Hear David Byrne and Devo’s Long-Unheard Collaboration ‘Empire’

June 6, 2024
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David Byrne and Devo have unearthed their decades-old collaboration “Empire” for a new compilation of unreleased songs to benefit abortion access.

Noise for Now Vol. 2, due out June 21 to mark the two-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, features unreleased songs, demos, and live recordings from artists like the War on Drugs, Faye Webster (“Lifetime (Live)”), Big Freedia, Courtney Barnett, and David Byrne and Devo, who provide “Empire” for the collection.

“Years ago, I did a record called Feelings in which I collaborated with different musicians on the songs. I worked with members of Devo on two songs, one of which is on the album,” Byrne said in a statement, referring to the 1997 album’s “Wicked Little Doll” featuring Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald Casale. 

“The other one, ‘Empire,’ is an ironic capitalist fascist anthem and, at the time, I thought our version was just too mean and caustic for release. Well, times change, and it certainly resonates now in ways it maybe didn’t then. It was a joy to work with the DEVO guys, they knew exactly what the song is about.”

“Empire” was previously and briefly released for only 24 hours in October 4 on Good Music to Ensure Safe Abortion Access to All, a one-day-only compilation that was a collaboration between music advocacy organizations Good Music and Noise for Now. That comp also boasted exclusive tracks from Pearl Jam, Wet Leg, Mac DeMarco, R.E.M., and many more.

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“We were on board working with the dark satire of David Byrne’s  ‘Empire’ over 30 years ago. The song was prescient and we got it. Now it can be heard!” Devo’s Casale said in a statement where he also harkened back to their 1980 single “Freedom of Choice,” with its lyrics, “Freedom of Choice is what you’ve got. Freedom from Choice is what you want.“

“Unfortunately the forces of tyranny are striking with impunity now. These bad actors are not Pro-Life so much as they are Anti-Choice,” Casale continued. “They want women to live in a real life version of The Handmaid’s Tale. But there’s more of us who respect human rights than those who want to crush those rights. Freedom of Choice is a constant fight. Devo salutes Noise for Now for their efforts to save a woman’s right to abortion.”



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