Interview with Toby Morrell of Emery

You guys don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. Congratulations on all the success so far.

Thanks, man.

First on the agenda is your brand new tour with To Speak of Wolves and Hawkboy. Did you know of both bands before they signed on as supporting acts?

Yeah, a little bit. I’m pretty excited. I think both bands are going to be really good. There will be a bunch of local [bands] as well. It’ll be interesting to see a bunch of bands that we don’t know at all.

Absolutely. With Emery’s new album ‘We Do What We Want’ coming out at the end of March, what new songs can fans expect to hear on tour?

We’re going to be playing several, including “Cheval Glass,” “Scissors,” “The Curse of Perfect Days,” “You Wanted It,” and “I Never Got to See the West Coast.” In the middle of our set we’ll be doing a few acoustic songs. So, we’ll be playing four or five new songs.

Cool. I like that title, “I Never Got to See the West Coast.” Where did you pull that from?

Actually, it’s a lyric in the song. So I just used the lyric for the title. [chuckles]

Fair enough. You’ve said many times before that this is Emery’s heaviest album.

Yeah, it is. We had originally intended to write an acoustic album and then we were like, “Nah.” Our old singer Devin [Shelton] was leaving the band, so we were like, “Let’s just see what we can do.” We started writing some different music and it was coming out really heavy. So we put a hold on the acoustic album, but there were two songs that felt like they just fit on this record. Even though it’s our heaviest record, we kind of just felt like these two songs lyrically went well with the rest of what this album is going for. We’re still going to try to put out an acoustic album — unplugged, with new songs and everything.

And what makes it the band’s heaviest record? The arrangements, the production, crazier vocals? More guitars?

I think it’s just more screaming, probably more breakdowns — things we haven’t explored as much in the past. We just kind of wanted to do it. [laughs] It’s like the title, we do what we want. We had never gone this heavy of a route. We just kind of wanted to see what would happen and push ourselves a little bit. We’ve done a bit of everything and we definitely don’t want to be a band that always puts out the same record. We always want to try to do something different; to expand and express ourselves in different ways. That was the main goal with this record — to keep this more interesting and fun.

Guitarist Matt Carter took the producer’s chair on this album. In the past, you’ve worked alongside a few well-known producers, perhaps most notably Aaron Sprinkle. This is the first one with Matt alone, right?

Yeah, it is. Aaron put in a little bit of input on stuff because we did record it at the studio in Seattle where Aaron and Matt work, but Matt is the producer of this record, for sure. I think it turned out great. We’re kind of at a point in our career where we know what we want to hear and where we’re headed. We just wanted to do it DIY and have the songs come out exactly how we wanted them to.

Sure. It seems like you guys have a clear vision.

Yeah, I think we do. We’ve been a band now for like ten years. We’re definitely not against outside input, but I think on this record we just wanted to see what we could do.

Was the approach different this time around?

This time was really different without Devin. The primary writers were me, Matt and Devin. We write all the music and then we bring it to the band, they put in their two cents if they want, and then the song’s done. It was a little bit different because only Matt and I were writing. We did everything piece by piece. It was done over several months in two week increments. Another good thing about doing it yourself is that Dave [Powell] and I both have kids. It’s hard to be gone for a whole month, then be back home, and then go back on the road for another month. This way, we were able to do bits and pieces at a time. Honestly, it worked out better because by doing it for that long we were able to listen to the music. If you just do it in a month, you lay down the drums and they’re done; you lay down the guitars and they’re done; but this way we were able to change parts and do some things we wouldn’t have done in the past. I guess the biggest thing is Devin not really being on the record. It was a different writing process.

And not having Devin come out on the road with you must feel a little different. Will you be arranging the songs in different ways?

Maybe a little bit. I’ll be basically the lead singer now. Usually we traded off, but now we won’t. We have a guy out with us named Andy Nichols from the band Queens Club. He’s an unbelievable musician and a really great guy. It’s kind of funny because we were like, “Who can we get?” We were racking our brains, calling a bunch of people. Andy was the one who ended up wanting to come and was excited about it. He was able to learn everything. He’ll be doing a lot of singing, back up parts and stuff like that, and he’ll be playing bass. And during the acoustic part, we’ll both play a little guitar too.

Some other news that was recently announced was that Emery is joining Solid State Records’ roster.

Yeah, it’s really cool and we’re happy to be there. There are so many bands that we know and we like that are on the label. I mean, Tooth & Nail and Solid State are kind of one and the same, but it’s just kind of a good feeling to be wanted by another part of your company and be able to join all the awesome bands. It’s a great roster and to be a part of that is something that we’re very proud of.

Tell us a little more about the band’s upcoming acoustic album. Are any of the songs already written?

Yeah, we already have a bunch of new songs written. What I would like to do is write a bunch of new songs completely acoustic with no distortion and then maybe ask our fans for a couple of old songs they would love to hear with acoustic guitar or piano. That would be kind of neat. We’ve definitely done a bunch of our regular songs as acoustic songs, but I wouldn’t mind doing a few more. I’d love to get the acoustic album out before the end of the year, but we’ll have to see with touring [schedules] and what Tooth & Nail would want us to do with it. They might not be too happy about putting another album out that soon, but we’re definitely going to try.

How are the new music videos coming along?

About a month ago, we recorded two videos: one for “Cheval Glass” and one for “Scissors.” I’m really excited about them. I think they’re going to turn out really good. The director, Van, did a great job. From what I’ve seen already, they’re probably going to be the best videos we’ve had. We actually haven’t had good luck on videos at all. [laughs] We’re kind of a cursed band when it comes to videos because our videos never turn out like we thought they would, or hoped they would. This time they’re going to be really good.

Sweet. You and Matt have a little side project called The Water and the Well that you’re working on, right?

Yeah. I had started something a couple years back called I Am Waldo. It was kind of like writing some psalms and hymns in a different way. The Water and the Well will be doing a few shows this year and it’s all about capturing the hymn-vibe. I’ve always really enjoyed hymns a lot. We’ll be redoing some old hymns and writing new ones. We’re really excited about it. I think it’s going to something really good, for sure.

Great. It sounds like you guys have a lot going on.

Yeah, it’s going to be a busy year, but exciting as well.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Toby.

Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

Pick up Emery’s new album We Do What We Want.

For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their official website.