Babiuk, whose '60s-inspired Chesterfield Kings released its three most recent albums on Little Steven Van Zandt's label Wicked Cool Records, was looking for a music project beyond the Kings a few years ago. He was working with Van Zandt on the David Chase film "Not Fade Away" securing all the '60s musical equipment when he shared his idea with the E Street Band guitarist.
"I hadn't talked to the other guys because I was still formulating the idea. It was 'remember when we were kids and more inspired by the Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks?'," Babiuk tells Billboard. "That vibe when you just have fun? Wouldn't it be fun again? That was the promise and it's still the cardinal rule of the band."
The first call was to Palmar who was touring with Ringo Starr and his All-Starr Band. He was in, then Burke followed quickly and brought along Easton. The band members, all products of the same generation, knew each other from sharing concert bills, playing together and hanging out; all those empty promises of "working together someday" came true after they did some demos of songs Palmar and Babiuk sketched out.
Pleased with the initial recordings, Burke called Babiuk in March 2013 to say he had a break from Blondie and had booked a flight to Rochester, N.Y., and that they would record the album in his studio. They cut the record in five days.
"Ed (Stasium) would have run through the songs and he'd make some adjustments in the arrangements and say now we're gonna cut this," Babiuk says of the working system. "If you make a mistake, you have to throw in 20 bucks. I think four or five songs were done in one take. Having the four guys in the room, that energy, really comes through in the record. When a band is playing music and having fun, people can sense that, and that's when it catches on."
Throughout their brief existence they had struggled attempting to find a name. Internet searches on the good ones they created wound up taken and they eventually turned to Van Zandt to see if he had any ideas.
"He had a list of 20 kickass names and we looked up the ones we liked and somebody was using it," says Babiuk, noting they were legally advised to be cautious with regards to a name. "About three weeks later I get a text from Steven. 'You guys are going to be called the Empty Hearts.' I copied the text to other guys and said 'any of you want to argue with Silvio Dante?' It was a name nobody was using."
The Empty Hearts recorded without a deal or with little sense of whether the recordings would ever be released. They signed with manager Jonathan Wolfson (Daryl Hall & John Oates; Loverboy), who shopped the album, eventually signing with 429.
"We didn't want to worry about that," Babiuk says. "The only thing they asked was that we keep it under wraps. I think we've done a god job keeping this a secret."
The Empty Hearts track listing:
1. 90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street
2. I Don't Want Your Love (If You Don't Want To See Me)
3. (I See) No Way Out
4. Fill An Empty Heart
5. Soul Deep
6. Loud And Clear
7. Perfect World
8. I Found You Again
9. Just A Little Too Hard
10. Drop Me Off At Home
12. Meet Me 'Round The Corner