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Interview: Emblem3 Are Absolutely Not What You Expect

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Courtney E. Smith
Courtney E. Smith Courtney is the pop producer for Radio.com and the...
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(Dove Shore for Columbia Records)

(Dove Shore for Columbia Records)

“I’ve been reading the Urban Tantra,” Wesley Stromberg says when asked what he does to make Emblem3’s tour bus feel like home. “It’s kind of like the Karma Sutra, but a modern version told from the perspective of this girl that lives in New York. I’m also reading a book about Neil Young. Everything that he went through is so inspiring.”

That’s the kind of dichotomy that defines a conversation with the members of Emblem3. On the one hand, they’re the So-Cal version of a boy band, with all the dashing good looks and skater-boy charm that implies. On the other hand, their biggest idols are Blink-182: for the music, the shock factor and the boyish sense of humor.

As for what else is happening on the back of Emblem3’s bus, Keaton Stromberg is mastering the new Grand Theft Auto game on his XBox 360 and Drew Chadwick is binge-watching Breaking Bad. They call it their lair and they’ve tricked it out with a mobile studio. The idea is that the former X Factor finalists, who are signed to Simon Cowell’s Syco Music imprint, can write and record songs while on the road as Selena Gomez’s opening act, never quite slowing down their pace. Their latest focus is a new video for their current single, “3000 Miles,” a real tear-jerker of a power ballad.

“Would you say, even, buzz ballad? Like, ‘I’m falling even more in love with you,'” Chadwick asks, breaking into Lifehouse’s 2001 hit “Hanging By a Moment.” He segued smoothly from that into Eve 6’s “Here’s To The Night,” Bush’s “Glycerine” and Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” completing some sort of ’90s rock power ballad circle of life.

“[The song] does have a lot of ’90s influence — actually, you know, it’s not the ’90s influence,” Chadwick said of “3000 Miles.” “It’s just the basic, traditional song structure with all real instruments. It doesn’t have any over the edge synthesizers or extra production. It has the necessities which, when you strip it down like that, it leaves room to actually see the soul and the emotion.”

The emotion is what they tapped into for their video also, which they say worked out despite some misgivings. The lyrics were inspired by the guys’ experience missing their families and loved ones while on the road, in the back of that tour bus they’re desperately trying to make feel like a home.

Of course, their influences aren’t all from the ’90s, as that Neil Young name-drop can attest. They see Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” as a great innovation/mash-up in current pop music (and they’d like to collaborate), think that story about Ozzy Osbourne biting the head off of a dove (wait, bat?) is the greatest scandal in the history of music, and are deeply influenced by love (except Keaton, perhaps, who seems a little irritated by his bandmates’ preoccupation with it, entirely in a little brother way).

That’s just scratching the surface of their vast array of influences, for which they earnestly thank the Internet. When talk turns to the current Queen of Internet Trolling, Miley Cyrus, they guys are in awe of her methods.

“At first I was pretty shocked and not really on board with it,” Wesley said. “But honestly? For what she wants, which is attention, she’s killing it.”

And they are on board (again, except for Keaton) with going just that far.

“Our thing was, I guess, taking off our shirts or whatever,” Chadwick said. “We just got known as the guys that take their clothes off all the time, which is alright.”

“Maybe someday we’ll film a music video fully naked,” Wesley deadpans. “Blink-182 did that.”

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