Emily's Army at Vans Warped Tour 2013
Slideshow by Natalie Nesser, published with permission
It's kind of hard to imagine four teenagers living the charmed life of being born into families who can open any door with just a phone call feeling Lost At Seventeen, but like teenagers everywhere making the transition from carefree kids in high school into the challenges of adulthood and making it on their own, the guys in Emily's Army struggle with the rest of us to prove themselves on their own terms. Indicative of the prevailing notion of altruism with their generation, 'their own terms' includes at the forefront, using the advantages of their upbringing, and the doors that fall open as a result, to find a cure for cystic fibrosis, a cause so personal to them, they named the band to reflect it.
Emily is the cousin of Max Becker, lead singer and bass player, and Cole Becker, lead guitarist and singer, and both primary songwriters for Emily's Army, who was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis when she was two years old, not expected to live beyond her 12th birthday. She is now 17 and a dancer, with a life expectancy of 38. Her struggle inspired the brothers and two of their best friends, Joey Armstrong, drummer, and Travis Neumann, guitarist, so much, they aligned with her under the banner of Emily's Army in grade school and set out to raise awareness to help her, creating not only a band, but also the Emily's Army Foundation with Pipeline for a Cure.
Recently recognized as a band to watch in 2013, Emily's Army makes their national debut this year as a fully touring band on the entire Vans Warped Tour throughout the summer, before traveling to the U.K. for approximately ten shows amid the release of their second full-length album Lost at Seventeen through Adeline Records and Rise Records, respectively, produced by Grammy award winning artists, Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong and Sound Engineer Chris Dugan.
A pop-punk riot full of snarky teenage angst, Lost at Seventeen tells the story of teenagers on the brink just trying to figure things out, while mocking the world around them, the girls who have rejected them and the idiots who have crossed their path. Max describes their sophomore album as "Kind of like Catcher In The Rye... where it's stuck between two stages of life, where you're trying to figure out what to do and you honestly don't know what's going to happen..." To reinforce this, the album opens with "Part-Time Bum," that begins as a throw-back to late seventies punk before diving into the funny dance vibe of pop-punk, slash, surfer beach bash about a guy who spends all his time laying around the house or hanging at the beach, and who's "job" is washing dishes and doing other chores as he bums off his parents. "Gubermensch" mocks the bully who lives life with a chip on his shoulder and an angry stance; and "Avenue," my favorite song on the album, is a simple plea of unrequited love, set to a catchy beat and easy lyrics. "I Am The President" has all the expected political attitude of a punk rock song, but "War" captures the heart of it. With interspersed rockabilly guitar solos and drum antics that set the tone, this is one of the coolest and funniest songs on the album. Like an Uncle-Sam-Wants-You poster from a bygone era, for the lyrics "We need more pawns" and "We need you out there/Even though we've won" alone, I give Lost At Seventeen five stars. Ya know, if I did cliched rating systems like that.
They were on Warped Tour for a little over a week when they met Ron Jeremy, the adult film star who was enjoying the festival. Like other teenagers who haven't yet been jaded by life and can still appreciate the humor in the unexpected, it was a starstruck moment for them to get photos and autographs. When not hanging out with porn stars and playing in the band, the guys in Emily's Army play sports, love to travel and hang out with their families, and surf. Lots and lots of surfing. There had to be something more. I was sure of it. Being clean-cut, all-American boys was all well and good, but they're teenagers for cripes sake. Where was the dirt, the scandal? I had to know these things. So I asked the burning question, "Tell me something you've done on Warped Tour that your parents don't know about." After much laughter and joking around, Joey answered with "Yesterday, Travis ate three waffles-on-a-stick. I don't think he's allowed to do that." Hmmm...
The guys became animated, excited as the conversation moved towards their favorite subject: music. Travis chimed in with "My favorite thing about music is just, it's really fun and it's entertaining, it's a great way to bond and meet new people and build and strengthen relationships you already have," and Joey followed him, emphasizing why they do it as he explained, "It's about being creative. I have the opportunity to make something. It's not every day you get to create something that's like you can be totally passionate about... but every day we're passionate about creating music." Max added, "We're with our best friends. We have fun doing it, and we get to express ourselves. So, why not?" But Cole, being the youngest, and from my observation, the heart and soul of the band, got right to the point, "I'm gonna play music until I die. That's all I know."
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