March 7, 2008
By Eric Pettersson
APOLOGY: After showing up fifteen minutes late because of traffic on the expressway, I was quickly escorted to Emery’s dressing room at The Trocadero Theater in Philly to find Josh waiting for me. We moved through what at the time seemed like a great interview while my budding photographer friend Reuben toyed around with his fancy new remote flash taking pictures (to see the rest of his photos from the show that night, check out his MySpace here in the near future) and then Josh was off for sound check while we were off for Chinese food. Sadly, when I tried listening to the tape the next day, it was somehow a little damaged and the interview you are about to read is not complete. For this I sincerely and deeply apologize, but after considering letting the whole thing go, I salvaged what I could because I owe it to my IVM readers for their loyal support, to Josh for answering my questions, and to Emery’s manager Angela Villanueva for being kind enough to hook me up with the interview and a ticket to the show. As a disclaimer, these may not be the exact words of Josh, because there are points that the tape cuts out that I remember the basic idea of what he said and filled in as best I could.
Eric, IVM: Well, I guess we can get started with your name and what you do in the band.
Josh, Emery: My name is Josh, and I play keyboards and sing.
E: When did you first get into keyboards?
J: I actually didn’t get into keyboards until they asked me to join the band. And we weren’t signed or anything at the time. We just recorded The Weak’s End and the day after we recorded it I joined, so, I never played keyboard before…
E: Did you play any other instruments?
J: Drums, yeah.
E: Did you always think you would end up in a band?
J: Um, no, not really. I never really thought that I would be in a band. I had played some drums in some other bands before, but nothing as serious as Emery.
E: You’re on tour right now with Mayday Parade, As Cities Burn, Pierce the Veil, and Cry of the Afflicted. How’s that going?
J: [Damage] …are super cool and all the bands are awesome.
E: How’s the crowd responding?
J: Great, it’s been really good. The tour’s been really good… [damage] the first time we toured on the new record, it might have taken fans a little bit longer to warm up to it… so we didn’t really know what to expect on the new tour, if people were going to come at all, if they wanted to hear the new music or whatever, so… yeah, but it’s been amazing.
E: Any pranks going on?
J: Well, there haven’t been a lot of pranks but we’ve been having a lot of fun. We do have this board game we made called Jumanji, after the movie if you guys have ever seen it. It’s based on the game in that movie, but what we do is we make people go out and do really outrageous stuff like go up to friends of friends on the tour that they don’t know and ask them to please leave or just stuff like that. All kinds of weird stuff. Or if somebody’s eating something, make somebody go up to them and take their food from them and not give it back for 20 seconds or something like that or if somebody’s watching a movie, I had to go up to… We’re on a bus with As Cities Burn, and somebody’s up there watching some movie up in the front and I was in the back and I had to go up and turn the TV off and not allow them to turn it back on for a whole minute, blocking them and stuff.
E: That’s hilarious… so what’s been your best and worst moment as a part of Emery?
J: Oh wow. I don’t know if uh, it’s hard to pick a best and worst time in the band. [This whole question is damaged, and I forget what he ended up saying as a best moment, although I do remember the rest.] Worst moment, we had, right after our first release, booked our own tour in southern California, and when we got there we found out that almost all of the shows had been cancelled, and we didn’t have any money so we just parked out trailer by the beach and hung out there for the week. Each of us spent like $3 a day on food and that was it. We would shower in those public showers they have on beaches, you know, to wash the sand off, and we’d go over there in our board shorts and soap up and hope that no one kicked us out. But, you know, that was a great time so I don’t know if it’d be our worst moment as a band. It was certainly our poorest moment.
E: I know you aren’t the main lyricist or anything, but I figured maybe you would know about this. A lot of your songs tell some really crazy stories… what influences them? I mean, are they fictional, personal experience, things that happened to friends?
J: It’s definitely a combination of all of them. A lot of it comes from personal experience, some of it comes from things that our friends have gone through or maybe people that we don’t even know, just things we’ve seen going on around us, you know? Maybe even mixing those things in each song like starting with personal experience and then filling in the rest with other stuff. “Story about a Man with a Bad Heart” is about someone’s family member [I think that’s what he said, the tape got really bad at this point in the interview and everything from here on out is strictly from my memory, so forgive the following answers being so incomplete compared to the lengthier ones actually given by Josh].
E: “From Crib to Coffin” is one of the best closers I’ve heard in a long time. But with like five minutes of noise, how do you write something like that?
J: We knew what we wanted going into it, so it wasn’t all written at one time. We just kept coming back to the song and adding new parts, trying different things. We knew we wanted it to be really long and innovative and to fit the feel of the lyrics. We just sort of jammed for a really long time and pushed ourselves to do what we wanted, something we hadn’t done before. I think it’s a really good song. It’s actually my favorite on the new record.
E: So is that like the writing process in general for you guys, for an average Emery song?
J: Songs come together in different ways. Sometimes we all come together and piece a song out, or sometimes Toby will come in with an idea that’s basically complete and we just add little things to it.
E: What role does faith play in Emery?
J: I’d like to say it’s the biggest part of our band, but I think I’d be a little naïve to do so. We do think that Jesus is the reason for what we’re doing. We wouldn’t be a band without God right now. We’re still playing because we still feel that it’s His call for us right now, and once that calling leaves us and we feel God telling us to do something else, we will. But yeah, we wouldn’t be doing this without God and He’s been a constant source of strength and connection for this band.
E: What’s the message behind the video for “The Party Song”?
J: The song itself is written about Toby’s wife who got into the whole party scene pretty hard when she was younger as way to escape some hard times going on in her life then. It’s also about when Toby got to college, pretty much all his friends were into partying and stuff and so the songs talks about people trying to avoid their problems and looking to things like drugs, drinking, whatever to fix them. When we did the video for it, we didn’t really decided what was in it. We just gave our ideas to the director and he came up with something that fit the song. I don’t know if you can really convey the message through a video, but I hope it did.
E: I think it did. So, last question. Why are you only a man?
J: [Josh gave a long, really great answer to this question, but as I already said, my tape is bad, and I feel like I can’t even begin to reconstruct what was said, so I will summarize and tell you it has to deal with humility and recognizing our weaknesses and our dependence on God.]
E: Thanks so much. Anything else you’d like to add?
J: No, not that I can think of. Thanks for listening to us.
After my interview was officially over, Reuben asked a few questions that he just personally wanted to know, and since the rest of this has been put together from memory, I might as well include his questions and answers too.
R: I noticed in a lot of songs there’s a lot of trade-off vocals and just in general having two singers, how did you come up with the idea for that?
J: It’s just something we really like in music, harmonizing and the use of two voices. I wouldn’t say it’s something we came up with, I mean, certainly The Beatles did it with John Lennon and Paul McCartney, so yeah, it’s just something we really like in music and something we wanted to make sure we added into ours.
R: So what do you do to get ready for a show?
J: I just warm up my voice a little bit and then stretch for maybe 15 minutes. I should probably do more [laughs].
R: Some yoga…
J: [Laughs] yeah man. Well, it was nice to meet you guys. I gotta go do sound check. I’ll see you around later, I guess.
And whether he saw us or not, we most certainly saw him.
If you’re also interested in reading my review of the concert that night, click here.