Slaves' Jonny Craig Has His Issues, But His Band Is Still Great

Slaves front man Jonny Craig in their video for the single "Running Through the !6! With My Soul."
Slaves front man Jonny Craig in their video for the single "Running Through the !6! With My Soul."

Jonny Craig is one of the most important singers of my generation. He is also a massive douchebag. Reconciling those two facts is difficult for the best of us, but I've learned to love him, warts and all. His new band, Slaves, represents some of his best work yet, and it's time fans stopped letting our judgment of Craig's actions, past and present, get in the way of that.

For the unfamiliar, Craig has been quickly amassing a considerable résumé in various genres. He started off as the clean singer for post-hardcore group Dance Gavin Dance, quickly capturing the hearts of emo kids around the world and undoubtedly becoming the band's breakout star. They've never been as popular or musically stellar as when Craig was a member.

However, he was fired acrimoniously after DGD's first full-length, and immediately rebounded by joining up with Emarosa. Another post-hardcore band, Emarosa were very similar to Dance Gavin Dance, but without the addition of an unclean vocalist. Craig's hiring as a singer similarly boosted their profile, and his run with them is still their best work as well.

He remained a member of Emarosa through a series of other high-profile projects, including a super group called Isles and Glaciers with Chiodos front man Craig Owens, an R&B solo record, and a reunion album with Dance Gavin Dance. After allegedly scamming fans out of their money by selling nonexistent laptops over Twitter, Craig was fired from Emarosa and Isles and Glaciers. Dance Gavin Dance again fired him a few months later after he supposedly had a drug-fueled breakdown on tour.

Since then, Craig has released a new EP, clearly inspired by The Weeknd, and joined his most recent band, Slaves. Controversy has continued to surround him after members of Slaves have been fired under dubious circumstances and Craig has been accused of sexually harassing women on Warped Tour, which led to Slaves being dropped from the tour. They've also had public rows with their record label.

It's hard for me to defend Craig's actions. Though his struggles with drug addiction have been extremely public, and I think some of his behavior deserves a pass given those extenuating circumstances, that pass only goes so far. People do messed-up things when they're going through such things, but this has been going on for so long that Craig has spent almost all of the public's patience.

But this isn't about his struggles. His actions in his personal life, at least the ones we know about, sound truly reprehensible. However, that does not change the man's incredible body of work.

Not only is Craig an extremely talented and gifted singer who has brought life to so many different fantastic projects, creating excellent music regardless of who he has surrounded himself with, but the members of Slaves are also great musicians who should not be underestimated.

Frankly, guitarists Alex Lyman and Weston Richmond, drummer Tai Wright, and bassist Colin Viera are all ace songwriters and performers as well. Their new project encompasses all the great things about post-hardcore, adding some R&B and djent influences. Their two albums have been hard-hitting, excellently written and played affairs.

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In Craig, they found a great singer who could elevate their profile and perform the best vocals for their particular brand of post-hardcore. No one else has built a better track record in singing in bands like this, and Slaves have created something special with him.

No matter what happens in Craig's personal life, he's the best fit for this project and Slaves have made some awesome music together. It's fine to judge Craig's behavior, but to judge the group's music based on that is unfair. Their two records together so far, Through Art We Are All Equals and Routine Breathing, can hold their own among any in Craig's history, and the band deserves better than to be written off because of his interpersonal actions. After all, his personal life has nothing to do with his voice. That's all we should think about when listening to the albums.

Slaves performs Sunday, March 20 at Walters Downtown, 1120 Naylor, with special guests Capture the Crown, Myka Relocate, Outline in Color, Conquer Divide, Royale and Above Caelum. Doors open at 5 p.m.

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