Well, you can’t say that The Glorious Sons don’t give their fans truth in advertising. It’s not just for shock value that their third and most recent studio record is titled A War on Everything.
For while the music’s pendulum swings back and forth between pop and hard rock, the lyrics penned by vocalist Brett Emmons on tracks like “Panic Attack,” “Spirit to Break,” “Wild Eyes,” “The Laws of Love and War” and “Kick Them Wicked Things” are rife with pain, anger, desperation, and self-loathing. With the occasional fantasy of the narrator to just grab his girl and then get the hell out of town. Now.
With an admirable sense of honesty, Emmons says the words were inspired by a recent dark period; a time he was trying to “live two lives” and balance the unstable tightrope between sobriety and his self-described tendency to abuse alcohol.
“I spent a lot of time on the road and was trying to play house and be rock and roll front man extraordinaire, and they were just two conflicting ideas smashed up against one another that I was fighting,” he says. “It was a very confusing time for me, to be honest. I truly felt – and I still do – like it would be easier to detach myself from this reality then find a place in it, and I think that comes out in my lyrics. But you live and you learn, and you try to be better.”
Hailing from Kingston, Ontario, Canada, the Glorious Sons formed in 2011, and currently include Emmons, guitarists Chris Koster and Jay Emmons (Brett’s brother), drummer Adam Paquette, bassist Chris Huot, and keyboardist Josh Hewson. And while Emmons’ words drive the album, the entire group was unified in wanting to try something a bit off standard course with A War on Everything.
“Every time you start a new project, it’s about doing something different. We never want to be one of those bands who sticks to a formula, so it’s important to experiment in our own limitations as a rock and roll band,” he says. “We dialed the pop pretty heavy on our last record, Young Beauties and Fools. We want to make rock sound relevant with the times. And it was a personal decision to put more grain in the music and sound more live on this one. But you learn something from every album.”
The award for the record’s longest track title goes to “The Ongoing Speculation Into the Death of Rock and Roll” in which Emmons muses on how more and more we view musicians and actors and symbols rather than people. Think the teens who run around sporting T-shirts bearing the visages of the Ramones, Nirvana, or Biggie Smalls—but would be hard pressed to spit out on demand the title of a single record or more than one or two songs. The lyrics summon the ghosts of John Lennon, Kurt Cobain, Tupac Shakur, and even Marilyn Monroe.
“It’s how people become more of a symbol than they are human, and that takes the meaning out of what they’re trying to do,” Emmons offers. “I don’t mean to disrespect any of the characters I write about in the song. It’s more about the industry and how we worship celebrity. It’s a dicey role.”
What’s the good of Kurt Cobain’s poster being plastered everywhere, Emmons adds, if he can’t raise his kid and watch her grow up? Or that Marilyn Monroe is just known for her beauty and nothing more?
Asked what he would tell his decade-younger self about rock and roll he knows now that he didn’t then, Emmons says all about speed. “I would have just told myself to take it all a little bit slower. Life is what you make it for yourself and it’s not meant to be easy,” he says.
“But you need a certain amount of patience that you use in navigating touring and making albums. Just avoid being confused by your surroundings. Other than that, I’m a pretty fucking lucky guy!”
Finally, Emmons knows that the Glorious Sons likely have something of a little extra challenge as a Canadian group trying to make it in the land of their southern neighbors.
“Every dime you make in Canada follows down to the States if you’re trying to break yourself. So you have to be willing to go hungry and not get used to what you’ve built at home. You can’t get complacent in the U.S. because of your success in Canada,” he says.
He adds that by law, Canadian radio stations have to play a certain percentage of homegrown acts, and the government actually gives bands monetary art subsidies. But please, if you happen to catch Emmons after the show and want to chat, don’t lean on your Canadian stereotypes.
“There is a little identity thing. A lot of people like to talk to us about hockey and the Tragically Hip. It’s like…people know ten things about our country in the U.S. and they like to stick to those!” Emmons laughs. "I also think some [Americans] have a bit of a superiority complex. And that just makes it a little harder to win over people’s appreciation and respect.”
The Glorious Sons play at 7:30 p.m., February 4, at The Ballroom at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. For information, call 713-225-5483 or visit WarehouseLive.com. Des Rocs open, all ages show. $25-$99.