Bob Dylan’s frustrations directed at Edie Sedgwick in the iconic song, “Like a Rollingstone,” brings to light the turmoils and desperation of a life of high society, which in this particular case implies the downward spiral of the actress thanks to promiscuous, albeit genius, Andy Warhol. Dylan sings, “You used to be so amused / At Napoleon in rags and the language that he used / Go to him now, he calls you, you can’t refuse.” One thing is for sure. Fame is fleeting.
Decades later, a four piece outfit, seizing their inspiration from Dylan’s track, have borrowed “Napoleon in Rags” and made it their own, to the point wherein their interpretation and meaning remains behind closed doors from the rest of the world. All we can do, like Dylan’s song, is to deliberate the possibilities and eat up the fruits of their labor, culled from Napoleon in Rag’s inner happiness.
Although a mere one year old, this UK based band has played at BBC’s Glastonbury Festival and recently released their latest single, “Empty Promises” through Hummingbird Records. Musebox talked to the band about their release, the mystery behind their name, and their advice quoted from Hunter S. Thompson.
Musebox: Who are the members of Napoleon in Rags and how did you form?
Benjamin Altieri: Benjamin Altieri, Jordan Brown, David-James Brazier and Jack Kendrew. We formed through seeing each other play in different bands and sharing the exact same musical inspirations/genres which resulted in us deciding to write some songs.
MB: “Napoleon in Rags” must be a reference Bob Dylan’s song, “Like a Rollingstone,” which was supposedly inspired by the relationship between Edie Sedgwick and Andy Warhol. What about this phrase in Dylan’s song attracted you to use it for your band’s name, if in fact it came from Dylan’s song?
Napoleon in Rags: The name IS from Like A Rolling Stone, one of myfavourite songs of all time. The meaning is debated by critiques/artists on a nearly daily basis. The line means a lot to us as a band, however we have never told anybody why. We’re going to keep it that way.
MB: Your single, “Empty Promises” seems to be directed toward a specific someone, from what I’m guessing, someone you were in a relationship with. What compelled you to write the lyrics?
Ben: The song isn’t about a break up (a common misconception), I wrote “Empty Promises” about a close friend.
MB: What indie/unknown artist do you currently have on your radar?
Jordan Brown: There’s a couple of bands i really like at the moment. Born Blonde has this 90′s “Europhic” Brit-Pop sound reminiscent of The Verve and The Stone Roses, which i love. Another would be Tribes, not so unknown anymore but a really great underground grunge vibe about them.
MB: Since you’ve just gotten off of the ground, what’s your philosophy with the ups and downs you’ll likely face with Napoleon in Rags?
Jordan: We take each day as it comes, we don’t expect anything to effect the way we write or perform, as long as we’re always having fun.
MB: If you reach fame, what’s the first thing you’d like to do? If the band fizzles, which is something you probably have in the back of your minds, will you press on with music?
Napoleon in Rags: We’re all musical, we write and experiment every single day and this i think will never change. Fame is of no particular importance or interest to us, we just want to make music that we’re proud of.
MB: Do you find that your sound has been set in stone, or is the mark of a great musician his/her ability to adapt?
Napoleon in Rags: We’re adapting all the time, our sound is progressing at the moment and we have some really REALLY exciting songs to show to everybody soon.
MB: Is there anything you’re working on that you’d like to tell your fans about?
Napoleon in Rags: All we can say is keep your eyes peeled, keep checking the FB site, Myspace and Twitter. We’re really excited with what we have in store for the people, there’s going to be change and a lot of new. You might be lucky enough to have something before the new year…
MB: What names do you have for your debut album and what should we expect in terms of lyrics and sounds?
Napoleon in Rags: You can expect the best thing you’ve ever heard, we are not however giving away any names.
MB: Do you have any advice for aspiring musicians?
Napoleon in Rags:
trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and
pimps run free, and good men die like dogs.
There’s also a negative side.”