiful intertwining guitars, be it the strummed acoustic, the steady rhythm or the more exertive lead, with its solos and pedal roars...an invigorating live band." - Jeff Milo, Real Detroit Weekly

"Empty Orchestra's music might be best described as experimental Americana. Perhaps inspired by whatever cosmic forced produced the off-kilter creative freedom of Wilco, Tom Waits and Bobby Bare, Jr., the quintet that composes Empty Orchestra seems as interested in masterful '70s rock and balladeer song-writing as they are in the folksier outer-rings of the indie circuit." - the Ann Arbor Current

"Stephen Wisniewski serves as the front man for the Flint, Michigan collective Empty Orchestra. Apart from that, as a friend of mine Stephen is one of the very few people I know personally that I find continually interesting and inspiring. Although Empty Orchestra takes up a great deal of his time, it is not his main focus. He is also a (currently striking for a increased stipend) doctoral candidate in the field of American Culture. This interaction served as much as an 'interview' as an opportunity for me to ask him a couple questions that I had kicking around about the band for my own personal interest.

"Ghettoblaster: Stephen, I've always been interested, and I am stealing this question from a Chomsky interview (I know this greatly pleases him), in what connection, if any, do you see between your intellectual pursuits and what you do with the bnad. That is to say, are they at all connected?

"Stephen Wisniewski: Well, I really believe they're part of the same thing. The subject matter for many of the songs as well as what I'm doing in school come from me trying to understand certain things about myself. Things like- What is home? They also come from my understanding of the society we live in as being the creation of a destructive economic system. I just think, where do I fit into this? How can I in some way provide a constructive critique of what I see? It stems somewhat from my interest in understanding what a postmodern society is. What is representation and how are things represented, especially using the written medium? 'Always, Already' comes straight from Judith Butler. I think that I am a better song writer for having gone to school and a better student for having music. It has also served as a way to get away from one thing or another. I had a semester after we moved to Minnesota that all I did was write songs in my seminar classes. I also want to say though, that I hope, and I don't think that, this makes the songs inaccessible. I think that the idea that academics cannot be relevant to life experience is completely wrong; it is the exact opposite of my experience.

"Then for about an hour here, talk devolves into babble about old roommates and current roommate and how the flute solo in 'What Do We Want?' is derived from Lisa's protest song in the strike episode of 'The Simpsons.'

"GB: Ok, Stephen, second and final question. How do you reconcile your personal socialist/anarchistic beliefs with what you do with the band? I think that, especially now, the idea is you try to make a profit with what you do artistically.

"SW: Well I say I am a socialist and at 18 I voted a straight socialist ticket and felt very self congratulatory but I am not naive enough to think that we do no live in a capitalist society and that the way I view the world, including music has not been shaped by that. With the band, my idea is that I'm offering some level of critique of that, that there are possibilities outside of what most people consider being the normal way of conducting oneself. Being in a band at this age (a sickly 30) does not make sense. Conducting ourselves the way we do does not make sense. Things like this can serve to cause disruptions in what people view as important-at least that is the idea. The way that music is currently made is destructive, 18 or 19 year-olds are picked up and worked (toured) to death and then dumped at 23 because whatever the trend their band came in with is now out of fashion. Where does this leave them? Running the band as a success machine, where I worry about the economic successes of the band and depend on it for my livelihood is not interesting to me. I see this more as a lifelong project. This way I am able to focus on the records, and not worry about selling them, it makes very little difference to me financially. I don't want to be monetarily tied to art. I don't want this to be professionalized." - Jerry Crago/Ghettoblaster

"While the venue for Chiodos' 'Bone Palace Ballet' headlining tour was Clutch Cargo's, it nearly felt like one of the local, all-ages shows that helped the band gain regional popularity before expanding their sound worldwide.... The band's set spanned 2005's 'All's Well That Ends Well' and 2007's 'Bone Palace Ballet.' Owens paused several times during the set to express gratitude to the fans and special guest opening act Empty Orchestra, whose members Owens credited for his desire to play music. Boasting former members of May/June, Lingua Franca, Kid Brother Collective, Dead By Sunday, The Hot Flashez and Silence the Wake, its lineup was a who's who of bands that grew up in downtown's Flint Local 432 all-ages venue alongside Chiodos. - John McKay/The Flint Journal

"Unconventional top album, but I ran into Empty Orchestra player John Duffy at work today and I was like, 'You know, that album, for me, sums up Flint more than any other album I've heard since Kid Brother Collective's Highway Miles.' It is blue-collar rock from the heart of the Mitten State, and done with an energetic, alt-country flair that seems to be all the rage these days. I've followed Stephen Wisniewski's songs since my inception into the whole Flint music scene and I have always admired the risks he has taken. I remember how confused people were when May/June would entertain kids with Suicide Machines tees with delicate, heartfelt folk music that inspired sitting quietly and watching, rather than mixing it up on the floor. His songs commanded respect then, and they certainly deserve the audience they're getting now. Highly, highly recommended." - Stand Up Jack!

"There's something about the worst of situations that seems to be able to bring out the best in art. Based out of Flint, MI, Stephen Wisniewski and his friends who make up the Empty Orchestra know a little something about the worst of situations. Home to the abandoned promises of the American automotive industry, the Empty Orchestra have fashioned themselves as a new sort of labor hero - challenging both the corporations who've ignored them and the social mindset that even still relies on them. Taking cues from the likes of Woody Guthrie, Tom Waits and Mike Patton, the music has been finely hewn by the band's dogmatic touring, but it's in listening to the words where the true inspiration is found." - Big Takeover #61

"Overall, this is a pretty sad album. Listening to sad music probably isn't the best thing for me to do, as it kills what little motivation I have, but its so damn good, honest and heartfelt that its hard not to listen to, especially a band like Empty Orchestra. On the bright side, they do have a good amount of rocking numbers that keep the energy level high. Empty Orchestra sound like a combination of Lucero, Bruce Springstein, Johnny Cash, Drag the River and Tom Petty, mixing country, folk, hard rock and punk rock. They put all of those influences to good use, creating a strongly written and very honest and sincere album.

"This is an album that you could get lost driving to; a time when you're 1/3 paying attention to the road, 1/3 listening to the album and 1/3 getting lost in your own head. Its good music to just drown the rest of the world out and spend some time getting to know the inside of your head. There are some killer licks that are best when repeated, as its something that you want to hear again and again, and the vocals of kingpin Stephen Wisniewsk are the centerpiece of this thoughtful, intricate album." - The Playist Dot Net

"If you're into Wilco or Son Volt then make sure you give these guys a listen. I promise you won't be let down." - Black Balloon