Usually, transition is what can prematurely end a band. Whether it’s the lineup shifting, the sound evolving or the record label logo on the back of the LP jacket changing, transition puts stress on the musicians to try and deliver for an audience that grows increasingly fickle with every passing flicker of their smartphone. Emarosa, however, not only faced these transitions head on, they came out the other side with 131, their fourth full-length and first for Hopeless Records-and it’s easily their best to date. As frontman Bradley Walden explains, it should come as no surprise.
“Originally, I turned down the position in Emarosa because I knew I was walking into a situation with negativity,” the singer says, recalling the uncertain time surrounding his first release with the band, 2014’s Versus. “Facing that at first was absolutely miserable. I put a lot of pressure on myself to sound like what people wanted on Versus. For 131, I definitely didn’t care what anybody else thought. I just wanted to make a record with my band that we all loved, and that’s definitely what we did.”
He’s not kidding: 131 is a gigantic leap forward for Emarosa, with Walden’s soulful, stratospheric vocals on full display and instrumentation that recalls alt-emo stalwarts such as Anberlin and 30 Seconds To Mars with plenty of R&B inflection and even a little progginess a la the Receiving End Of Sirens. (Walden even throws in a lyrical easter egg in 131‘s final track, “Re:,” as a nod to TREOS.) A huge proponent in pushing the band forward to new sonic spaces was producer Casey Bates (Portugal. The Man, Pierce The Veil), who entered a Nashville studio with Emarosa in early 2016 to create 131.
“Casey was so open to everything,” Walden says. “It was definitely the most creative vibe I’ve ever been, and it was so inspiring, and I think that’s why the record turned out how it is. With Versus, I knew in my heart it wasn’t what I wanted to do. But with 131, I’m so proud of this. It’s my favorite thing I’ve ever done. This is the record we wanted to make.”