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Peoria's Emily the Band releases an angsty pop gem

emily the band horizontal performance photo by Caspian Voss.jpg
Caspian Voss
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Peoria’s emerging 3-piece queer girl group Emily the Band lays out their angst on the just released hooky pop-gem “The Heartbreak Album.”

Band members Emily Antonacci and Cami Proctor spoke with Jon Norton about the album that was released Sept. 30.

WCBU: The album is very angsty and you really put all your emotions out there. Emily, you’ve said this can be therapeutic for you, but how difficult is it to bare your soul in public like this?

I think it would be hard if the subjects of the songs were at shows. But that has not happened yet. (laughs) And I pray never will. (laughs) I feel like it was harder to track it and get the best quality recordings we could, I kind of enjoy that intimacy with the audience and having them be able to relate to something that was so painful for me, because I've had that experience with artists that I love, where I listen to their songs that are very raw and honest.

Well, let's get into some of the specific songs on the album. I want to start with “Relics.” I love the line, “I keep relics of the mess we made.” It’s someone who understands that getting from point A to point B. It can be messy, but that messiness is part of getting to where you are right now.

Yeah, that track almost didn't make the cut. Because at the time I wrote it, I had not fully moved through the breakup that it was inspired by. And I was like, it sounds kind of needy. I don't think that anymore. I think it sounds very thoughtful and honest. It's about my first ever adult relationship which had a difficult ending, because some things are messy and complicated. And people are multifaceted so you can't just write somebody off as all bad or all good.

Cami, let me go to you. When Emily's writing these songs, how do you come to the songs yourself? How do you embrace them? How does it affect you when you're either recording or on stage?

It's just like Emily mentioned earlier. We've been close friends for quite a while now, like I have been around for when most of these things were occurring. I have the privilege of having been there and having insight into the situation and hearing Emily talk to me about it, or talk to our friends about it, or seeing little glimpses of the people mentioned in the songs in Emily's life. It’s actually getting to meet those people sometimes, and just getting the overall vibe. I'm there for that story start to close. Then it's just a matter of remembering what it felt like to be in the atmosphere of that happening. I like to put myself in a position where Emily is telling the story with words. And I try to take that story and influence how people are going to feel and add texture and detail and even more specificness, just through the arrangement and through the notes that are being used and the way that they're being used. And I think Abby, our drummer must feel the same way. Me and Abbey (Haste) kind of take that as a team.

Let's move on to the song called “Boyfriend.” Boy, there's a lot going on in this song, (laughter)

Emily, there are two lines that kind of stand out. They're near each other, but they're not back-to-back with each other. “She met a boy who stole her mind, and now it's gone.” Let's start with that line, right? I mean, this could be someone you are so head over heels in love with that you're just gone. Or it could be something along the lines of someone's trying to control somebody, right?

Yes, certainly not control. (laughs) So the premise of the song is I used to get crushes on gay men a lot, like … a lot lot. And I'm not a gay man. I am a gay woman. It doesn't work out. And so, ‘she met a boy who stole her mind and now it's gone.’ I met this lovely boy who I'm still friends with. We were at this summer camp. And then I left camp and I just couldn't stop thinking about him and we were texting like friends, but it was a little more than friends for me. But it was very much not that for him because he was going back home to his boyfriend in another country. For a time, he too in my brain along with him being overseas, because I just was like, this is the best person I've ever met and he is one of the greatest people I've ever met but I am not in love with him romantically any longer.

The group is very upfront that you are a three-piece queer girl group. Not that long ago promoting yourself this way might have been frowned upon by PR people and promoters, but Emily I get the sense that this is helping you.

It's personally like, I guess a litmus test of how other people will treat us if they see our bio and see there are queer people in this band. If somebody doesn't want to work with us because of that, we are happy to not work with them. So, it's nice to be upfront about that so we don't have to have upsetting conversations down the road.

Cami, do you want to add to that?

Yeah, I agree. I think it is all about the audience. Because personally, I've seen it happen. Like a lot of folks, we don't know these people, they'll come to our shows, we'll become friends with them because they've come to support us at our shows. They will share with us ‘oh it was really cool to see queer artists that I relate to. I relate to the songs and these feelings and these lyrics.’ And also, I could have used a band like our band when I was a teenager, or a tween when I was thinking about things I wanted to do in my future because I could have never saw myself here. I'm here now doing what I do now. But I didn't envision myself here not because I was not capable, clearly, but because I didn't have someone to look at who was me. I think that in that way our audience feels a special connection to us because for right now for some people, especially in the local area, we may be one of the main bands that they can actually relate to because of who they are.

“The Heartbreak Album” is available on the Emily the Band Bandcamp page and many other streaming sites.

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Jon is the Program Director at WCBU and WGLT. Contact Jon at lhjelle@ilstu.edu.