You’d be hard pressed to name bands who’ve faced an almost complete exile of members and leaving just one member to rebuild and continue on successfully, but one that you can reel off is Emmure. Back at the end of 2015, vocalist Frankie Palmeri saw all of his now former bandmates step down, leaving him to pick up the pieces.
Fast-forward to 2017, not only has Palmeri enlisted a completely new line-up – completed by guitarist Josh Travis, bassist Phil Lockett, and drummer Josh Miller – and released a brand new full-length in ‘Look At Yourself’, and been a part of this year’s Vans Warped Tour, but they’ve also wrapped up a busy 2017 by headlining the Impericon Never Say Die! Tour.
Whilst at the Manchester stop of the run, we caught up with Palmeri to talk about the new album, what tensions were like in Emmure before the previous line-up left, how he recruited the current era of the band, his new label Redzone Records, why they didn’t re-sign with Victory Records, and how he feels about their debut ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ now that it has hit its tenth anniversary.
DP!: You’re back in the UK headlining the Never Say Die! Tour. How does it feel to be back here?
F: We were here not too long ago. Actually, we were here last year, but we only did some festivals, I don’t think we got the chance to hit Manchester. I don’t really remember honestly. But, it’s good, I’m just happy to be on the road and performing the new record. It’s a good time. I’ve literally been coming to Europe every year since 2008, and the only year that I wasn’t hear was 2015, so pretty much 7 to 8 years of coming here.
DP!: Speaking of the new record, ‘Look At Yourself’, how’ve you found the reaction from both the fans and the critics?
F: To be honest, the reviews have been pretty positive, especially with the fans who have been following us for so long. A lot of people have said that the new album has kind of re-instiled their faith in the genre, or the band, or whatever the case. We’re happy with the results. The truth of the matter is that when we were going into it I felt positive about the material, so it feels good to see the fruits of your labour coming to fruition. It’s nice.
DP!: That’s great! I mean, talking about reinvigorating the genre – obviously, when Suicide Silence dropped their new album they got a lot of flack from the deathcore community. A lot of people have been saying “deathcore is dead.”
F: Nah, that’s not true. I mean, the truth of the matter is that whatever people are exposed to, that’s their point of reference, so there are a lot of great bands that maybe people haven’t heard yet. We just happen to have the ability to reach more people based on the work that we’ve done. Emmure has been active pretty much since 2003, so with 14 years of making noise you’re going to have that platform. My point being that it’s really all about what people are exposed to. I’m sure that there’s someone who might hear the new Suicide Silence record that has maybe never heard the band before, and they really dig it. It’s really all about what you’re exposed to.
DP!: Going back to your record, you dropped ‘Torch’ as the first single from it over a year ago now back in October. What made you choose that song specifically to lead fans into the new era of Emmure?
F: Yeah. We put that out in a pretty lengthy amount of time ahead of the album. There’s a lot of variables that go into picking shit like that. I think it was the safest song to present to fans letting them know that “Hey, we’ve got a new record coming out. This is a little taste of it.” It also has a lot of fanfare in terms of what people expect from hardcore metal, so it falls really in line with that kind of sound. There’s a whole bunch of different reasons, but, to put it simply, I thought it’d be a song that people really enjoy.
DP!: If we talk about another song from the album, ‘Flag Of The Beast’, you had on the original pressing a sample at the beginning. What’s that taken from, and why was it pulled?
F: I took it from this movie called Private Parts by Howard Stern (here). We didn’t get the rights from Universal Studios to actually have it on the official record, but it exists. It’s somewhere digitally. We have the sample, and we play it live, so people know that what it is.
DP!: Sure. I mean, for example, I heard it on the promo pressing that we received.
F: Exactly. It’s there, but unfortunately it just didn’t make it to the final pressing.
DP!: Between ‘Look At Yourself’ and your previous record ‘Eternal Enemies’, obviously things were very turbulent for you and Emmure. What were things like internally within the band before the former group of people that completed the band stepped down?
F: Things had diluted pretty much entirely even before ‘Eternal Enemies’ came out. Relationships had kind of winded down to a minimum, so it wasn’t a huge surprise to me that anything happened. It was unfortunate how it all went down, but looking back on it I’m glad that it happened, because I’m in a much better place now.
DP!: In terms of behind-the-scenes, because the public and the fans will only see a certain side and extremity of things, when it was announced that they’d all walked away what was your mindset? Was there ever a moment where you considered putting Emmure into some form of hiatus or stopping completely?
F: I had maybe literally a flash moment of my life where I didn’t know exactly what decision I was going to make. I was at a crossroads, and I just decided “Fuck it”, and I was going to go and keep moving. I wasn’t going to let this stop me. The ex-members had publicly announced their departure on December 22nd 2015, and I already had a new line-up recruited in October. So, the moment that they had quit, *clicks fingers* I had a new band.
DP!: So it was a pretty quick turnaround, and there wasn’t a long period of trying to search for new members?
F: No, not at all. It was definitely turbulent like you said before, and it was definitely something hard to navigate through at first, but I made the necessary plans and steps to make sure that it all came together. I was lucky enough to have a relationship with Josh that was pre-existing because we had been friends for so long, so it kind of all just fell together.
DP!: Talking about Josh, this moves onto my next question nicely. How did the new line-up come together and form into what Emmure is now?
F: I called Josh one night, just to kind of spit the shit, and I said “Hey, look, this is what’s happened with the band, and nobody knows yet. Do you wanna do this?”, and he was like “I’m onboard”, and then I was like “Alright, cool. Who’s gonna play bass and drums?”, and he goes “I know some guys that are gonna fit the bill perfectly”, so I was like “Alright, sounds great”, and I kind of put my trust in him. Now, here we are, and I have these dudes in the band that are beyond capable and great to be around, and it’s all around just a better experience.
DP!: Was there a buffer period where you were just get to know each other and build a rapport between one another?
F: We went from not knowing each other to touring *clicks fingers* like that.
DP!: Wow, so really quick then?
F: Yeah. I had never met Baby J (Josh Miller) or Phil until we had – well, I had met Phil prior to our first rehearsal, but I hadn’t met Baby J until we had played in a room together.
DP!: Quite a lot on the line I suppose, like if it didn’t work out?
F: I mean, hey, I guess it was part luck and also the fact that, and I mean this sincerely, they’re just great dudes who understand what it takes to be a part of this and are happy to be doing it, and it all just kind of came together.
DP!: And they were all onboard with what Emmure is and the mission plan for Emmure from the beginning?
F: The mission has always just been to create music that we’re passionate about, and to share it with people. That’s really it. Other than that, everything else is kind of an illusion. I don’t really focus on anything else other than being proud of what we’ve done and what we’re doing.
DP!: Along with a whole new line-up, you also made the move from Victory Records to a new label in SharpTone Records. What made you want to make that label move? You were with Victory with all of your records previously.
F: Well, Victory Records kept writing me cheques, so that’s why I kept re-signing. I’m sure that they probably wanted to re-sign us again, but I decided to take the change and go to a new platform to kind of give a new air to the band. SharpTone is a much fresher and newer label, and they’re also teamed up with Nuclear Blast which gives us another hand in the project to help bring this even further. It’s just a way better situation to put it simply. It was kind of a no brainer.
DP!: Was there ever a discussion with Victory to re-sign?
F: I think Tony Brummel (founder of Victory Records) had emailed me with like “Hey, let’s talk”, but I never replied.
DP!: Talking about labels, you recently announced that you’ve started your own: Redzone Records. How did that venture come together? Is it just you?
F: Yeah, it’s all me, and it’s all DIY. I run the whole thing. I had come across this band from Texas called Sentenced To Burn, and I was like “Dude, you guys aren’t signed? This is insane. You guys are so good”, so I basically just told them “Look, if no one wants to fuck your band and no one wants to help you guys, I’ll help you guys and I’ll make shit happen.” I just felt like it was so good that it just needed the attention, and that’s pretty much what it came down to. If I hadn’t found that band, I probably would never have done it, but I was like “You know what, dude? This shit is fucking good.” I’m such a fan of it that I want everyone to be a fan of it. That’s how I am with everything, you know? Anything that I’m passionate about I’m always looking to share it with other people, because that to me is what enhances the culture, and allows people to push the agenda much further. Being in metal and hardcore is so niche and so objected to people, they just don’t understand it, so I’m always championing the advancement of the sound and of the genre. I think Sentenced To Burn are a great staple of that.
DP!: Are there any other bands that you’re looking at signing?
F: There are bands that I’m talking to that are very much going to be a part of the roster, but that’ll all come out pretty soon.
DP!: Do you not think it’s going to be hard to manage? I mean, obviously, you’re already in an internationally touring band.
F: Honestly, today was the only day on this tour that I haven’t been behind my computer all day. Usually, I’m waking up and I’m sitting on my laptop for four to five hours, and then I’m behind the merch table for four to five hours, and then I’m onstage for forty-five minutes, and then I’m offstage and back on my computer for another two hours, and so I’m always working.
DP!: No rest for the wicked.
F: Yeah, exactly. I never really like taking a day off. Today was the only day that I woke up and I didn’t really have much to do. I’m very much the kind of person that once my eyes are open, I have to do something.
DP!: Just constantly working?
F: Always, and I love it. Honestly, I love it. If it was something that I wasn’t passionate about or something that I didn’t care about, I wouldn’t spend the time on it, but I love helping people. I love being able to take up bands that have all of the right elements and bringing them to that next plateau. With Emmure, it was a lot of stuff that I had to figure out on my own, and if I have the ability to help somebody navigate through that, then why wouldn’t I?
DP!: Just paying it forward, right?
F: You’re right. Absolutely.
DP!: You were talking earlier about how long the band has been together, and this year was the ten year anniversary of your debut, ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’. How does it feel to know it has been a whole decade since you’ve put that out?
F: It’s cool. It’s great that people still look at that record and think that it’s a staple for the time. My new thing that I tell people is that “‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ is a good record, but it’s 2007 good. It’s not 2017 good.” If ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ came out right now, people would be like, “This is fucking awful.” I know it. For the time though, it was great. It really was a little ahead of the curve of what other bands were doing because we were willing to take more risks; vocally, with the riffs, with how the parts came together. We were all just feeding off of each other with what we enjoyed, and that’s why the record sounds the way that it does. I’m happy that people still look at it as a pivot for the band. which it really is, but other than that it’s just a point in time for me, more or less.
DP!: Are you not a fan of the record?
F: I think that for 2007, it’s great. It’s fucking great. We nailed it. But, if that record came out today, it would be garbage. It would not get the attention that it got back then. It was only ahead of its time because of when it came out. If it came out now, being in the midst of all of these bands that exist, it would’ve just been lost and we’d have been like another fucking band. I think it did the job for its time, and I think that the new record is the best version of the band right now. I’m sure if I put a record out in the year 2030 hypothetically, I would say the same thing. I’d be like, “Well, that record is great for then”, but because of how trends change, and how sound evolves and everything, you always need to kind of follow that in order to keep up.
DP!: I suppose the way that ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ was marketed as well may have had an effect. I mean, MySpace back then was massive, now no-one touches MySpace…
F: Well, I mean, I don’t think that it has much to do with what your platform is for how you present something. I just think that the content of the album – the riffs, the songs, the lyrical content – would make no sense right now. It just wouldn’t. But, at the time, being the age that I was, the age of the band, and the year that it was a decade ago, so much has happened since then. To think that ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ could come out now and have the same impact is literally daft. It makes no sense.
DP!: So, there was never an intention to jump on the trend as of late to do a tour or a one-off show when a band reaches the ten-year anniversary of a record to perform the album from front-to-back?
F: I’m not a hater. I’m not saying that doing that isn’t cool. I think that when bands cater to fans and give them that opportunity to see a tour like that that maybe they never got to – like, there’s people who are like, “Oh, I never got to see the band that year because I was 11 or 12, and so I missed out.” I get it, but, to me, having to be in it and to be the artist is that it’s so retrograde, and such a step backwards in terms of how far we’ve come that I would never want to do that. I subscribe fully to the idea that our new album is the best Emmure album to date. It is. So, why would I ever want to waste my time going backwards? Again, some bands do it, and I think it’s cool. I saw Korn do the twentieth anniversary for their first album, the self-titled, and that was great. I was so happy to be there. There is definitely something to be said about that, but, what people need to understand is that it’s not like ‘Goodbye To The Gallows’ is a platinum record. You know what I’m saying? People like it, I get it, but it’s not like it made my life so dramatically different that I owe anyone to do that.
DP!: Well, I guess it did kind of change your life to an extent.
F: But I’m not in a place where I need to go back there and do that again because of what it meant at the time. That to me isn’t really important. I’d much rather focus on now. To me, the best times are now. I have no reason to relive that album. It just doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t have any interest in it.
DP!: You appreciate it for what it is and what it did, but it stays back there.
F: Absolutely. Absolutely.
DP!: Obviously you’re doing Never Say Die! for the rest of the month. What’s planned for the last few weeks of the year and for 2018?
F: We have a lot of plans. Next year we’ll be internationally touring, doing Australia, Japan, South America, and we’ll come back here at some point next year. We’re just kind of out there promoting the new album, just doing the regular grinds.
DP!: How about personally for Christmas and New Years. Any plans in place?
F: I don’t know. I’m sure I’ll find out. I mean, it’s the holidays. I’ll be at home, just going with the flow.
The band’s new album, ‘Look At Yourself’, is out now through SharpTone Records.
Interview by Zach Redrup (@zachredrup)