interview by Guitar Doug
photos by Jo Riedl
Emeralds is a rock group that has been garnering much attention over the last several months in Seattle rock circles. The six man Stoner/psychedelic rock band was chosen for the King Cobra opening, has released an Ep, has been bringing in larger and larger crowds, and just returned from a West Coast Tour. The group also features members of two other well known bands, Kings English and Holy Ghost Revival, and are tied to those bands in sort of a musical brotherhood.
Emeralds' shows are loose, jam based, energy fueled extravaganzas that seem to work the audiences in a frenzy. Lead singer, Adam, comes off more as a shaman or a man having a sort of religious experience on stage rather than the singer of a rock group. That supernatural vibe slowly trickles from the stage into the audience, which by the end of the set creates an atmosphere in the room that is impossible to explain in a music column. "Mystical" was the word two friends used to described the Balagan theatre show who attended with me. Very unusual and something I would like to see more of is how I described the show.
The most recent Emeralds show I attended was the August 1, 2008 show at the Balagan theatre, which was filled to capacity and folks were being turned away at the door early on. The event featured several Seattle bands, and was thrown in honor of the the birthday of Sioux City Pete who was turning 40. The rock show was easily one of the most interesting shows I have seen in Seattle in months. The capacity crowds crammed against each other and pushing closer and closer to the stage, some dancing, some falling over each other, and all glued to the stage.
As the Emeralds set progressed the intense jam feel spurred Sioux City Pete to charge onto the stage, and grab the lead singer in a bear hug propelling them both to the ground, as Adam continued singing, like it was all part of the show. The entire band played as if nothing unusual was even going on around them, and everything was perfectly normal. In fact, not a person in the band even missed a note or even paid much attention as the pair rolled around on stage. This was typical of the evenings events, and there was not a person in the house that did not walk out the door drenched in sweat. The feeling that literally anything could or would happen at that particular Emeralds show was real, and what this band thrives on generating.
If Stoner rock is you game, then Emeralds is a must on your "to do list", even above cleaning that pesky resin out of that old bong on the shelf. It's a pretty safe bet that anyone who gets off on bands along the lines of The Grateful dead, The Black Crows, The Allman Brothers, or any band of that genre would be satisfied with an Emeralds show. This is not to say this is a hippy band, or something mellow, because it's not. The sound of Emeralds can get down right Heavy as Heavy can be. But, with the addition of a Hammond organ, the sound varies so widely putting this band into any particular genre is impossible.
The other difference with Emeralds is the size of the group. This is a six man rock group and the wall of sound created by such a large band must be experienced live to fully understand. While some bands in town can impress you musically with three or four guys, Emeralds six man wall of death virtually engulfs an audience. For my tastes Emeralds is one of my favorite bands around, and most in the loop are praising the band as a must see show.
Below is my interview with Guitarist Ryan of Emeralds conducted August 2008, for the Seattle Sinner Magazine:
How would you describe the sound of Emeralds and have you really nailed the sound you are shooting for as a group?
We all come from a punk background and as our musical tastes expand, so does our writing capability. Everyone in this band brings something to the table in the song writing process. Our strongest influences are Hard Rock/Blues, Heavy Metal, NWOBHM, Psych, and Hardcore Punk. It's really up to the listener though. There are a ton of ideas going on all the time, so I don't think we'll ever really have "nailed it".
Give me some background on how this band formed.
Adam and I have been in various punk and metal bands together in the past. Our last was a band called Detonator. From there we brought Ian and Nick from a thrash band called DeathAss, and changed the name and material. About a year into it, we added Aren to the keys and after numerous changes, we finally have Andy on bass. Both Andy and Aren were in the band King's English. We come from a cesspool of friends and musicians.
What are some of the benefits and drawback of playing in a six man band, and how did that come about?
Playing with that many musicians is cool. It helps with song writing and makes everything sound much fuller. There are a lot of drawbacks as well. Space is always an issue, but cramming in the van, onto the stage, and into people's houses can be fun. As we found out on tour, keeping everyone in the same area is also nearly impossible. This is the first band I've ever played in with a second guitar player, and I absolutely love harmonizing with Ian and trading ideas. Adding Aren's Hammond organ was also an interesting idea that worked out pretty sick as well. He provides that wall of sound, and additional solos and harmonies.
How has the addition of a Hammond changed the sound and the way you approach songwriting?
A lot of people absolutely love Hammonds. They create a sound that is undeniably bone-chilling. So, adding one was a no-brainer for me. Aren wanted a side project from King's English and we jumped at the chance to have him in our band, yet again adding to the dynamic.
Tell me about the new Ep.
The Ep was the brain child of Conner from Holy Ghost Revival. He got his label (1965) to get together with Antarctic Records to put out a comp of up and coming bands from Seattle. 1965 hooked us up with Ryan Hadlock and crew at Bear Creek Studios. That place was so fucking amazing! We only spent 2 days on 2 songs, No Time for Tomorrow and Heaven's So Far. Both songs are on the more mellow side, but I think they reflect well on the whole of the comp. Antarctic released our 7" and 1965 pressed the CD comp with King's English, Holy Ghost, and the Knast.
Emeralds just returned from tour? How did it go for the band?
We hit the road last June-July, for our first tour. We went with our friends Wildlife. They are from the Bay area, so they helped bring in the crowds. They were fucking cool dudes to tour with. We played in Santa Cruz with this band Mammatus who for stoner psych rock, are the next thing for sure. We could've done without the wildfires in California though. It was a hazy trip in more ways than one, but no real blunders, just good times!
What can fans of Emeralds expect in the next several months?
In the next few months we have some pretty radical things to look forward to. We haven't been playing too much since getting back from tour. We've been working on some new stuff and in October plan on getting together and recording the old songs and some new numbers for an LP and another EP. We've probably got about 2 albums worth of material and growing, we NEED to get it out of us. What happens when you go too long with "blueballs"? Well, it'll be like that, only in a Rockin sense. Does this even make sense? Anyways, we'll probably tour after that in Winter as well.
What would you like to say to the fans, promoters and clubs who have gotten behind Emeralds, especially over the last year?
You know who you guys are, and you should also know by now where you'd fit on our love/hate list. Keep doing what you are doing. You are making this haggard scene in Seattle worth rejuvenation. It's been really encouraging to find more and more of our peers getting shit done and keeping peoples interests in live music prevalent. Horns!