Even though The Empty Hearts band features members of Blondie, The Cars, Chesterfield Kings and The Romantics—as well as being christened by Little Steven Van Zandt from his super-secret list of unused band names—this is no cynically constructed super group.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer Clem Burke, two-time Grammy nominee and MTV Video of the Year Award winning guitarist Elliot Easton, bassist Andy Babiuk and lead singer/rhythm guitarist Wally Palmar have parlayed a combined lifetime of rock ‘n’ roll into their self-titled 429 Records debut, a sterling collection of influences that include ‘50s American roots rock ‘n’ roll, ‘60s British Invasion and ‘70s garage-punk that is anything but retro, rather a refreshing return to core musical values.
“These are all friends that I felt could get along both socially and musically,” says longtime Chesterfield Kings bassist Babiuk, who started the ball rolling by calling old-time pal, Romantics’ singer Wally Palmar and asking if he wanted to start a band. “Remember when you first picked up a guitar because you loved the Beatles, the Stones and the Kinks? Wouldn’t it be great to get in a room, write songs and play them like we did when we were teenagers? And that’s just how it started.”
Blondie drummer Burke had previously played with Palmar in the Romantics and with Easton on several Blondie sessions and in an aborted band featuring Doug Fieger. Easton and Palmar knew Babiuk from frequent stops at his former employer, Rochester’s legendary House of Guitars, before Andy started his own guitar store, the ultra-hip Fab Gear. All four came of age in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s in indie punk/new wave bands that demonstrated a love of classic rock and roll.
“We’re the last rock band standing,” laughs Easton. “The whole idea is to have a blast playing with friends. We were just laughing and in high spirits all the time. No drama. It was just a lot of fun, and you can hear that in the grooves.”
“Those common influences are what brought us together,” adds Burke. “We’re survivors and lifers of rock ‘n’ roll. We take from everything that’s come before musically. A lot of people have never heard or seen a band like this. There’s a freshness to it, at the same time as it’s a recollection of the past. Being a rock musician today is like being a jazz musician back in the early days of rock.”