What Happens When an Emo Band Grows Up?

Certain types of music make all kinds of sense when you’re young, angry, confused, scared, alienated and poor. But as we grow up, a lot of these problems are resolved or melt away. For example, it would be a bit weird to hear a 37-year-old guy sing the same emo songs he performed as a 20-year-old. Consequence of Sound looks at the situation of the aging emo-maniac.

For better or worse, emo has always been labeled as a teenager’s domain. The reasons for this may never be entirely concrete. Some argue it’s because the music’s dominant quality is sincerity, and sincerity is most often associated with youth. Others say it has to do with a certain immaturity — an innocence, even a simplicity — that stems from being a teenager or early twentysomething.

So if emo isn’t “grown-up” music, the question then becomes: What happens when you’re still playing emo 10, 15, 20 years after you wrote the songs? Does the love for the genre carry over into old or even middle age?

This is a question Keith Latinen has struggled with at times. In 2006, Latinen was a 22-year-old who had been in his share of unsuccessful bands. He had even named his latest project, Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate), after how out of reach things seemed; “Empire! Empire!” represented the dreams that were always out of reach, and “(I Was a Lonely Estate)” represented how incomplete those dreams felt.

In the decade since its founding, Empire! has become a staple of the so-called “emo revival,” but at the time no such thing existed. “When we started, no one was playing this type of stuff,” Latinen remembers. Ten years later, the genre is more popular than ever, but Empire! is coming to an end. Why now?

“It just felt like time to open a new chapter and close this one,” Latinen explains. “When our drummer left last time, I just stopped playing music. I wouldn’t pick up a guitar unless we had to, and then there was no reason because we weren’t playing any shows. I was sort of waiting for it to come back to me, because I don’t think you can force it.”

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “What Happens When an Emo Band Grows Up?

  • May 10, 2016 at 11:58 am

    A much more likely explanation is that Emo is horrible, and as soon as the bands playing it grow up, they realize that. At least that’s what I hope… I can’t wait to put the nail in that coffin.


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