PropertyOfZack had the opportunity to chat with Toby Morrell of Emery just a few weeks ago and it ended up turning into one of our best interviews to date. Toby and I discussed Devin’s departure, the band’s new record, their upcoming acoustic release, as well as The Water And The Well, Toby and Matt’s new side-project. Read up and absorb it all, there’s a lot to enjoy!
For the record, could you state your name and role in Emery?
I’m Toby Morrell, and I’m the lead singer of the band Emery.
The band began writing for the new record about this time last year, which was around six months after your previous record was released. How would you compare the writing process in terms of themes and concepts to the last record?
It was different. At the time when we started, our other lead singer, Devin, was in the band. So we were writing all of the songs and then about halfway through the process, Devin decided he wanted to quit the band. We’re still best friends. Nothing bad happened, we’re just sad that he’s gone. We wish him well. We might even tour with him again in the future, who knows. Right in the middle we had some songs and we were like, “Well, some of the songs are where we want to head,” but when Devin left we didn’t know what to do. Then Matt and myself just wrote the record. It had always been me, Matt, and Devin who wrote. This is the first record where we basically wrote all of the lyrics. One song on the record is Devin’s. He wrote it and we thought it was really good and we wanted to put it on the record. We kind of went in a different direction and went really heavy. It got a little darker. The album is more spiritual, not preachy, but more spiritual regarding our faith in Jesus and God. I feel it lends itself to darker sounds because of the nature of the music and serious lyrics.
Did the band go through a “lost in space” kind of point when Devin announced his departure?
No, I think we saw it coming. Devin had some other opportunities that he wanted to pursue. I don’t think it was a shock. We almost took it as a challenge like, “Our band is changing, how will we go about that?” We’ve all been close friends forever. We’ve been a band for ten years and we’re all really close. It was a shock on a friendship level because it was like, “Man, I’m not going to see Devin everyday when we’re on tour.” I think all of us experienced that. We’ve got a tour coming up soon and that will be a shock, I believe. As far as the music goes, I don’t think it was a shock for us. We just took it as a challenge to see how good we could actually be.
…In Shallow Seas We Sail actually charted on Billboard, but besides that, was the band happy with how it was received? It really doesn’t seem like it’s been too long since that was released.
Yeah, it was only a year and a half ago. We loved it. We kind of went back to our roots on that one. We had put an EP out before that that joined with it. Honestly, it was pretty cool. A lot of our fans think it’s their favorite album. I thought it was really neat to have your fourth full-length album and have people think that it’s your best. It’s going to be hard to top, which is why we thought we couldn’t make the same record. We never want to do that. It’d be nice to cash a big check, but it wouldn’t be real. That’s why we wanted to change it up on this record and do something we hadn’t done before and go harder and darker and see what happens.
Was there at all a certain urgency to get back to writing so soon after the release for this record?
It was urgent to us. Our drummer Dave and myself had little girls, so we didn’t tour that much last year because we wanted to spend time with family. We started realizing that this was our career and that we didn’t want it to go away. If you don’t tour, people kind of forget about you. We realized that we needed to put out a new record. We wanted to put out another record for people to have something new to listen to and come to the shows and hear songs from every record. I think having not tour that much last year that we wanted to really put out a record and tour this year.
There has been a lot of talk about We Do What We Want being the heaviest Emery album to date. Was the progression into a heavier sound a byproduct of Devin leaving?
I don’t think it was because of Devin leaving. I don’t know, that’s a good question, I’d never really thought of that before. I guess I’d have to say some of it maybe was because I think we felt that we could do something we hadn’t done before without Devin. I think Devin influenced it in that sense. Indivertibly, Devin probably did affect it. We just wanted to see what happened.
Matt Carter produced the record. How was it recording the album internally?
Matt has produced our last three releases. He produced our last EP and co-produced …In Shallow Seas We Sail with Aaron Sprinkle. It works out good because at this point in our career, we know what we want. It’s just really easy to work with Matt because he knows where I’m coming from. It’s also really hard to get off tour and go somewhere to record for a month. With us, we go in for two weeks, leave, and go home to our family. It works out really well scheduling wise for us. And honestly, Matt’s really good. I have to give him credit. I think he’ll be one of the big name producers one day. Musically, he can really help bands write music and he can do anything production wise. I can’t wait to see what he does in the future.
“The Cheval Glass” was released not too long ago as a first taste of the record. How has the reception to that been so far?
I think it’s been better than we thought it would be. People really like it all around. I think some people were shocked. It’s funny because if we write a soft song people think we’re selling out to the radio, and if we write a hard song people think we’re selling out to hardcore bands. The title for the record really means that we’re going to do whatever we want and people are going to say something no matter what. It doesn’t matter with the Internet. There are 12 year old kids in a dark bedroom somewhere with a Gwar poster up in their best on the Internet. I was surprised that so many people liked it. Thousands of kids on our Facebook responded saying they liked it. I’m really stoked on it. Honestly, it’s our hardest record, but the last songs on the record are acoustic. We felt like they belonged on there. Those two songs just fit in so perfectly with the theme. It gives people a good taste because later this year we’re probably going to be putting out an entire acoustic album. We wanted to give people a taste of that too.
The album artwork for the record is very interesting as well. Is there any specific meaning behind it?
Most people would say we’re a Christian band. I really don’t like the label because I feel that that means only Christians can like the music. It’s such a hard label. It’s not like people who play jazz music can only be liked by people who like jazz. I don’t know, we wanted to do something that challenged people a little bit with the artwork. I felt like it was to show that we’re going to do what we want to do. We’ve been here for so long that it doesn’t matter what people think. We’re just going to write the music that we love and if you like it then that’s awesome. We had different artwork ideas and we liked that one because it shows what we feel about America and ourselves as Christians. We hold up a bible, but most times, we do what we want. The society that we live in does what they want and then put on a clean face and hold up a bible.
It was announced that Emery signed to Solid State Records, a division of Tooth & Nail, for this release. Was there any reason behind the change?
Well, we thought that the album was heavier and we thought that it was a good idea. We’ll still be on Tooth & Nail as well. It helps get your music out to people who might not listen to your music. There are some people who are just “Solid State fans.” We wanted to expand ourselves a little bit and we thought it was a great option. There are so many great bands on Solid State and we thought it’d be a neat thing to do.
Like you just mentioned, there are plans for the band to record an acoustic album this year. Was that inspired by the last two tracks on the record?
We had thought that we were actually going to put the acoustic album out first and then we would put out the heavy album. The heavy album going first worked out better. We thought we’d put out this one and it’d be as heavy as possible and that the next would be as light as possible. Not lyrically, but there won’t be screaming and breakdowns. There will be pretty melodies and instrumentation. We had the acoustic songs and realized they fit on the record. We had some other stuff too that were heavier, but didn’t fit as good as the acoustic songs. There’s a song on the special edition record that Devin actually wrote that didn’t make the record. It’s a really great song.
Has the writing process for the acoustic record started at all?
Yes it has started. We have a few songs already and I’m sure we’ll make some more later this year. We have ideas, but nothing completely done yet.
POZ: Would you like to have it out in the fall?
Toby: Yeah, that’s what we’d like to do. That would be really good. That’s what we want to do; I don’t know what the label will want. I would hope that it will come out within this year.
You and Matt have started a new band called The Water And The Well. What are you guys looking to do differently for it than in Emery?
I’d been wanting to do some stuff. I started a thing a while back called I Am Waldo and I’d never really gotten that far with it. I was talking to Matt about it because he produces and we started talking about what I could do and then I realized Matt could be in the band as well. I would love it to eventually become a full-time band. We have to get the record out obviously, but we’re pretty excited about it. It gives us a whole different outlet than Emery does. If Emery did that people would resent it. I wouldn’t want Weezer to put out a different album. I wanted to do another band and explore some things. It’s not a worship band, but there are more blatant lyrics about it for sure.
When would you like to have the album out by?
We recorded five songs I believe, so we need to get five or six more. Unless we put out an EP, but I don’t know all the details yet. We’re not even signed at this point. We’re trying to get signed with Tooth & Nail, but it’s a slow process right now with all the big wigs. It’ll be later this year for sure if we have to put it out on our own. It might not be a bad thing. We’ve been talking about that as well. I don’t know how people respond these days about being on labels. We’ll see.
Would small tours be an option for this project?
We’re trying to get shows as we speak. We’re trying to get on some festivals and shows. Our drummer is having his second child in July, so I think we’re doing a lot of festivals in July. I wouldn’t be surprised if we did a little short run in July or August.
The band will be heading out on a month long US tour followed by an Australian tour to support the new record. How stoked are you guys for that?
Really, really stoked. I’m in Charlestown right now and all the other guys are coming. We’re super excited. It’s going to be a really good tour. It’s going to be a lot of fun. We haven’t been on tour in a while. It’s going to be good to be going out and seeing some fans.
POZ: Will you be playing a lot of new songs off the record?
Toby: Yeah, we are for sure. At least four or five. We’ve never played any of these songs. I know everybody wants to hear old songs, and we’re definitely playing old songs as well.
Is Europe a possibility sometime soon as well?
Yeah, I think so. We’re going to try to go sometime soon this year. We love it over there. We’d love to go back to Mexico and Brazil as well. Sometimes logistics are hard. If we can get back, we’re definitely going to try.
Thanks so much for your time, is there anything else you’d like to add or that we should be on the lookout for?
You can pre-order our record right now. We’d love to get as many people pre-ordering that as possible.