Emery has been one of the top hardcore bands in Christian music over the last decade. They’ve sustained member changes and a label change during that time. Within the last few years, Emery helped form BadChristian: an independent record label that also produces a weekly blog and podcast that addresses topics that are not always easy to talk about. I recently spoke with Emery member Matt Carter about the status of Emery’s upcoming record, the band’s history, and the BadChristian label/podcast.
Gabe: So about this upcoming album You Were Never Alone… when can we expect it’s release?
Matt: Well, (laughs) I promise it will eventually come out. The master is done so now it’s just a matter of setting a release date and doing the marketing. In the old days, people would say it’s a 4 month setup time. And I think we can shave some time off of that. So that would probably put it out in April but I’m not going to confirm a release date yet. But I’d like to see it out in April.
Gabe: What are some themes and inspirations that this record will have?
Matt: Yes, both musically and lyrically it has some very focused goals in mind. Musically, it’s really aggressive and raw. Everyone that’s heard it has remarked that it sounds like early Emery. For me, it’s just in the category of ‘aggressive’. So it’s less produced, more raw, and more real. It’s more live sounding to me. It sounds like a band playing these songs, not like a produced record that is so common today. I’ve really become sick of overproduced records. So we really wanted to make it a point that there’s no layering or anything. It’s just the track with the instruments played, performed, and put together well. So maybe it sounds like Jimmy Eat World’s Clarity in that sense.
Lyrically, Toby wrote all the lyrics. I’ll try to remark on it from his point of view. The lyrics are really storyteller and personal at the same time. The lyrics all tell a story from a point of view and then have the classic Emery personal reflection. I’m not going to remark very much more on the lyrics because I know Toby has more detailed thoughts on it. They’re not really my thoughts to necessarily give away. There is a lot of Toby and Devin both singing on the record. The lyrics, I think people will find them pleasing and really good.
Gabe: How much of that whole over-produced thing happens because a band is on a label compared to a band like Emery who is independent?
Matt: That’s a good question. I didn’t think of it that way… You could look at it that way but the real truth is labels, at least anyone I’ve ever dealt with, aren’t really that hands on in the production. Maybe that’s a little bit of a myth. I’m sure it has happened with some bands at some point in time. In our kind of music, it’s never really been a thing where the A & R guy comes in and says “You gotta do this”. Usually the band and the label work together and they usually make the assumption that the more produced it is, the more value it has. And that may have been true at some point but I feel personally like that has shifted. I don’t believe that is true anymore because high production value has become really ubiquitous in a sense. Bands, with not very good songs that aren’t very good, now have really good recordings with a lot of production on them. And that sounds funny, it just doesn’t make sense to my ears. So we’ve just rejected that kind of thing. And that kind of does go along with being independent or being around a long time. Or even just being real and honest like we talk about at BadChristian. It’s nice that the value lines up. But it’s not necessarily because the label was monkeying around with it in the first place.
Gabe: You guys have been around for about 15 years. What are some of the biggest struggles you’ve gone through as a band?
Matt: Yeah, we’ve been a band for close to that. Not quite 15 years but about 13. We’ve had a bunch of struggles. We had a time where we parted ways with our first bass player Joel “Chopper”. That was definitely a difficult time because it just wasn’t working out between him and us. We had to figure out how to sort that situation out. But now he’s a great friend and it ended up turning out great. But that was a scary time for us.
A little while after that we put out I’m Only a Man, and it under-performed significantly. We were really disappointed with that. That was a real gut check for us because we just assumed that everything we did would be successful and turn to gold. We had just done two records, The Weak’s End and The Question. They were both huge and bigger than the last. And we intended for that to continue but it didn’t. So that was difficult to reconcile what that meant. But I’d say in the long run, that was a good thing. It humbled us and made us realize how to be more realistic. I’m not saying I’m ashamed of the record particularly. But it’s weird to look back on that time and thinking through the stuff that surrounded where we were individually, professionally, personally, or musically at the time.
Matt: Well I do have to explain it from time to time in really awkward ways. When I went to open our bank account, they asked “What’s the name of your business” and I say “BadChristian”. And they just looked at me and said “ooook..” And then they ask, “Are you a Christian person or a Satanist business? What is this?” So, it does happen a lot especially in the professional world where I have to explain the name with absolutely no context. It is difficult. What it means to us is the pursuit of a Christian is: the pursuit of Jesus himself. We feel like that’s often twisted into: the pursuit of Christians is to appear to be good or to improve their image just to be a good example. That’s a false notion almost all of the time. We don’t even necessarily think there is such thing as a ‘good Christian’. We’re all bad Christians with a great Savior. We think Jesus is great and so it’s much more comfortable for us to say that we are not great. And that’s a better place to view Jesus from. The good Christian, or good image, is so overblown and has become essentially false in this day and age.
Gabe: And how would you describe the BadChristian podcast?
Matt: Well, the podcast is just exactly that in audio form. We thought we would just be sharing our points of view and thoughts just by blogging because we were just writing songs. And so when you write songs, you write like 12 songs every 2 years. And that’s all anyone ever knows about you. That became frustrating. As long as we’ve been around and with all of the stuff that we’ve done and seen, we wanted to share that. So we thought that we’d start writing it. But even that was kind of ineffective. What we’ve always longed for was for people to get to know us. The point of the podcast is for people to get to know Matt, Toby, and Joey. And then those people can take what they want from it whether if they think we’re good, bad, dumb…I don’t care. The point of it is to be known by other people and have our experiences shared. And people can take whatever they want from it. So, once we found and explored the podcast format, the response was so big… Because it’s the easiest way that we’ve found to communicate who we really are and what we really think in an authentic way. And that’s been more successful than just text on a page.