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

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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.

Review: Valleyheart – Heal My Head

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Well it’s time, folks. Time to talk more about an album I haven’t been able to shut up about: Valleyheart’s Heal My Head. It’s finally out in the world, and it’s just what I’ve needed. This is an album perfect for spring and summer, and it is the perfect offering to usher us into sunnier days.

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You can buy or stream Heal My Head on Apple Music

What drew me to Valleyheart initially is their lyrical honesty and fresh take on the alt genre. Their first album, Everyone I’ve Ever Loved, hit me deeply in a way only a kid who grew up in New England churches can get hit. In a part of the country affectionately known by other religious areas as the “frozen chosen,” what Valleyheart had to say about church and the way that kind of upbringing tosses you into adulthood with little else but questions really resonated with me.

Their new album, Heal My Head, feels like defrosting. The sounds are lighter, the chords are major, and it’s all around giving me a chance to catch my breath. Vocalist/guitarist Kevin Klein and the guys have focused on time, and the way it ebbs and flows. We get songs about their success, songs about hoping for more, songs about friendship. There’s something here for everyone.

From the initial notes of “Birth”, a soft entrance through the door of this house Valleyheart built, we are pushed into the lead single, “The Numbers”. It’s easily one of the best songs of the year thus far, and a great representation of what we can expect here from the rest of this piece. This song is about Spotify stats at its core, but it really is about more than that: It’s about slowing down and taking the time to appreciate where we’ve been and where we’re going. It’s a song about gratitude. 

“Warning Signs” is the most different track, a very pop heavy song that was instantly a favorite for me. It’s catchy, and it breaks up the album just enough to keep things interesting. I fell head over heels for their harder rock sound, but tracks like this, along with “Back and Forth” and “Vampire Smile” are reminders that this band can do whatever they want and make it sound incredible, while keeping it congruent with the rest of what they’re trying to bring forth.

I love this album more every time I listen to it. Each time there’s something new for me to find or to think about. There truly are no highs or lows here. Every track has been chosen and placed with the steady hand of a master, and everything fits together like the pieces of the clock in the album art. The album is filled with joie de vivre. As I’ve spent time with it, I’m struck more and more of how this came at the perfect time for me. I am continually in awe of when things in my life completely sync up with a band’s releases, and this album has already begun to feel like home to me.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve found a new band to obsess over. 2013 began my love for From Indian Lakes, in 2015 came Pianos Become the Teeth, 2020 brought Gleemer. 2021 up to now and far into the future has brought me Valleyheart. A band close to home and now close to my heart and soul. Heal My Head is an album that will stay with me for a while, to say the least. It feels like coming up for air.

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.

Podcast: Interview with Kevin Klein of Valleyheart

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Friday marks the release of Heal My Head, the new album from Massachusetts alt rock trio Valleyheart. Vocalist and guitarist Kevin Klein joined us on the show to chat with our own Nadia Alves about the band’s sonic progression on this new record and what inspired them to explore new territory. Klein also shares about his songwriting process and how exploring past trauma allowed himself and the band to tap into new and powerful stories that serve as the heartbeat of Heal My Head. Take a listen, and then go snag the album on Friday!

Pre-order Heal My Head here.

Subscribe to our Podcast on Apple or Spotify

Posted by Kiel Hauck

The top 5 bands from Tooth and Nail Records

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As it turns out, there’s no right answer when you decide to write a retrospective article on the top five bands from Tooth and Nail Records. Of course, on the other side of the coin, there’s not really a wrong answer, either.

There’s an extremely good chance that if you’re a fan of today’s punk and hardcore scene, you have close ties with a band that was signed to Tooth and Nail Records. If not, it’s a near certainty that some of your favorite bands were heavily influenced by Tooth and Nail bands. The Seattle punk label has churned out more than a few prominent and influential acts over the past two decades and, for much of that time, the label itself was a trailblazer in fostering the sounds that define today’s scene.

If you’re unsure of the label’s credibility or are too young to remember their heyday, consider that we just made a list that excludes the likes of Ghoti Hook, Dogwood, The Juliana Theory, Anberlin, Mae, Squad Five-O, Project 86, As Cities Burn, Stavesacre, Copeland and many others.

It’s perfectly understandable if you disagree with our list. The good news is that the point of this piece is more of a reflection on an influential label that’s turning 20 than a definitive record that we’re stamping in stone. Feel free to share your favorite bands in the replies or share your own list with us. Without further ado, here are our five favorite Tooth and Nail bands of all time.

1. MxPx

There’s really no way around this band not landing in the top spot. Not only are they the label’s first signing, they clearly paved the way for everything that the label was to become and are one of the most important bands in pop-punk history. MxPx is a direct influence to the likes of Yellowcard, Good Charlotte, Relient K and countless other bands that came in their wake.

Whether you’re a fan of the brash and raw Pokinatcha, the seminal Life in General or the polished Secret Weapon, there’s no shortage of styles and sounds to come from the Bremerton, Wa. trio. MxPx not only put Tooth and Nail Records on the map, they shaped the future of the pop-punk genre and released some of the most noteworthy and memorable work this scene has known.

2. Underoath

There’s no denying that some will argue this placing, but consider the impact that Underoath had on the scene in the mid-2000s. The band’s masterpiece, Define the Great Line, not only destroyed the post-hardcore rulebook with its forward-thinking display, but was a commercial success, charting at number two on the Billboard 200 the week of its release.

Underoath managed to grab a stranglehold on the scene spotlight without ever losing their identity or dumbing down their sound. Instead, they forged beyond the typical expectations of the post-hardcore genre with unique recording methods, odd time signatures and an unorthodox use of electronic programming. When considering today’s post-hardcore and metalcore scene, it’s hard to argue Underoath’s impact.

3. Slick Shoes

Slick Shoes never achieved the notoriety of many of their peers, but this was not for lack of talent or gusto. Slick Shoes was the secret you had between your close friends in high school; the cool band that belonged to you. They never seemed to mind. Instead, they churned out a collection of memorable albums, such as Burn Out, Wake Up Screaming and their 2002 self-titled.

Despite their lack of fame, you can bring up the name of the band in just about any punk circle to positive reactions and recollections. In truth, Slick Shoes managed to have just about as much influence on the scene as many of their more well-known peers and did it without the flashing lights and headliner status. Honestly, that’s about as punk as it gets.

4. mewithoutYou

It’s hard to put a label on mewithoutYou’s sound. Not only has the band dabbled in a multitude of genres and sounds, but they’ve done it by adding their unique touch and thoughtfulness to each endeavor. They’re a band fueled by passion and it comes across in everything the band has ever put their hands on. mewithoutYou is the band that this scene needed.

While their debut certainly caught ears, it wasn’t until their follow-up Catch For Us the Foxes that people began to really take notice. Indeed, the band would expand their repertoire with each subsequent release, building on their quirky post-hardcore sound, laced with artful imagery and the poetic lyrics of Aaron Weiss. mewithoutYou never fit a particular mold and certainly didn’t follow the beaten path, and we’re all the better for it.

5. Strongarm/Further Seems Forever

Yes, this is clearly a cop-out. However, when four members of an influential hardcore band go on to form an equally influential emo/indie rock band, it’s worth noting. In fact, Further Seems Forever held a place at many a hardcore festival simply based on the fact that the members were deeply rooted in that community. That being said, the addition of Chris Carrabba at vocalist was obviously a game changer that pushed Further Seems Forever over the top.

Even after the band made its mark on the scene with Carrabba behind the mic, the band managed to remain solid and relevant with two other lead singers (Jason Gleason, Jon Bunch) over their next two albums. Behind both bands lies the heart of its original members and their ability to craft music across different genres while maintaining credibility and focus. Because of this, you can’t really mention Further Seems Forever without Strongarm.

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.