Andy Leo met Hayden Tree and Brandon Hoover when they were high school students in Colleyville. Leo recalls that he “heard that a few guys were putting together a band” and as a member of the high school choir, he thought he’d try out.
“My mom was like, ‘You can try out for the band, as long as there’s no screaming,’” he told us during a recent phone interview.
Within a year or so, Leo and company had become Crown the Empire. They amassed a fan base using platforms readily accessible to teenagers at the time, like YouTube and MySpace. Once they were ready to release their first EP, they didn’t even need a record label to get it noticed. But that’s something that changed immediately for them.
“We got a record contract that same day,” Leo remembers. “My mom had to sign it for me because I was still 17.”
After talking to Leo for just a few minutes, it's obvious the man in his mid-20s is still a kid at heart. He spoke candidly and with sincerity, even casually mentioning things like “getting shitfaced” with his friends and being super-excited to legally drink alcohol at 18 during the band’s first tour in the U.K.
“Pierce the Veil was taking us out [on tour], and it was such a surreal experience going straight from the studio to England,” he says. “I could drink at 18 there, so I went to the bartender and was like, ‘Excuse me. What can I get?’ He looked at me confused and was like, ‘Uh, literally anything.' So you can imagine how that trip went for a bunch of degenerate kids.”
But now, nine years into the band’s history, there’s no question that Crown the Empire is among the best in the business. They’ve secured their place as metalcore heavyweights and have toured with countless veterans of the scene, including Underoath, Dance Gavin Dance and The Used. Adding to this impressive list, Crown the Empire hits the road next week for a nationwide, co-headlining tour with We Came As Romans.
Leo and his bandmates have been fans of the Michigan natives for some time and developed a friendship over the years.
“I remember being a freshman in high school when my friend was like, ‘Yo, you gotta check these guys out,’” he recalls. “We even spent Brandon’s 21st birthday out in Detroit (with the guys from We Came As Romans). They took us out and got us shitfaced, and it was a beautiful moment … So making it big enough to be able to tour with these guys is a really, really great experience.”
Although Crown the Empire has dropped two new tracks this past year — “what I am” and “20/20” — it’s been almost three years since their last full-length record, Retrograde.
Leo tells us it won’t be too much longer, though. The band has been working on the new record, called Sudden Sky, for over a year.
“We’ve taken our time, and it’s been our baby,” he says. “We put a ton of heart into making sure this is the pinnacle of what Crown can be.”
Sudden Sky is set to be released early this summer. In the meantime, Leo is looking forward to hitting the road again and being back in Dallas.
“It’ll be good to be back in Texas and Dallas especially,” he says. “Hometown homies give us a lot of love.“
See Crown the Empire with We Came As Romans, Erra and SHVPES on Wednesday, March 27 for a show at 2513 Deep Ellum (formerly The Door). Tickets are $22.