Emo. The word conjures so many images. For your average American, it will make them think of black eyeliner, wrist-cutting, and essentially hair metal for the '00s. For hardcore kids, they'll think of Jawbreaker.
But either way you slice it, emo has had its ups and downs as a genre and has changed in many ways over the years, leaving it ill-defined and currently not particularly popular. So what's an emo to do but jump to a different genre and start a new career in a new town?
It's a fairly common tactic: Ditch the makeup and trendy clothes for something vintage and start anew. It's what the hair-metal kids did when that went out and they got into grunge. It's what the deathcore kids did when that went out and they became hipsters.
It's what hipsters did when that got too mainstream and they got into dubstep. In any case, here's my picks for the ones that have made the most successful transitions into a new world.6. Jon Jameson and Brandon Young (Noise Ratchet and Delta Spirit):
Bassist Jon Jameson and drummer Brandon Young started off as the rhythm section of emo outfit Noise Ratchet in the early '00s.
The band was always on the precipice of blowing up during the emo movement that was taking place at the time, but never seemed to break out. They ended up signed with American Recordings and were recording with Foo Fighters go-to guy Nick Raskulinecz, but the album never materalized due to label issues.
The band broke up shortly afterward, and James and Young went on to join currently much more successful Americana act the Delta Spirit, who play Fitzgerald's April 12.5. Jesse Lacey (Brand New):
When Brand New started, they were very much an emo band with a lot of pop-punk influences. Their early sound was not far removed from what one might expect to find on a Fall Out Boy album.
They managed to make quite a name for themselves with their second album Deja Entendu, capturing the hearts and minds of every self-serious emo kid in the world. But they were still reviled by critics up until the release of 2006 album The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, when they dropped the emo pretense and moved into serious indie-rock. As they've moved further toward alternative-rock influences rather than emo, they've become critical darlings.
4. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (At the Drive-In, The Mars Volta): At the Drive-In propelled the emo genre into the mainstream with their hit "One-Armed Scissor" in 2000, becoming one of the first bands in the genre to emerge into the spotlight.
However, just as they were about to become superstars and influence a thousand emo imitators to step up and capture their wave, singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez ditched their band and their genre to expand into the progressive and psychedelic-rock genres with experimental band The Mars Volta.
It paid off for them since they had a major hit in 2005 with their song "The Widow," went to No. 3 on the Billboard charts with their 2008 album The Bedlam in Goliath, and netted themselves a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance for "Wax Simulacra" in 2009. Although get ready for the upcoming reunion of At the Drive-In for all your emo nostalgia.
3. Derek Miller (Poison the Well, Sleigh Bells): Derek Miller started out his career playing in the post-hardcore/metalcore band Poison the Well. They blended genres perfectly, making numerous innovations in redefining what the genres limitations were.
Miller was along for the ride for most of their career, including their most popular albums, for which he wrote most of the band's severely emo lyrics. The song "Slice Paper Wrists" successfully embodies everything people love and hate about the genre. But after quitting Poison the Well, Miller took off to form the noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells with Alexis Krauss, recently playing on SNL and completing two critically acclaimed albums thus far.
Poison the Well without Miller played to some of the smallest crowds of their career shortly before breaking up in 2010. One has to imagine Miller laughing all the way to the bank, completely assured in his decision to leave his emo days behind.
2. Isaac Brock (Modest Mouse) When Modest Mouse formed, they recorded a full-length album entitled Sad Sappy Sucker (Chokin on a Mouthful of Lost Thoughts). That album didn't see the light of day until well after Modest Mouse had hit it big as a popular indie-rock band, but it reveals the sketchy origins of Brock's songwriting, showing that as a youth in the early '90s he was picking up on all the tropes that made up the emo genre of the time.
"Every Penny Fed Car" (see video above) may be the quintessential example of Modest Mouse's twinkly emo phase.
1. Skrillex aka Sonny Moore (From First to Last) In the early '00s, big hair and eyeliner was indeed what seemed to define emo, and along came a band called From First to Last that cohesively mixed metalcore's screaming and breakdowns with emo to become a staple of the genre.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Their frontman Sonny Moore's cry to "ride the wings of pestilence" captivated a fanbase and led to Moore getting his first taste of success at age 16. But none could have foreseen that by changing his style and making electronic music that Moore would take off bigger than ever as a solo dubstep artist known as Skrillex.
Just this year he got nominated for four Grammys and won three, possibly the greatest achievement by an ex-emo ever.