Podcast: Interview with Devin Shelton of Emery

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Friday marked the release of Rub Some Dirt On It, the 9th studio album from Emery. Vocalist and bassist Devin Shelton joined Kiel Hauck on the show to talk about the new album and explain how the band’s creative process has evolved over the years. Shelton also discusses the band’s unique history and trajectory, and how their experiences early in their career set them up for a second act that has involved much more than just making music. Devin also talks scene nostalgia, playing shows post-pandemic, and this summer’s upcoming Labeled Fest. Take a listen!

You can buy Rub Some Dirt On It here.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Emery – Rub Some Dirt On It

emery-2022

I originally wasn’t going to write anything about the new Emery album, Rub Some Dirt On It. Anyone who has followed my pieces here on It’s All Dead knows my love for Emery and I think I’ve written or talked about almost every one of their albums in the five years since I started contributing here. I just kind of felt I had nothing new to add to the conversation. But where I was lacking inspiration, Emery stepped up and filled in the blanks for me.

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You can buy or stream Rub Some Dirt On It on Apple Music

Rub Some Dirt On It is Emery’s hardest hitting album to date. I think one of the privileges of being a band for 20 years is being able to drop the filter and really lean into the art you want to make. Over the past few years, the scene has often been up in arms over the members of Emery’s podcasts, or artistic choices with album art, or the shift in their lyrical content. A few years ago, they released a song called “People Always Ask If We’re Gonna Cuss in an Emery Song” for God’s sake. They’re basically an ouroboros now, just devouring the criticism and turning it into more incredible and thought-provoking art than ever before. Just when you think it’s quiet on the Emery front, they release a single like “I Don’t Know You At All”, and you’re sucked right back in. If Emery has anything going for them 20 years into their career, it’s their talent for constantly staying in the back of the scene’s mind.

For Rub Some Dirt On It, I wrote off the title as an uber-masculine dude-fest at first, but Emery is at their most vulnerable here. The songs detail church abuse (“Stranger”), the way faith falters over the years (“You Stole God From Me”), and just the regular old guy/gal songs we know and love from South Carolina’s post-hardcore darlings (“You Said Enough”). And just in case we get too overwhelmed or in our feelings over it, they end the album with “Lovely Lady”, a complete turn-around musically, but a cool picture of just how well they mesh as a band, and a fitting closer to a very deep and personal album.

The album has some of Emery’s most interesting instrumentation, and more cutting lyrics than even in their edgy era when they were young. The 20+ years together have only tightened their sound and refined their artistic presence. They were a force to be reckoned with in the scene when they began, and they’re even more of a force now.

The band recorded this album in one take on a 2-hour livestream spectacular, and other than some minor tweaks here and there for recording’s sake, gave us the album as it was originally performed. I’ve said this before, but Emery really took the independent release format by the horns and completely flipped the script. Every time they’ve released something in their indie era, it’s better and fresher than what they did before. It’s almost like they challenge themselves to try something new every album cycle, and we’re privileged enough to come along for the ride.

5/5

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Emery – We Do What We Want

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I know what you’re all thinking. Nadia, you’re really going to write about Emery again? Haven’t you said all there is to say about this band? No, friends, I have not, because their magnum opus (at least, what I consider to be their magnum opus) We Do What We Want turns 10 this year.

WeDoWhatWeWant

You can buy or stream We Do What We Want on Apple Music.

Looking back at the 14-year-old kid just breaking the surface into what would be a decade-plus obsession with the alt scene, never would I have thought I would get a chance to talk about how this album made me feel. I grew up to the sounds of this album, much to the chagrin of my conservative parents, who were none too pleased with the album art — a Bible, with the words “we do what we want” emblazoned across the shiny leather. It was honestly because of the edgy album art that I was so drawn to this body of work, and it remains an oft-played album for me.

I originally wanted to do a crazy, hypothetical piece on how each of the songs could be attributed to the Seven Deadly Sins, but that was quickly tossed out when I realized it was, in fact, not the case. I wanted so badly to have that cohesive lede and pathway to guide me through writing this piece, but as Emery explains so eloquently, they do what they want. And so do we. 

As a now 24-year-old kid married for a couple of years and watching the church culture she steeped herself in like a green tea bag slowly crumbling (oop, pun intended), this album is more refreshing and poignant than ever. Emery’s stark description of sin and falling short of what the church thinks Christianity should look like is more relatable now than I ever could have foreseen it to be. If you’ll notice, we never get preached to directly until the end of the album. The guys in Emery never want to be our pastors and judges, they’re just here to tell us, “Yeah, we get it.” And they do.

At 14, Emery got how I felt about the guys I had a crush on, even though spiritually I knew I could never touch those feelings. They got the guilt I felt being just a little bit sneaky with the music I would listen to with my friends, then going home to my parents and pretending we had plenty of good Christian fun. They got the fact that 10 years later, I would be experiencing an intense feeling of loss for the faith and the culture I once knew. Emery foresaw all of these things because they had gone through them.

When I listened to the album at 14, I didn’t realize how I would relate to “I Never Got to See the West Coast”. I didn’t realize that when I would listen to “The Curse of Perfect Days” I would see it as a soundtrack to my teenage years. I didn’t realize that “Scissors” would end up on a playlist I’d make memorializing my grandmother. 

What remains when I listen to We Do What We Want now is a piece of work so intensely intertwined in my thoughts and my faith (or lack thereof). What remains is the everlasting idea that we, in fact, will do what we want. And when I was 14, doing what I wanted, I was building lasting memories with Emery.

by Nadia Alves

kiel_hauckNadia Alves has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Emery – White Line Fever

I’ve written A LOT about Emery in my time here on It’s All Dead. My pieces, whether they’re reviews of new albums or reflections on past projects, generally boil down to the continuity and consistency Emery have displayed through their 19- (and counting) year run. Their latest, White Line Fever, is no different.

You can buy White Line Fever by joining Emeryland.

The album isn’t necessarily a new step in Emery’s path, but rather a continuation of 2018’s Eve. It’s not as heavy as their other projects musically, but they’ve definitely not skimped lyrically. The things they’re singing about are as hard-hitting as ever. Gone are the days of songs about superficial relationships. The guys in Emery know that we’re all adults now, and they’ve treated their listeners accordingly here.

Forcing listeners to take a deep look inward at their worldview and how it’s affecting the way our lives play out is at the forefront of White Line Fever. Actions have consequences, and on songs like “The Noose,” and “Biddy”, those consequences are evident. But it’s not all doom and gloom here. On “2:38” they reminisce on their early days on the road, and how their lives have changed since then.

This isn’t my favorite Emery album, nor is it their best, but it’s another fitting addition to their discography. If there’s one thing that they’ve learned over 19 years, it’s where their wheelhouse lies. They make great post-hardcore music, and nary do they stray from that formula. I feel like at this point in my Emery-fanhood, I’m focusing more on what the band has to say, rather than the manner in which they present it. I’m always a sucker for a great hardcore band, but an Emery album is a double whammy of solid music and something to really mentally chew on and spend some time with.

What has kept me listening to Emery over the years is their transparency to admit that they’re different than they were in 2001. So many bands I grew up with as a hardline Christian kid refused to admit that, and they became almost fraudulent in my eyes. The guys of Emery have made it a point, almost a defining feature, of their art to declare that change is not only natural, but often beneficial. They’ve made it okay for someone like me to realize that I don’t feel the same way about some things that I used to. Because of their courage, I’ve grown in my perception of faith and how it fits into my life. 

4/5

 

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: The Best of Emery

Last month, Emery released a new 4-song EP as part of Emeryland, an interactive online community that promises exclusive new music leading up to the band’s eighth full-length album. Nadia Paiva joined Kiel Hauck on the pod to break down the band’s discography and discuss how their unique evolution has helped sustain their career and make them one of the most interesting bands to come from the modern post-hardcore genre. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

Interested in checking out Emeryland? You can learn more on the band’s Indiegogo page.

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Reflecting On: Emery – …In Shallow Seas We Sail

I still remember the first time I heard an Emery song. It was probably about 2012 or so, and it was while watching the video for their 2009 track “Butcher’s Mouth”. The video for the song was shot documentary style from (presumably) tour, and, no offense, isn’t really anything to write home about. I just watched it for the first time in a couple of years, and it’s pretty dated now, but I’m still so fond of it. I specifically have always remembered the end, where Toby says, “The key to this world is money. Girls only like material things, and guys only like girls. So, guys, buy stuff for girls, and then the girls will like you.”  There’s just so much personality in the video, and I actually think that’s one of the reasons I ended up liking the band so much.

You can buy or stream …In Shallow Seas We Sail on Apple Music.

So it’s been 10 years since the album …In Shallow Seas We Sail was released. The band has really expanded past music since then, and I’d argue they’re still one of the most successful post-hardcore bands today. They figured out how to grow with the times, and that’s really only been to their benefit. Between podcasts and record labels, the band has constantly used their musical talent over the years to positively further the scene they’re in.

We obviously know now, though, that it hasn’t always been that way. And I doubt it would be this way without this 2009 release. 2007’s I’m Only A Man was pretty experimental for the band in a negative sense. I don’t know how the band members feel about the album, but fans weren’t really into it. I wasn’t familiar with the band at this point, and maybe it’s for the better, because I kind of like I’m Only A Man. I think that In Shallow Seas We Sail is definitely a better album and I like it more, but I’ve never really gotten why folks don’t care for I’m Only A Man.  

I think what makes this such a memorable and important addition to the Emery discography is the same as every one of their other albums. With each release, the band raises the bar up one more time in some aspect, whether it be production or songwriting or vocals. With …In Shallow Seas We Sail, they revamped the entirety of what made them great in their first two albums. They brought maturity into this fourth project, maturity gained from the experience of releasing music, experience from being signed to a label, and experience gained from having a project that wasn’t totally loved by the listeners.

They are truly the definition of a band who does this more for themselves than for the fans. They are constantly interested in how they can be better, and that’s what’s made them last so long as a band, and what’s made me last so long as a listener.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Emery – Eve

I’m obsessed with Emery. The harmonies, musicianship and lyricism have both spoken to me and impacted the rest of my musical taste in a way (almost) no other band has. I get excited whenever they even think about releasing something new. This stems from the time I saw the music video for “Butcher’s Mouth”. Something about that song (the video was just a means to an end, I guess) opened up a possibility to me about the span of music that was outside my adolescent bubble, and I’ve followed the band ever since, from albums to podcasts. I’ve never seen them live, which is really to say, hey, Emery, please come to Boston.

You can buy or stream Eve on Apple Music.

With 2015’s You Were Never Alone, my personal favorite album, the band embarked on a Kickstarter journey to self-fund the music they create. They broke up with Tooth & Nail Records and, with no offense to Brandon Ebel, started creating the best music of their career. This led to the release of last year’s Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined, and their latest, Eve.

Eve looks like a heck of a long album with 15 tracks, but it’s only 41 minutes long. Throughout the album, the band gets personal in a way they haven’t really done before. Generally, an Emery album consists of a bunch of songs about breakups, but (and I’m not sure whether this is a correlation) with the split from Tooth & Nail, the band’s last two albums constantly touch on new themes for Emery. There’s an entire set of Break It Down (Matt Carter’s podcast) episodes about You Were Never Alone. I won’t give you the details of them because it’s much more fulfilling to listen to them. The time and thought Emery puts into their art is really showcased in the episodes and really made me appreciate them more than I already had.

“Fear Yourself” might be the heaviest track here. Talking about sin and the hypocrisy in the church, Toby sings in the chorus: “Fear yourself is all I heard / Horror-struck from the Holy Word” and, “…outside those walls they mauled the witness / And we got back to business”. Very on-brand for the members to sing about; they deal with it in virtually every episode of their “Bad Christian” podcast. I mean, they wouldn’t have to deal with it so much if it weren’t so true and physically visible, but c’est la vie. These guys have become a voice of dissension in millennial church circles, but I happen to think it’s necessary.

“Safe” is a song that Devin and Matt wrote after both of their mothers passed away during the recording of Eve. It’s a lovely tribute, and the harmonies Emery is so known for really shine here.

A highlight of the album is the ridiculously titled, “People Always Ask Me If We’re Going to Cuss in an Emery Song”. Emery did not. I’m pretty sure this is a song to everyone who listens to their podcast (in which profanity is abundant) and, other than the question in the title, ask: “How can you guys talk like that and still be religious?” Emery’s reply is that they’re just words and they don’t matter.

Needless to say, I’m psyched with the new Emery album. I’ve got to take a little more time to dive into the lyrics and figure out where it fits into my Emery album ranking, but, so far, it’s pretty high up there. Kickstarter was made to release albums like this. The band has proven three times now that they’re capable of producing exquisite art, and Eve is another great example of that.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Review: Emery – Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined

What does someone write about an album of old songs? A lot, apparently, when it’s as rich of an experience as is the case of Emery’s latest offering, Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined.

You can buy Revival: Emery Classics Reimagined on iTunes.

Oftentimes, when a band re-releases old songs, whether it be an acoustic version or a remix, I’m not a huge fan. I generally enjoy the original recording more because I like an organic representation of the artist’s interpretation and intent when writing and composing. I’ve changed my opinion in recent years, because everyone looks back on past work and wonders what they could’ve done differently. With Emery’s Revival, the band captures that thought process perfectly.

Each track has been carefully re-crafted and entirely thought through. Originally an EP of three songs given as a gift to Kickstarter backers, they apparently enjoyed the process so much that they turned it into virtually another full-length. I’ve been listening to Emery for a long time and when I listened to Revival, it didn’t sound like the Emery I knew. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when I did a bit more research and learned that the members of Emery weren’t overly involved with the production and planning. Their touring guitarist, Chris Keene was more involved with the composition side of things and really made a change sonically.

One of the things I especially enjoyed was the lack of harsh vocals. I may just be getting old, but I don’t have as much patience for lyrics I can’t understand. I was excited to really be able to hear and pick apart some of the lyrics that I missed in the original versions of the tracks. There’s something special about listening to lyrics rather than reading them from a random site that you’ve Googled. It provides a more personal approach and connection to the artist and their artistic intention.

The composition of all of Emery’s music is something to be severely impressed with. The members of the band have such an incredible set of skills when it comes to production, songwriting and musicianship. This album was no different. Each track has new elements and interesting facets, and it’s a joy to listen to. Toby Morrell and Devin Shelton are vocal masterminds. Their harmonies are honestly unmatched and I can only chalk that up to the longevity of the band and how well they’ve worked together over the past years.

Favorite tracks for me were generally the ones I’m most familiar with from other albums, the top track for sure being, “The Smile, The Face”. Even though that doesn’t rate as one of their heavier tracks, I loved the way that they managed to soften it up even more. The only complaint I have is the lack of tracks from their 2011 album We Do What We Want. That album, along with their last release, 2015’s You Were Never Alone, is my favorite album and I was a bit disappointed to see that they ignored it. I would’ve especially loved to hear a new version of “Scissors”.

Emery never fails to excite me with any release announcement. Regardless of the familiarity and age of these songs, Emery has managed to completely revamp their sound once again. Based on what they’ve accomplished with this collection, I am eagerly awaiting another full album and look forward to what they’ll do next.

4/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Podcast: Interview with Emery’s Matt Carter

Somehow, in between hosting multiple successful podcasts and fulfilling his duties as co-founder of an independent media company, Matt Carter still finds time to play guitar for Emery. Matt joined Kiel Hauck on our latest podcast to discuss what goes into the making of one of this year’s hit new podcasts – “Labeled: The Stories, Rumors, & Legends of Tooth & Nail Records”. He also shares how Emery re-imagined some of their favorite songs for their recent release, Revival, gives his take on recent news regarding sexual misconduct in the scene, and much more. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What are some of your current favorite podcasts? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Emery Shines on “The Question” Anniversary Tour

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Something that gets lost in the onslaught of 10th anniversary tours is just how hard it is to create something worth celebrating a decade later. Crafting an album that resonates with an audience and influences its genre in such a way as to warrant continued celebration 10 years after its release is something every band strives for. To do it twice? That’s something only the most gifted of bands can claim.

Emery’s 10th anniversary tour for their debut, The Weak’s End, was just a primer. That trek celebrated a band in its beginnings – The Weak’s End was an emo expedition through odd time signature changes, quirky melodies and moments of explosive fury. For as unbridled of a debut as that album was, their breakthrough sophomore effort, The Question, was a refined piece of post-hardcore excellence.

That both albums are so different yet both hold such a place of distinction in the scene ethos speaks volumes to Emery’s songwriting capabilities and their capacity to evolve.

Supporting on this 10th anniversary tour for The Question is The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, a worthy contemporary that no doubt was inspired over the years by Emery’s output. Although it’s been a few years since Red Jumpsuit relinquished their stranglehold as rock radio celebrities, they haven’t lost their spark. In particular, vocalist Ronnie Winter sounds stronger than ever before.

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

It’s certainly a treat for everyone in attendance to hear smash singles like “Face Down” and “Your Guardian Angel”, but the band shines when playing their newer material as well. Winter forgoes his usual screaming parts, instead letting his brother Randy carry the guttural load. The payoff is that Winter is free to let his wide vocal range explore new territory as he takes worthwhile liberties with the melody. It’s not hard to imagine The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus embarking on their own 10th anniversary tour next year for their debut, Don’t You Fake It.

For a band as special as Emery to still be active nearly 15 years into their career (the band released You Were Never Alone earlier this year), it’s hard to complain about a commemorative tour of this nature. Even so, it’s difficult not to feel the harsh absence of Devin Shelton, the savory harmony to vocalist Toby Morrell’s sweet melody. The unique mixture of Shelton and Morrell’s vocals is something that placed Emery ahead of their peers through the years.

Emery

Emery

Even so, the rest of the band is in fine form. Drummer Dave Powell brings power to heavier moments on tracks like “Returning the Smile You Have Had from the Start”, while guitarist Matt Carter drives forward “Studying Politics” with poppy riffs and Josh Head’s synthesizers and spastic screams add energy to the set. Part of what makes The Question so unique is the band’s ability to combine so many elements to the mix while remaining exceedingly accessible.

If The Weak’s End was an excuse to thrash about alone in your bedroom, The Question provides release in the form of dancing and group sing-alongs. Everyone in attendance croons in unison to the lyrically poignant “Listening to Freddie Mercury” and jumps about to the fast-paced chorus of “Left with Alibis and Lying Eyes”. It’s a testament to legendary producer Aaron Sprinkle that The Question flows so effortlessly from front to back, even with all of its idiosyncrasies. It’s a testament to Emery that the album plays so well in a live setting all these years later.

In truth, Emery would have been hard pressed to recreate the manic magic of The Weak’s End. The band’s choice to write concise, melodic post-hardcore songs on their follow-up perhaps not only extended their career, but served as the building blocks for so many bands that would follow in their footsteps. If anyone wondered in 2005 if there was room in the screamo scene for a band as pensive and peculiar as South Carolina’s Emery, the answer is in The Question.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.