Sunny Day News

The ties between rock music and charity are as long as a stairway to heaven. Into that noble tradition steps
Empire Theory, an Orlando, Fla., band serving as philanthropic foot soldiers for a goal that assists others from the ground up, literally.

Empire Theory is leading a drive to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes for the charity Soles4Souls.org. From left to right, the band members are Sebastian Zaldibar, lead vocals and guitars, David Oakley, lead guitars and violin, Abel Aponte, bass guitar, and Matt Sparks, drums. Photo courtesy of ZERO DARK CINEMA.

Empire Theory is leading a drive to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes for the charity Soles4Souls.org. From left to right, the band members are Sebastian Zaldibar, lead vocals and guitars, David Oakley, lead guitars and violin, Abel Aponte, bass guitar, and Matt Sparks, drums.
Photo courtesy of ZERO DARK CINEMA.

Empire Theory is an indie, alt-rock band with a buoyant, melodic sound and a retro soul. With its contemplative lyrics, the band describes its music as “rock for activists.” That sounds edgy, yet the group’s four members aren’t exactly rebels. But they do have a cause. And a collective conscience. Earlier this year, Empire Theory put its words into action.

The band launched a campaign to collect 25,000 pairs of shoes for Soles4Souls, a global, not-for-profit charity that fights poverty through the distribution of shoes and clothing. The altruistic footwork is something the band takes as seriously as making music that has meaning. That music, available on iTunes, has been favorably reviewed as the band gains a regional following in the Southeast.

“As a band, when we heard that Soles4Souls works with the collection of shoes and donates them to poverty-stricken areas, we got so excited because it sparked in us the opportunity, the chance and the desire to start a campaign where we will collect 25,000 shoes,” said Sebastian Zaldibar, 37, Empire Theory’s lead vocalist.

Drummer Matt Sparks shows how easy it is to donate shoes at one of the Central Florida drop-box locations.

Drummer Matt Sparks shows how easy it is to donate shoes at one of the Central Florida drops.

The band has made it simple to donate new or lightly used shoes. More than 10 drop boxes are set up in locations throughout Central Florida, places such as D2 Cycling Center in Sanford and Orlando Central Church in downtown, and the list of new drop-off locations continues to grow daily.

Zaldibar said he is already “blown away” by the number of shoe donations and the strong response from the community this early in the drive toward 25,000 pairs. The band continues to enlist individuals, businesses and organizations to get involved. “We’ve become the voice of people who want to make a difference but really don’t know how,” Zaldibar said. “We’ve become the catalyst, the voice of those people.” 

The musicians’ growing fan base will be instrumental in the effort to support Soles4Souls, a Nashville-based group that holds a four-star rating with Charity Navigator. Empire Theory’s most dedicated followers are called “theory changers” (#theorychanger). These individuals step outside the norm to “make a difference in someone else’s world.” The band says the shoes campaign is a tangible way for a “#theorychanger” to get involved. “Our fans are our most powerful driving force,” Zaldibar said.

Also playing in the band are David Oakley, lead guitars and violin, Abel Aponte, bass guitar, and Matt Sparks, drums. Zaldibar plays guitar, too.

Empire Theory was formed less than three years ago, and the group toured clubs in the Southeast for the past year. It has twice played to a full house at Orlando’s House of Blues. It plays at the Georgia Theatre in Athens on July 11. The band released a five-song EP disc, “Colors,” in 2012 and will re-enter the studio this summer to produce a follow-up.

Empire Theory has played Orlando's House of Blues twice in the past year. Photo courtesy of GILMAR SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY.

Empire Theory has played Orlando's House of Blues twice in the past year. Photo courtesy of GILMAR SMITH PHOTOGRAPHY.

“Our main goal would be to write music that makes people think about why they are here, what their purpose is in life,” said Zaldibar, whose bandmates play an upbeat tempo that pairs perfectly with the lyrics.

For now, one of Empire Theory’s purposes is tied to the shoes.

“We cannot wait to see what’s going to happen when we all come together and make a huge difference for the lives of people around us,” Zaldibar said.

The guitarist Oakley said ultimately it’s about something larger than the band.

“You may have never heard of Empire Theory, and really that’s completely OK
with us because it’s not so much about us and the band. It’s about making a difference collectively, and collectively as a community,” Oakley said.

Sounds like a band in tune with humanity and putting its best foot forward.

David Oakley, Matt Sparks, Abel Aponte and Sebastian Zaldibar make up the Orlando-based Empire Theory. MUSIC: “Colors,” 2012, available on iTunes or listen here. (I will link here to the bandcamp site, and make links in all the others.) SITES: Empiretheory.com, Theorychanger.org FACEBOOK: facebook.com/empiretheory CHARITY: Soles4Souls.org. Photo courtesy of ZERO DARK CINEMA.

David Oakley, left to right, Matt Sparks, Abel Aponte and Sebastian Zaldibar comprise Orlando's Empire Theory.
MUSIC: “Colors,” 2012, available on iTunes or listen here.
SITES: Empiretheory.com, Theorychanger.org
FACEBOOK: facebook.com/empiretheory
TWITTER: twitter.com/empiretheory
INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/empiretheory
CHARITY: Soles4Souls.org
Photo courtesy of ZERO DARK CINEMA