Emery have been heading the post-hardcore pack for over a decade with their impressive discography, raucous live shows and faithful fan-base. If you listen to “screamo” and have never given 2004′s The Weak’s End a spin or twelve, it’s basically the equivalent of you disrespecting your elders. It’s a monumental effort in the scene and the timeless foundation for Emery’s successful career to follow.
Guitarist Matt Carter took some time to speak with UTG about the band’s career, his side project and what we can expect in the near future from camp Emery. Read through and get caught up with Seattle’s screamo elite!
You guys just wrapped up the Scream The Prayer tour last month. How did that go?
That was a super good tour. It was fun because there were so many bands on it but that was the hard thing too. We’d have to get there around noon everyday and there would be like two local bands and seven or eight practice bands, and we’d play last most of the nights. It was just fun because there were so many different bands and things to hear and everyone’s sets were kind of short. It was kind of like a festival.
Who were your favorite bands to watch on the tour?
Sleeping Giant was my favorite for sure.
Are there any lesser known bands that you’re into that we should be on the lookout for this year?
Good question. That puts me on the spot like I should know something that I don’t think I know (laughs). The band on that tour that may be lesser known that I thought was good is Close Your Eyes. I think they’re doing a lot now so they’re up-and-coming.
Does Emery have any more touring plans in the works?
Well we’re working on an album. We just started kind of writing this week and stuff like that so priority is to figure out how to write these songs and get a whole bunch of them together that we like then record it and I don’t know how long that’s gonna take. It could come pretty quick; we kind of intend to make it go faster than not. Inevitably, we’ll have a record out in the Spring and be touring but I don’t think we’ll be going to for the rest of this year. We may do some dates here and there but we don’t have any tours planned. Then Toby and I are doing a record that is coming out later this year and we’re gonna tour that.
For those that may not know about the side project, what can you tell us about it?
Basically, we love Emery and are happy to still be doing it after this long, after 10 years, but it’s not the only kind of music we’ve ever wanted to do and as we have tried to do different things with Emery, it seems best to not abandon what we do best with Emery. So we’re going to continue moving forward with Emery but also do other music that we want to do on top of it. It basically sounds like Emery if Emery wasn’t heavy at all. Like if we didn’t scream or use distortion or anything like that.
So you and Toby have a full length coming out this Fall?
Yeah, we do. It’s fun. It’s kind of highly arranged, not just stripped down acoustic music. There’s a lot of acoustic instruments and acoustic music primarily on it but there’s guitars, ukeleles, pianos and also a lot of electronic stuff on it like programming too. There’s also some orchestral instruments, strings, quartets; a few songs have horns like trombones. It’s kind of adventurous, quirky, full-production music.
I saw that you guys are looking to play some house shows. That seems to be a pretty new experience. What are you looking forward to the most about getting that up-close and personal with fans?
Mhmm. It’s one of those things that are really hard because we’ve experienced so many fans with Emery. If you have a show with 300 people, let alone a thousand and you go to the front of the stage after the show and try to talk to people, you got these people that stayed and you’re trying to talk to them but they’re trying to kick them out. It’s just not a very good way to try to talk to people or have any interaction. Then you go outside the venue and you have the people that hang out by your bus and really have something to say but you just really don’t get the chance to meet organically and get to know people as well as you would want to. So if it’s only 30 or 40 people in a living room, it’s kind of like a house party and you get to meet a good amount of them in a regular way. We’re looking forward to doing that. We’ll be around less people but we’ll interact tremendously more.
Have you guys every played shows like that as Emery?
We haven’t done house show tours but we get asked to play in-store a lot so it’s similar to that. Maybe 100 people will come to an in-store and we’ll do some stripped down songs so that’s what it’ll feel like but we’ll be even more organized and we’ll actually be rehearsed with those versions. It’s not just stripping songs down, these songs are arranged for that. It should be great because this is what the songs were written for.
Is this project putting the writing and recording process for Emery on hold at all?
Well we of course can’t be two places at once but the Matt & Toby record is done so we’re working fully on Emery right now.
So besides doing the house shows and releasing this record, is Emery still priority number one?
Yeah, it has to be. Toby and I are practicing today. I know it’s silly since we have a tour coming up but today is the first day we’ve even practiced playing our songs. We kind of just wrote them and recorded them. We never really played them. So we’re just now going over the parts and seeing who sings what so I don’t even know if we’re gonna be any good or if people are even gonna like it (laughs). So I of course would say it’s not my priority at all because I would like for it to do well and to split time with Emery but I can’t even say if anyone’s even gonna care about it. Emery is how I’ve made my living for the last 10 years; that’s what I do for sure. This is just something I’d like to supplement it with but we’ll see how that goes.
You mentioned working on the next Emery release. What can fans expect from it that will differ from your previous efforts?
We want to make it, well, the only word I can think to describe it besides heavy would be, maybe, slightly spacey? Just a bit more opened up with a little less conventional style of arrangement. We’re also figuring out texture ways to deliver unexpected, heavy things. That’s the way I’m thinking of it.
This is a ways off but do you have any plans for a 10-year anniversary edition of The Weak’s End in 2014?
No, we don’t but that’s a good idea. Maybe we’ll start on that. I figured we’d do something at some point to throw back to fans that are still around, whether it be for The Question or maybe The Weak’s End. We’ve thought about playing shows where we only play stuff from those two records or something like that. I’m sure we’ll do something. We’ve got a little time to plan for it. We’ll have to play at least one shows where we play all of The Weak’s End or something. That’d be fun.
Personally, The Weak’s End was extremely influential to me and probably my most listened to album in the latter half of high school. Which Emery album are you the most proud of or holds the most personal weight for you?
That’s a very good question. I really don’t even know how to answer that question but I like …In Shallow Seas We Sail. I think that one came together really well. There’s some really neat tracks. It’s kind of right in the middle of our career so I don’t think it’s like “Oh yeah, our newer stuff” and it’s not way back. It’s right in the pocket of when we wrote songs pretty efficiently and everyone worked together well on it. The Weak’s End is always gonna be super special because it’s the first thing that we did that we spent so long on and the others are more like snapshots of a period. In another sense, The Weak’s End has to mean the most because we were just learning how to even write and play music at that time so it took a couple of years to even write the songs.
I haven’t seen you guys in many years; since Warped Tour 2005 actually, but you were super energetic and nailed your songs as well. What do you feel is the importance of not only perform your songs correctly but to entertain the crowd simultaneously?
If it wasn’t to entertain the crowd visually, then there’s no point. We could play under the stage to a video or you could just listen to the CD. It’s not silly to take the way you come across on stage seriously. It’s very important. I think your sight and hearing go together in the same way that taste and smell do. When you see the performance delivered, it makes what you’re hearing better. It’s not to distract or be crazy or stupid. The point of the visual show, whether it be thrashing around or jumping off of something, is to show the audience how you interpret it. To see you jump at a moment or headbang or move your guitar, that’s the way it makes you feel and it’s genuine. You get a window into the musician or creator and how they feel the music. That’s not to say that if you play a show you must be going crazy. It may be entertaining to some degree but if my Dad or Grandpa came to a show they would just simply note that we were crazy (laughs). I think it’s just become a popular thing in heavy music and we’ve been doing it for awhile. I just don’t wanna stand there like an old guy that doesn’t move anymore.
I remember the first time I saw anything of you guys was a live performance on YouTube of “Walls” at The Boardwalk in Orangevale, California and the final part of the song, everyone was going nuts, throwing powder and crowd-surfing, nearly hitting the ceiling fans. It was one of the most chaotic performances I had seen at the time.
(Laughs) Yeah, that was flour. It was the end of tour with From First To Last and they came out to tour prank us on the last song of the last show. It turned out pretty cool.
What are some of your favorite songs to play live?
It’s always more fun to player newer songs. Playing “Walls” is fun still just because of the response but at the same time I can’t. I hate to even know the number of times I’ve played those guitar parts on that song. New songs are usually better but sometimes it’s fun to go back and play an old song that you haven’t played in awhile but it always has to do with how often you’re playing the songs. A combination of that plus the crowd response. I’ve tried to play some of my favorite songs but sometimes the crowd doesn’t love them as much so that makes them unfortunately not as fun. So yeah, it’s a combination of whatever’s fresh and fun and the energy between you and the crowd on it. That changes though I guess. I like playing songs off of We Do What We Want. “The Curse of Perfect Days” is fun to play. It feels good. It’s both light and heavy. I enjoy that one.
You’ve been in Emery since the beginning. How does it feel to be a part of a group that has influenced people, managed to stay relevant and survived for over a decade in a scene where bands tend to drop like flies?
I’m very thankful. I’m not bored and I’m continually entertained by what we get to do. We’re very lucky. I feel very lucky because I don’t really know a lot of bands that I like that have made 5 or 6 records. Most bands that are great bands or even huge bands don’t even make that many, especially with screamy punk music because the fans grow up and then they’re gone. A lot of people that like something when they’re 17 do not like the same thing when they’re 25. There are some things you may have a nostalgia for but you don’t tend to follow the same thing over and over. It’s hard with specific demographics but we’ve been fortunate enough to have new 16 and 19 year olds that have continued to like our music. That must be because of word of mouth from big brothers and big sisters and people that care about it. I don’t understand that or have any explanation for it but when we play shows now it’s like the same age group of kids. It’s not like they all got older with us. (Laughs) It’s the same look in the crowd as it always was. It’s pretty neat. Then of course we do have some people that have hung on. They don’t really listen to this kind of music anymore but they still like us but there are very few 25 year old people that are like only into screamo.
(Laughing) Yeah, I am one of those 25 year olds that have held on to you guys since the beginning.
Oh, are you 25? (Laughs) See that’s exactly it. There are relatively a lot but not enough to support playing shows and having people be there enough to do it. That plus you talking about it and telling younger people and sharing it is the only reason it happens. It’s definitely a word of mouth passed down thing that we’ve been a part of and it’s super awesome in a genre that’s not really that way. It’s more of a flash here and there kind of a thing.
Written and conducted by: Brian Lion