Oakland crust-punk act, Embers has been smashing up house parties and diy venues since 2004. They’ll be gracing the stage at Wandering Goat this Friday and we had the pleasure of asking Kelly Nelson (Bass/Vocals) and Steven DeCaprio (Guitar) a few questions about the tour, and the history of Embers.
I’ve heard your music described as everything from punk to blackened crust to hardcore. How would you describe your music at this point?
Kelly: I think blackened crust is the most appropriate way to describe our music. Most of our listeners have referred to us as some kind of interpretive hybrid of black metal. While more our song structures tend to be more complex than crust, we have all been influenced by bands like Amebix. I’ve never actually heard anyone refer to our music as “hardcore.” I don’t think we have any really connection musically to that genre.
Steven: We definitely have strong roots in the crust and hardcore punk scenes. From the moment I picked up a guitar I have been inspired by both metal and punk, and everything I have played over the years has been a cross-over of the two genres. However since Embers was founded we have been more focused on composition. We don’t spend much time as a band discussing genre. We have always focused on writing songs that convey particular moods rather than emulate a particular style. That said we have community with and derive inspiration from the crust scene so it isn’t surprising that our music would develop along those lines so I would agree that blackened crust is an acceptable descriptor.
Embers’ web presence outside of facebook looks something like that of a band currently on hiatus or currently inactive. A tour obviously says otherwise. How stoked should we be? Does a return to the road mean the possibility of a new record? Does Embers just have a strong distaste for self-promotion?
Steven: I would say I have a love/hate relationship with promotion. Before we formed Embers I had given up on the punk scene as a musician. It seemed that even in the punk scene there was an increasing trend toward a consumer mentality. After that Kelly approached me to start a new music project which would become Embers. What reeled me back in was the bond of family that Kelly and I have. I decided that it was more important to share the experience of making music with my friends than to worry about the music scene or music industry.
After playing with Embers for a while we decided that we wanted to “promote” the band. Since then we have taken turns doing promotion. Once we started promotion I would throw myself into it and found the challenge to be somewhat exciting. However all of us have other endeavors that take up a lot of our time outside the band so we are unable to maintain a constant presence.
Kelly: The Embers website needs to be revamped. Once a new site is up, we’ll notify folks via social media. The Bandcamp page has been much more supported by the general public for merchandise sales and other relevant information. We do have plans to record another album in 2015. We’re all very much looking forward to that pressing and plan to debut several brand new songs on our upcoming tour. Anyone who would like to promote Embers is encouraged to do so. Most of us run our own businesses in the Bay Area and stay super busy so any additional support is greatly appreciated.
What survival tips do you have for new touring musicians. How do we not drive our band mates crazy on tour?
Steven: I’m not sure. Things have changed so much since I started booking tours. Do new touring musicians have any survival tips for old touring musicians? That’s what Embers could really use.
Kelly: Good question..it’s like any relationship really. Open communication and conflict resolution skills are important. Sometimes being on the road and in each other’s faces require stress management skills as well. My one biggest piece of advice, “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and HAVE FUN!
Steven: There are things Embers does on tour, but I would hardly call ourselves a role model. The one thing that I would say is to not bite off more than you can chew. There is nothing worse than cancelling shows at the last minute or not showing up when you have agreed. You also don’t want to run out of money or return home to find that your life has completely fallen apart. Make sure you have a working vehicle, sufficient savings, a plan when you return home, and give yourselves huge time margin to make it to every show.
I think the best approach is to focus on your local scene first, then expand by touring within the region, then try to make connections with folks willing to support you further out. Don’t just randomly book a tour in half way across the country or the world. If you build up some support in your region while promoting your music online then you should make connections eventually with supporters that will help you take that next step.
As far as driving band mates crazy is concerned Embers is probably the last band you should ask. Perhaps that’s the other reason we always tour for less than a month.
How do you think Embers has grown since Memoria In Aeterna?
Steven: Most of the songs on Memoria in Aeterna were written by Kelly, Jerry, and me before the others joined the band. Because of this there wasn’t a strong emphasis on the harmonization between instruments. The layers on that album are derived from the various improvisations by Nine, Lillian, and Timm playing over the structure of the songs.
Kelly: Our music has grown as the co-creative process through intuitive connection in the band has grown. The new material is more rhythmically, harmonically and emotionally complex. Again, like any relationship, it’s a ongoing journey of exploration through expression.
Steven: With subsequent albums we focused more on harmony, and were much more intentional about the way the instrumentation was integrated into the song structure. In this way the newer material is more complex than our earlier material even though the instrumentation is less dense.
House shows or small venues?
Kelly: This tour I believe is mostly in venues but we always love a rowdy house show!
Steven: I hate to make a broad generalization because both can be bad or good depending on the situation. I guess at this point I prefer small venues because it seems that shows in small venues tend to be better organized more often than house shows.
New socks or new strings?
Steven: I just bought new strings, and my socks are threadbare so clearly I prioritize strings. Of course at this point I would pick socks because I’m doing good in the sock department. I’m sure Jerry would pick socks because what is a drummer going to do with strings anyway?
Kelly: That’s a funny question! I gather you are in a band and looking for advice. Don’t put on new strings in the middle of a tour unless you have the time to re-EQ your amp. New strings need to be worn in and can change your sound. Changing nasty socks will be appreciated by your band mates. If your band mates are happy, you will be happy.
Embers will be tearing down The Wandering Goat Friday the 24th at 8pm with Kaoxifer and Aether Wrought. If you aren’t in Eugene, check out their facebook for more tour dates.