Emarosa Explain Why ‘People Get So Up in Arms’ Over Their New Pop Sound (INTERVIEW)
You’d hardly recognize Emarosa if you took a listen to their past discography before checking out the material off their new album, Peach Club. Self-proclaimed Pop Gods, the alt-pop quartet is ready to shed the post-hardcore remnants they’ve been associated with since their 2006 inception in exchange for dazzling hooks and songs you’ll sing in your sleep.
“We’ve taken the jump, we’ve taken the leap because it’s who we are organically,” vocalist Bradley Walden tells PopCrush. The songs speak for themselves, whether it’s the high-octane smash and lead single, “Givin’ Up,” or the softer, bedroom-eyed “Don’t Cry.”
Gearing up for the release of Peach Club, out Feb. 8, Walden talks about the transformation of Emarosa, his affinity for pop music and how his songwriting has changed over the past decade.
When you first started talking about the new album on Twitter, you were saying how obsessed you were about it. What does the album’s release mean to you?
It feels like the culmination of everything I was subconsciously going after in music but for a long time, was scared to push it that way. That tweet was so long ago and we’ve had the record for nine months and we were obviously writing months and months before that. So it’s been a very long time sitting on this record and stressing over the content.
Slowly, from the first record I did with this band to where we are now, we’ve been making this transition and getting a little more brave with what we wanted to do, while still trying to maintain a relationship with the past. I think that was a crutch because the past is the past and we want to make this about where we’re going. This record is important to me because we no longer had any fear of trying to connect to the past. It 100% became “This is what we are now.” We’ve taken the jump, we’ve taken the leap because it’s who we are organically. It wasn’t a “forced” or “sell-out” thing—those terms are so elementary. It was a natural progression of us as people and musicians. To not have that fear and caution of trying to connect to where the band was and just do what we want to do, it’s so important to us as artists, our mental health, and our integrity.
Going back to your earlier days in pop-punk band That Was Something, your songs were super catchy and had a lot of hooks. With Emarosa’s new material going in such a poppier direction, how has your songwriting changed over the past decade or so?
That Was Something stuff is so embarrassing to me. That was my first band ever. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was also endearing because I didn’t know anything. Listening to the melodies that I came up with at the time, they weren’t really influenced by anything. It was just organic and what I heard with the music. That was so long ago … eight or nine years ago? I’d like to think that I’ve polished my songwriting over time … [The person I was] 8 years ago is definitely not who I am now. Your songwriting changes and your outlook on life changes; your voice changes depending on how you sing, the tone of your voice, the technique that you use.
I listen to songs on our new record like “Cautious” and “Don’t Cry” and “Get Back Up” and if I were to try to think about the songs that you’re talking about, I definitely think there’s a vast difference in the maturity and the approach. I’ve never really thought about it until you just brought that up because I never think about that band. The dudes in Emarosa, they always ask me, “What was that band?” because they want to bring up the most embarrassing music video of my career and I’m just like, “Go to hell, I’m not telling you.” [Laughs]
My favorite part about this era so far is how you’ve embraced this new identity by tweeting about how the old Emarosa is dead and putting “pop gods” in your bio. I feel like bands aren’t always as forward and blunt when they change their sound.
It’s so funny because people get so up in arms just because we’re confident in what we’re doing now. It’s like they’re so turned off by the fact that we love what we’re doing instead of being, like, this brooding, sad rock band. As soon as you start living the way that you want to, there’s always going to be people who try to tear you down.
When Taylor Swift put out that song was like, “The old Taylor Swift is dead.” I loved that! [Having] the balls to do that is so liberating as an artist to just be like, “This is what we’re doing and that’s all there is to it.”
Were you concerned that the reception wouldn’t be positive toward the new material?
No. I got very in-tune with message boards and what people were saying and I let that stuff rip me apart for years, but not anymore. I ignore it, I put it away. The negative reactions? You’re going to get that no matter what you do. And that’s fine if people aren’t going to like it. It’s not for them. But the audience that does get it, they’re in “The Club.” They understand what we’re doing and they back it and those are the kinds of people we’re trying to play for. People say it’s like a betrayal to what Emarosa used to sound like. Well, it’s a betrayal to us as artists to try to keep making the same records that we made five or 10 years ago. I’d much rather have us be happy and love the record we’re putting out than worry about what people are saying on the Internet.
It seems like people who have negative things to say in the rock music scene almost don’t know how to criticize pop music. I saw one comment that was supposed to be an insult, like, “This sounds like Maroon 5!”
People try to rip it apart, like, “Oh, this sounds like…” and insert any wildly successful pop artist and I’m like, “Yes, yes, you’re right.” Bobby, our bassist, was writing about the record and was like, “Peach Club is a terrible post-hardcore record.” And it is. It’s a terrible post-hardcore record because it’s a f---ing amazing pop record. Fans of post-hardcore are giving their opinion on a pop album and that’s when you get the negativity. It’s like a plumber walking into a kitchen and telling the chef, “Hey, man, you should do this.” Stick to the s--- you know.
At the same time, I also see comments that go, “I loved Emarosa’s old stuff and I normally hate pop music but I love ‘Givin’ Up’”—that has to be a great thing to hear.
Some people just love a good hook. I have a very diverse music taste. I can have the nostalgia where I’m listening to an old post-hardcore record sometimes. In that rock-type world, I love Like Moths to Flames. I think that band is dope and I typically don’t like that type of music. But I have a dynamic taste. So, I can switch over to Carly Rae Jepsen, and then I can switch over to something classical. I’m all over the place. There’s a lot of closed-mindedness out there and if you let it control your artistry, you’re not going to be happy with what you make.
With this collection of catchy, accessible pop songs, I’m wondering about your thoughts on Top 40 radio and whether it’s a place where you can see the band making an impact.
I can never say if this is going to be “the” record. Do I think that some of these songs should be in Top 40? Yes. And I love pop music so I feel very confident when I say that, when I listen to Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars and I put those songs against what we have on Peach Club, I feel like they stand up to them. I feel like it’s harder for us because it’s been such an uphill battle for so long, and just now with Peach Club, we’ve started to build this completely innocent and fresh fanbase. The people from the past have either come up with us or drifted off, which is totally fine. But I feel like we’re just getting started with what’s happening with this band.
For people who haven’t heard you before, what’s one song off Peach Club that you would want them to hear?
Oh, that’s tough. Man, we came out strong with “Givin’ Up” … and then we just put out “Cautious.” I love that, it’s such a good pop song. I love “Don’t Cry,” it’s a little softer. It’s such a tough question because I just love this record. My personal favorite, only because I wrote it for my mom, would have to be “Get Back Up.” It’s pop but it’s also alternative and it’s a favorite of mine in that way. But we just put out “Cautious” and I think that’s a pop banger.
Even though we’ve talked about the criticism of pop music, I also think it’s becoming more well-respected in general. Rock bands like Bring Me the Horizon have taken the leap to a poppier sound, and then you have bands like Fall Out Boy who have obviously transitioned to that stage over their careers, too.
Here’s the thing: pop is the most difficult genre. Pop is the hardest type of music to make. If pop was easy, everybody could write a Top 40 song ... If pop was easy, everybody would be in that genre writing hit after hit. That’s why you have these select people in the industry who write these amazing pop songs. It’s so challenging to write a pop song and relate to every single person, to make something so simple and so creative at the same time, that resonates with a huge audience. It’s very difficult. I’m not dogging any other kind of music, but I feel like pop is the most dynamic and the hardest type of music. Hip-hop takes from pop, country takes from pop, rock takes from pop. All genres are blended.