It's hard to think of emo music as a fixed genre, as much as it has become an umbrella term for the kind of rock music that — for a momentous period in time — empowered teenagers worldwide.
Beneath it lay genres and sub-genres that, over the years, have been lumped together unceremoniously. Pop-punk? It's emo. Post-hardcore? Emo. Midwestern indie rock? Emo. Theatrical hard rock? You bet your ass the G note is on its way. It's not merely a genre name, it's also the catch-all keyword for the music of millennial adolescence.
The simpler answer would be that emo music found its way to pop music at the turn of the millennium, and with it drew mainstream attention and hordes of eyeliner-wearing, Myspace-using fans. Their emotional capacities swayed with the pounding rhythms of bands like My Chemical Romance, Jimmy Eat World, and Taking Back Sunday, and they memorized songs word-for-word, keeping all angsty drama intact.
It didn't matter that not all of these bands identified with the term, or that some of them came from disparate scenes — the kids liked it, and they saw a unifying factor that drew them ever closer to sweaty moshpits.
Emo's reign in pop culture has winded down in the past decade or so, but it certainly has not fizzled in popularity. Amongst current club nights in Singapore, featuring Top 40 EDM favourites or hip-hop retrospectives, is one that has drawn relentlessly long queues every month.
EMONIGHTSG celebrates the best in emo music and — in an age where Paramore are practicing 80s-inspired synth-pop to an impressive degree —former kids are coming back to relive their best worst memories. It may not be a moshpit, but it's tight and sweaty enough for them.
We speak to the founders of EMONIGHTSG, also known as Look Ma, No Hands!, about what emo music means to them and what lies ahead. The collective will have all hands on deck at our upcoming Bandwagon Riverboat, featuring EMONIGHTSG and EATMEPOPTART. Presale tickets are already gone, but you can still get them at the door (if you're early enough).
Hi guys! First things first, please introduce yourselves and what role you have to play in Look Ma, No Hands!
Amelia: Hello, I'm Amelia. I do the art direction for our events – decor of the venues & our themed outfits. I also handle operations on event day and sometimes curate our warm-up playlists.
Bryan: Hello, I'm Bryan. I'm not a DJ but I perform the heavy sets at EMONIGHTSG. I'm also not a Creative Director cause there's no one to direct but myself haha. I brainstorm/execute ideas for content and campaigns making sure the designs are cohesive with the brand. Yeah, I also make the posters.
Edwin: Hello, I’m Edwin. I handle all the administrative duties and sometimes DJ at our nights.
Ritz: My name is Ritz, and I run operations on the night and occasionally DJ as well.
How was LOOK MA NO HANDS formed? And how was EMONIGHTSG conceived?
A: The idea first sparked in our minds when Bryan and I were clearing out old band t-shirts from his wardrobe, which felt like throwing away a big part of our lives that formed so much of who we are today. It was sad and we wanted to do something that could capture that era and somewhat immortalize it.
We bounced around a couple of ideas but eventually settled on "what if we threw a party that spun only emo music and see how many people (more like friends) turn up."
We brought this idea up to Edwin & Ritz (who were bandmates with Bryan) over beers at Koi and they were on board quickly. The four of us felt the same way about the music and wanted to make this happen. This was how our first EMONIGHTSG at Koi (RIP) happened and after seeing the reactions to that event, we knew we had to throw more of these parties. As it turned out, there were a lot of people like us.
Naturally, the four of us then formed Look Ma, No Hands! about a year after throwing a series of these parties, made it official, and are now dedicating serious time to building EMONIGHTSG and the company.
The first EMONIGHT at Koi was an immediate success. Was it instinctual to expand and follow it up with an even bigger edition?
A: For sure. We were genuinely surprised at the turn out at Koi and knew after that that we were definitely on to something. Moving the party to a bigger venue was important and we knew that in order to keep this going, we had to get a lot more people's attention and prove that this concept could work.
So after Koi, the next event that we held was at Refuge with Ryan Key from Yellowcard as a guest DJ. Looking back, that was actually pretty crazy to do, going from Koi to that. But I think that really catapulted us to a place that got people and even venues to take notice, which opened the door for us to start EMONIGHTSG: The B-Sides, our monthly nights at a club.
A behind-the-scenes look at EMONIGHTSG's recent one-year-anniversary night.
At what point did it start to feel like you guys began to get the hang of things?
E: I think it was only in January this year when we really got the hang of it. We came up with stronger concepts for our posters, décor and other marketing ideas.
We had a more consistent flow of how we want our nights to be and feel like. We also received plenty of feedback from the attendees so we made sure to improve on them until they had nothing left to complain about. (laughs)
What has been the most challenging thing about running EMONIGHTSG so far?
E: For me, it was always about finding that perfect venue. In an ideal world, we would like a place that is able to accommodate our growing crowd, provide the right experience for them while still pricing the cover charge/drinks affordably.
Which songs have surprisingly gone well with the local crowd? And which ones were shocking stinkers?
A: Bryan dropped Slipknot's 'Before I Forget' once and the crowd loved it, that was great. They like stuff from Underoath, Silverstein and other heavy bands too, which is always cool.
What kinda shocked us was I guess when the crowd didn't really know songs like 'Sic Transit Gloria... Glory Fades' and 'Jude Law and a Semester Abroad' from Brand New, and 'Ohio is For Lovers' by Hawthorne Heights for example, which are pretty definitive emo songs to us. I guess to each their own, right? We don't judge. Haha.
Going into specifics, name some of the most memorable moments of running EMONIGHTSG so far.
B: Once, a venue bailed on us a day before the event and that was probably the most memorable day for us. We managed to convince a really small Thai club in Golden Mile to hold the night there and stayed there till 5am working out the details and logistics.
We weren't sure how our crowd would react to partying in little Thailand and, at the same time, we weren't sure if the club staff knew what they were in for. The night turned out beyond amazing, easily our favourite one yet. The bar owner said we made Golden Mile history with that turnout and it only proved the solidarity for the EMONIGHTSG community.
EMONIGHTSG gives an opportunity to everyone to come together in one place to enjoy the songs they love, be it old or new.
But more than that, it is the community and camaraderie, the chance of being true to yourself and not being afraid to show it — being the alternative, period."
— Look Ma, No Hands!' Ritz Ang, on EMONIGHTSG's current role in Singapore's nightlife.
If EMONIGHTSG was able to bring in one live act to perform, who would it be and why? (Hard mode: the band still has to be active)
B: (First band to make me cry while watching live music) TAKING BACK SUNDAY on a Tell All Your Friends run.
Who would you imagine would be a great EMONIGHTSG DJ? Why?
B: I think calling what we do "DJ-ing" kind of discounts actual skilled DJs and turntablists so I'm really not a huge fan of that term. I believe anyone can "DJ" at EMONIGHTSG, it's essentially picking out a playlist. But not just anybody can engage the audience and get a party started like we do.
If I had to pick one, I'd say Post Malone. Just given his background in the scene, playing guitars and singing cleans in a post-hardcore band (hits a soft spot for me. Lol). I'm sure his song choices would be awesome and the guy definitely knows how to work a crowd. I wanted to say Skrillex aka Sonny Moore but I figured it'd be too obvious.
In your own opinion, what do you think EMONIGHTSG represents to the current millennial crowd? Tell us more.
R: EMONIGHTSG gives an opportunity to everyone to come together in one place to enjoy the songs they love, be it old or new. But more than that, it is the community and camaraderie, the chance of being true to yourself and not being afraid to show it — being the alternative, period.
"Emo nights" in the US have taken the party on the road across several states. Any chance of an EMONIGHTSG tour?
R: Well, we’ve already been in touch with some of these organizations to establish connections in other countries. And yes, if there's ever a chance or opportunity, we would love to do something along the lines of that.
We'll never know what the future holds for EMONIGHTSG. It's one of our goals to spread this culture across countries, and we can't wait to bring it to different places of any language or culture.
What's the next logical step for EMONIGHTSG?
R: We can't thank everyone enough for all the continued support in making this possible, from the venues to the attendees. We are well aware of the growing crowd and we are always on the lookout for bigger venues to accommodate everyone.
From an operation standpoint, we are actively adapting and implementing changes to make the overall experience better. We are also bringing the experience to more people by doing special events such as Bandwagon Riverboat. We are constantly coming up with new and interesting ideas to keep our nights exciting!
Look Ma, No Hands! also share with us their personal favourite albums from their favourite era in music.
Taking Back Sunday | Tell All Your Friends
A: Emo music to me lies heavily in the lyrics and it's what I gravitate to the most. This album was my first encounter with the band and the lyrics struck me. Maybe it's Adam Lazzara's vocals that make the words so believable, but I heard an honesty to their songs that was hard to ignore.
There is anger and vulnerability and it feels real and honest. Much of the lyrics were written in a sarcastically raw way, it's like listening to a really fragile cynic, which to me is very representative of an emo person (laughs).
It's comforting listening to this album and I love it. Everyone who's into this type of music definitely has to listen to this (and their other albums too).
Mayday Parade | A Lesson In Romantics
B: From the lyrical content, to the melodies, to the harmonies, to the song structures, to the mix. It was the soundtrack to my secondary school years. There's so much more to Mayday Parade than 'Three Cheers for Five Years'. (I think Go Radio deserves an honourable mention as well)
Fall Out Boy | From Under a Cork Tree
E: Sure, Fall Out Boy didn’t invent — or are considered pioneers within — the “emo” genre but this album propelled the emo/pop-punk scene or whatever you want to call it into mainstream consciousness and commercial success.
Suddenly, it was cool for everyone to be wearing eyeliners, skinny jeans and studded belts. They also paved the way for the newer, more modern “emo” bands under Fueled By Ramen such as Paramore and Panic! At The Disco (and look where they are now). Catchy melodies, witty wordplay and 19-word song titles, what more can one bargain for?
My Chemical Romance | The Black Parade
R: Undoubtedly one of the most timeless albums. The way they produced and record this album was refreshing to the genre and showcased their musicianship to both the old and new listeners.
Everything was so well thought out and so detailed from the cover art down to the concept of the album. From the first track to the last, the album takes me on a journey. And I love that a lot.
The next Bandwagon Riverboat will feature the likes of EMONIGHTSG, along with EATMEPOPTART, on November 10th. Come early to score a ticket at the door!