The Hippo


May 25, 2020








The Empty Hearts. Courtesy photo.

The Empty Hearts

When: Thursday, Oct. 16, at 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall, 2 Young Road, Londonderry
Tickets: $40-$55 at

Garage kings
Empty Hearts make rock fun again

By Michael Witthaus

 The four members of The Empty Hearts represent some of the 1970’s most seminal rock: The Cars’ Elliot Easton, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, Andy Babiuk of power pop cult heroes Chesterfield Kings and Romantics singer/guitarist Wally Palmar. 

Ramones engineer/producer Ed Stasium oversaw the band’s debut album; E Street Band guitarist and Underground Garage mogul Steven Van Zandt named them.
That’s some serious mojo, but don’t call The Empty Hearts a supergroup. 
“You would never hear any of the guys describe us in that category,” Palmar said in a recent phone interview.  “But … the identity of each guy shines through, and you can’t stop people from putting a label on you.”
Anyone who’s listened to “Bye Bye Love” from the first Cars album will recognize Easton’s slashing licks on “Just a Little Too Hard,” and when Palmar blows his harmonica on the raucous “90 Miles An Hour Down A Dead End Street,” a Romantics echo of “What I Like About You” is unmistakable. 
But what shines through more than anything is esprit de corps — these guys are having fun, and then some. They formed without a contract or any plans beyond making energetic music, and it shows. 
“Our main concern was to put out the best record possible,” Palmar said. “That was the only thing in the cards.”
The Empty Hearts began when Babiuk was looking for a post-Chesterfield Kings project. Following that band’s breakup in 2009, he’d served as a music supervisor and technical consultant on the David Chase movie Not Fade Away and wrote Rolling Stones Gear, a follow-up to his 2001 book Beatles Gear.  He also ran a Rochester, New York, vintage guitar store.
Babiuk and Palmar began knocking around ideas together. Soon, Easton and Burke came on board, intrigued by Babiuk’s idea for a band. 
“It was, ‘Remember when we were kids and more inspired by the Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks?’” Babiuk told Billboard Magazine. “That vibe when you just have fun — wouldn’t it be fun again?”
The four were longtime friends since sharing bills in their heyday and had already played together a bit. Burke was in The Romantics for a spell; he and Easton once did a project with The Knack’s Doug Fieger. Working from Babiuk and Palmar’s demos in an L.A. studio, the songs came quickly. 
“Elliot had the idea for ‘I Don’t Want Your Love’; he was dying to play it and finalize it,” said Palmar. “And there was ‘Fill An Empty Heart’ — that might have been the first one.”
Palmar says he wrote the latter tune long before Van Zandt picked their moniker from a list of 20 “kickass” possibilities. 
“I have tapes of it on my phone. … I had the idea and title a year before Little Steven ended up naming the band — it’s kind of eerie,” he said. “I knew people would assume it was the title track.”  
The record took less than a week to make – some songs were finished in one take. 
“Andy kept banging into my head, let’s make sure we let the guys do what comes natural to them,” Palmar said, “because you know what they are known for … their backgrounds and when they grew up. Just let everything go and don’t put any restrictions.”
An upcoming appearance at Tupelo Music Hall is The Empty Hearts’ first live appearance, featuring new music and selections from each band member’s back catalog. After a short East Coast tour, they’ll head to Tokyo for a few more dates.  
“It’s just kind of building on its own,” Palmar said. “Each week there was something that kept adding on to the excitement. … We’re just going to ride the wave and see what happens for us.” 
As seen in the October 16, 2014 issue of the Hippo.

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