How does a successful band, with thousands of devoted fans, hundreds of amazing live shows, a debut that shattered all expectations and spectacular musical skill follow-up its debut? The answer is simply The Question. Emery's second album for Tooth & Nail, The Question has already exceeded expectations - in fact, the release debuted in August 2005 at #45 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. No easy feat for a band that, just four years ago, had barely formed.
Emery's roots can be traced back to Rock Hill, South Carolina, where members Chopper, Toby Morrell, Devin Shelton and Matt Carter all attended the same university. The four had been playing in separate bands at the time while in college, and upon graduation decided to form what would become Emery. Soon after forming, the group opted to leave their South Carolina hometown, and to settle in Seattle.
"We wanted a change of lifestyle," says Chopper. "We grew up in South Carolina and we really didn't see a future as a band there. We really knew we had to move somewhere, to a place with a definite music scene."
The group departed from South Carolina in the early hours of September 11, 2001 and learned of that morning's tragedies while at a food stop in North Carolina. It was an intense situation for the nation, and Emery were understandably affected by the tragedies, bringing members emotionally closer to one another while on their journey westward.
Adding keyboardist Josh Head, Emery began playing locally in their new hometown and spent a year writing songs for their debut album. "We got to the point where it was like, we need a real, tangible record, so we can give it to a label and say, 'Here, we have this, please release it,'" says Chopper.
In 2003, Emery tracked their debut, dubbed The Weak's End, with producer Ed Rose. Self-financing the operation, the band knocked out the sessions in a rapid two weeks. After the sessions wrapped, Emery hit the road on smaller, regional touring stints and performed at 2003's Cornerstone Festival. Upon returning to Seattle, the group finalized their deal with Tooth & Nail and released The Weak's End in January 2004.
After tour dates with bands like Hawthorne Heights and Eighteen Visions, Emery was back in Seattle, penning tracks for their second Tooth & Nail album. In 2004, Emery's previous drummer had left the act to get married, so the group enlisted the talents of 19-year-old drummer Dave Powell, whose band Bowels Of Judas had played with Emery while in North Carolina. The group spent five weeks recording with producer Aaron Sprinkle (MXPX, Pedro The Lion) in early 2005. The end result was The Question, a more diverse album than The Weak's End, most notably with a striking balance ofdelicate melodies and uncompromising muscle.
Part of The Question's sonic direction stems from a wide array of listening inspirations. Chopper notes that Morrell's Queen influences led him to pen "Listening To Freddie Mercury," a song that's a veritable roller coaster of musical ideas. "It starts out fast and heavy, and then changes to an almost Willy Wonka, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory feel," says Chopper. "It's a dance-y, weird, magical kind of thing." "Left With Alibis and Lying Eyes"moves carefully at its start, only to unleash a chorus that's equally catchy as it is up-tempo. "The first part reminds me of an old Led Zeppelin song, like a slow kind of build," says Chopper. "Then the chorus hits and it's full blast all the way through." Emery's timeless intensity can also be spotted on tracks like "Returning The Smile You Have Had >From The Start," sporting synchronized, driving rhythms and epic choruses.
In the summer of 2005, Emery headlined the Smartpunk stage of the Vans Warped Tour, performing on the entire summer-long event. Visually differentiating themselves from the multitudes of look-alike acts, Emery opted to wear matching outfits. "It's goofy, it's fun and the festival's so crazy, it's like, how do you tell one band from the other?" says Chopper. "It helps makes us stand out a little more. You can't take yourself too seriously."
Nevertheless, Emery appears serious about their accomplishments, forging ahead, delivering distinctive sounds to both stages and stereos. "We're totally blown away," says Chopper, in regards to the band's recent success, "we can't believe it." And as for an answer to The Question, simply pressing play will likely offer the best response.