The spring and summer of 2008 was one of the best times of my life. I had a job, so Henry and I weren’t fighting about money (basically the only thing we ever fight about). Chooch was an adorable 2-year-old with a penchant for blurting out “Asshole!” in public. Christina and I were at the pinnacle of our BBFdom, and she was visiting a lot from Cincinnati so hijinks were prevalent.
This was also around the time that she and I began our unhealthy obsession with all things Jonny Craig. We first fell in love with his angelic pipes when he was in Dance Gavin Dance, but then they kicked him out so we were sad. Fortunately, that spring we started hearing things about a new band who had snagged him while he was in band limbo. They were called Emarosa and even though they have previously put out an album with another singer, Christina and I had never heard of them. But they were about to become our new favorite band.
When “Relativity” was released that July, it suddenly seemed like DGD kicking out Jonny was the best idea ever. Emarosa had stolen our hearts and our creepy Jonny Craig infatuation grew exponentially. When music becomes so entwined with your life, it’s euphoric. It becomes more than just music.
It becomes a soundtrack.
Christina and I ended up meeting him in Buffalo later that year and it was emotionally traumatic for me. He was completely disinterested in anything I had to say but took an immediate liking to her. Drug users unite, I guess. That night ended with me sitting in the car of Xtreme Wheels, crying to Henry on the phone about how Jonny Craig ruined my life and I was going to just drive the 5 hours home in a snow storm because I couldn’t stand to be around Christina over night.
I ended up calming down after Christina bought me pie at a Greek diner, but our friendship went downhill that fall and never found its footing again. We were no longer speaking at all when Emarosa released their next album in 2010. I listened to it on repeat that whole summer, like a leper jumping into a silo of salt. It was my way of coping, because my friends were sick of hearing about Christina. They probably still are, honestly, even though I try to stick a cork in it.
Because trust me, there’s not a day that goes by.
The winter of 2011, Henry and I were on our way to see Emarosa at the Rex Theater. They were co-headlining with “new” Chiodos (i.e. the short-lived Brandon Bolmer-era). I was casually scrolling through my Twitter feed when I came across a tweet from Absolute Punk. “Jonny Craig forced into detox.” Apparently, Emarosa and the record label had had enough and actually made him leave the tour that morning, and sent him to a detox facility in California. This was right after he got caught scamming his fans by selling a Mac Book that didn’t exist for drug money. (Rise Records had to pay back all of the fans who blindly Western Union’d him money.)
At the last minute, Tilian Pearson from Tides of Man was asked to fill in for Jonny’s vocals. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t Jonny. I was really upset that night. An Emarosa without Jonny, followed by a Chiodos without Craig Owens. It was really confusing and stressful on my heart.
Meanwhile, Jonny was also back in Dance Gavin Dance, and jumped on a tour with them right after he got out of detox, so I got to see him a month later anyway. Seeing him live is hard to explain, because I love him as a singer so much, and he embodies all of the best things of 2008. I project a lot of emotion and bottled-up feelings on to him, which is why to the casual observer, I act like a 14-year-old reading a Kirk Cameron issue of Tiger Beat in 1987. He’s my best friend proxy, in a way. Especially considering he’s let me down almost as much as she has. But I still listen to his music, no matter what band he’s in, because it’s the only thing I have to keep the memories of 2008 alive.
Not long after the detox incident, Emarosa released a statement saying that they had parted ways with Jonny. Inevitable, but still my heart was broken. I loved Emarosa so much and the general consensus in the scene was that they were done. Without Jonny, what were they? Just another band fading into the background. With Jonny, they should have realistically enjoyed great levels of success, but because of his unprofessionalism, douchebaggery and drug addiction, it was a case of having the golden ticket to nowhere. They didn’t even record their last album together. Jonny did his vocals from the other side of the country.
What a piece of shit, right? God, I hate him but I love him so much, all at once.
Not too long after the Emarosa divorce, DGD also gave him the boot for the second time, but unlike Emarosa, they found a replacement pretty quickly: Tilian Pearson, the same guy who filled in for Jonny on the last Emarosa tour. Jonny hooked up with Kyle Lucas and Captain Midnite, recorded a new solo album, and went on a few tours. But Emarosa stayed pretty silent. I still followed them on Twitter and Facebook, but there were very few updates from 2011 to 2013. They opened up to Alternative Press and promised that this wasn’t the end for them.
But it really felt like the end.
Finally, last summer, Jonny conveniently let it slip on Twitter that Emarosa had found his replacement: Bradley Walden from Squid the Whale. I guess Jonny just wanted to put it out there and ruin whatever Emarosa was planning to do as an announcement. Because that’s the kind of awesome guy he is.
I didn’t know much about Squid the Whale previously but a quick listen made me a believer in Emarosa’s choice. Bradley could SANG, y’all. Still, I was nervous about what he could bring to the table, and how well he would be able to perform the Jonny songs.
After officially announcing their new singer, Emarosa went quiet again. Rise Records was posting all kinds of teasers on Facebook, like, “Hey guys, just heard the new Emarosa album. You guys are going to love it!” and we were all like, “STOP BEING DICKS! GIVE US A SINGLE!”
And they finally did:
And my heart burst into a million pieces of blood-coated stained glass. Ah, that voice, are you kidding me!? Backed by those five guys that I refused to give up on. It felt so good to be an Emarosa fan. Especially after the way they very professionally took much warranted pot shots at Jonny Craig in a promo video they released a few months ago. (No sarcasm here: considering the Hell Jonny put them through, I think they were within their right to talk about it and I’m really impressed at how they were able to keep it classy at the same time.)
With Jonny’s new band Slaves about to release their album in June too, the drama has been popcorn-worthy. And I have to say, I was nervous about seeing Emarosa live last Monday, because it’s hard to tell based on the shitty YouTube videos people have been uploading. I didn’t want Jonny to be right. It’s not easy loving a band and then hearing another voice singing those songs that have become your Bible.
I asked Chooch who he likes better and he said, “Bradley, obviously. Jonny Craig does drugs.”
I can tell you that it was only sound check, and hearing a five-second sample of Bradley’s voice made my heart feel like it was dropping out of my kooka. I had to grip Henry’s knee and he was like, “Stop it.” When the lights went out, they weren’t even fully on the stage yet and I was in tears. Then they went right into “The Past Should Stay Dead” and I was a sniveling mess. Bradley killed it. He sang those songs like they were written for him, and I know that’s driving Jonny nuts because he’s been whining on Twitter about how it’s terrible to hear HIS SONGS being destroyed. “His songs.” He did nothing to help Emarosa write those songs.
When Bradley sang the line “We know who does it best” I almost died, because POIGNANT.
He was all up in the crowd, being gracious, talking about how honored he is to be singing with a band that he has been a fan of for years. He didn’t try to sing like Jonny; he sang like Bradley. And he brought charisma by the boatload. How could something feel so familiar yet so new?
You know those fountains that move along to music? That was me Monday night at the House of Blues: music played and my tear ducts were engaged. Throw some fucking pennies in me.
And then this happened:
BRADLEY LEFT ME A HEART ON INSTAGRAM! Jonny probably would have just called me fat. I love that Bradley gives a shit.
The best part for me was seeing the rest of the guys SMILING while they played.
The worst part for me was when some asshole behind me started shouting, “WHERE’S JONNY CRAIG? YOU SUCK!” I was getting really upset and I think Henry was afraid I was going to open my mouth (I was) but some other girl beat me to it and shouted back to him, “HE’S A DOUCHE!”
“I hope Bradley didn’t hear him,” I cried to Henry afterward, and then proceeded to spend the next 72 hours being emotionally wrecked.
“Are you still crying?” Robbie asked incredulously while we were waiting for Chiodos to come on. YES, YES I WAS.
Bradley was standing by the merch booth after the show and Henry kept urging me to go talk to him because Henry likes to psychologically abuse me. I did a few stutter steps and while saying, “OK fine. No. OK I will. No I can’t” before finally just crying, “LET’S JUST GO!” I didn’t want to snot the guy’s shirt, you guys. I was just feeling way too raw to try and form words with my mouth without choking on tears and having yet another singer in a band think I’m special needs.
Honestly, I didn’t think I would ever get to see Emarosa again, one more memento of 2008 buried into the ground. It was a really confusing, emotional night for me. I wished that I could just crawl inside their music and lay there for awhile, like a bed full of all the best memories and softest feelings. SO CORNY BUT I DON’T CARE. STEP THE FUCK OFF. I’m having a moment.
I think they have the chance to become a true post-hardcore powerhouse and I can’t wait for their album to come out next month. Here’s to starting over.
I’m going to see Jonny’s new band tomorrow in Allentown, which I’m really stoked for because this is their first tour and I NEED TO KNOW, but after the Emarosa jabs, my love meter for Jonny is really waning. Maybe this will be my closure.
Seriously considering wearing my Emarosa shirt tomorrow night. #teambradley #emarosavseveryone