The Empty Pockets might have a seemingly pessimistic name, but this four-piece definitely has a “glass half full” mentality.
Whether they’re singing about love lost, love found, politics or, um, Nick Lachey from 98 Degrees, the pop rock band’s musical vibe always remains upbeat and uplifting.
“We’re sort of a wholesome group, I guess,” laughs vocalist Erika Brett. “We’re nerds. We want to be quirky and fun.”
“We’re not big party-ers, but we start a party,” adds bassist Nate Bellon.
It might not be a party per se, but The Empty Pockets certainly will get some toes tapping when they perform at 9:30 p.m. Oct. 4 at Cafe Acoustic.
“Infectious” is the best word to describe this band that hails from Chicago. From lead singer/guitarist Josh Solomon’s clear and clever lyrics to the Bellon and drummer Danny Rosenthal’s soulful rockabilly grooves, The Empty Pockets have won over lots of crowds with catchy but simple pop numbers. Solomon says the group follows the musical ideology of one its heroes: Buddy Holly.
“He proved that music doesn’t need to be complicated to be awesome,” Solomon says. “It’s amazing what he did that with three chords and a few lyrics.”
It’s no coincidence that all four of them take after the father of rock ‘n’ roll. Solomon, Bellon and Rosenthal grew up in the Chicago area playing music, and shortly after forming a band in 2006, Solomon was cast as Buddy Holly in the 2007 production of “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” at Chicago’s Mercury Theatre. Bellon and Rosenthal were cast as The Crickets in the show. During the run, the band met Brett — who was a singer and dancer in the show — and the rest is history.
Members of the Empty Pockets started playing their own music in 2008. In that year, the quartet released its debut album “Under the Bed” as well as the Christmas single “Baby It’s Cold Outside/Baby Please Come Home.” From those two recordings, the band’s success has snowballed slowly in the past four years.
The Christmas single not only became the No. 1 requested song at four major radio stations in 2009, but it also reached No. 31 on the Mediabase Christmas Charts. Later that year, the folks at Nickelodeon got a hold of “Under the Bed” and decided to use all 10 of its tracks in various shows including “iCarly,” “Drake & Josh” and “Zoey 101.” Although the band’s appearance on Nick programming didn’t give them a whole lot of new fans, the band says it opened a lot of doors for them.
“It basically gave us a stamp of legitimacy,” Bellon says.
By 2010, The Empty Pockets were sharing the stage with Jennifer Hudson, Portugal. the Man, Buffalo Springfield’s Richie Furay and headlining historic venues like the House of Blues Chicago, Schubas and Millennium Park. Since then, the group has had a showcase at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, Texas, and they’ve opened for Dispatch and Latino stand-up comedy icon George Lopez. That was just last week, as a matter of fact.
While some of those may seem like odd opening act slots, The Empty Pockets felt like a pea in a pod with Jason Mraz last year. The band’s fun, handcrafted tongue-in-cheek set fits right in with the Mrazes, Gavin DeGraws, Adam Levines, Eric Hutchinsons and Barenaked Ladies of the world. Solomon says the group tries to focus on recording authentic tracks that can always be replicated in a live setting. Overproduction is something The Empty Pockets try to avoid.
“Dan, Josh and I came up jamming together and we didn’t really have access to all the electronic stuff and all those cool toys. And we never needed them,” Bellon says. “It’s not imperative that you use all the blades and knives. Just use the one to cut the fruit with.”
In November, the band will release a Christmas EP called “A Holiday Staycation” — which will include seasonal covers like “Run Run Rudolph” and “Holly Jolly Christmas” as well as a holiday original called “Snow Shoes” — and the four of them plan to release a new full-length album in 2013.
By this time next year, their pockets might not be so empty.
Shea Conner can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @stjoelivedotcom.