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Here to stay: contemporary emo is long past a ‘revival’

We’re all well aware of the so-called ‘emo revival’ by now. The term was coined, parodied, and even reported on by Buzzfeed, before being phased out slowly over the last twelve months or so. The bands branded under its wide umbrella, however, are here to stay.

For many, the main complaint regarding the ‘revival’ tag was that it suggested ephemerality; that this was merely another fad for critics to roll their eyes at. Now at the start of 2016, five years on from Snowing’s ‘I Could Do Whatever I Wanted If I Wanted’ and Into It. Over It.’s ‘Proper’, those complaints are proving more valid than ever.

Because it wasn’t a fad. It was the result of hardworking bands that shared influences finding both each other and a fanbase. If it were a fad, we wouldn’t be seeing Modern Baseball and Sorority Noise sitting on a sold out Electric Ballroom show. We wouldn’t have heard a thousand-or-so kids singing Tigers Jaw’s “What about your friends, do they make you happy?” back at them (while they played a support slot to Basement, no less). We wouldn’t have seen The Hotelier’s announcement of their third album being met with genuine, wide-reaching excitement.

There’s a reason for this, and a simple one. It’s honest, and honesty isn’t fleeting. Bobby Barnett of Captain, We’re Sinking (a band long-overdue some serious attention that might well come when they release a third full-length this year) mentioned in a piece last year that, “it’s always had to be this very honest thing, very open and like ‘if you have something to say, say it’. We all pat each other on the back from it and make sure we don’t shy away from it.” He might have been talking specifically about his and his friends’ bands, but that sentiment holds true across the entire landscape of contemporary emo.

Keep that sentiment in mind. That all of this comes from the core concept of writing music that says what you feel. Cynics might call it melodramatic and you might still find those who turn their noses up at a heart-on-sleeve approach, but that honesty is the reason that the popularity of these bands continues to soar.

It runs deeper than just the lyrics sung, too. The emo bands of today didn’t have anything handed to them. Bands like Dowsing, The World Is A Beautiful Place… and even Moose Blood all started out booking tours through Facebook groups. They’d still do it today if they had to, no doubt. That’s why you’ll see them supporting each other, both live and in sentiment. There’s a kinship between them and their fans, forged through respect for each other’s hard work that means that when one wins, they all win. And right now, they’re on one hell of a victory streak.

It might not end up on the cover of glossy magazines or on the stage of arenas, but in 2016, when Modern Baseball are about to drop an album that’ll push them into Academies and Empires; when a band called something as ridiculous as The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die can captivate 500 people in London, it doesn’t need to.

The Front Bottoms are further, undeniable proof of that. They’re a band with good songs and one hell of a work ethic that have just sold out London’s KOKO. They’ve not been getting any large amount of radio play or magazine covers, they’ve just plugged away and pushed their music to anyone that would listen. 

In the wider music industry that might not be enough, but here in this microcosm of DIY ideals and honesty, it is. That’s because this ‘emo’, this Actual Thing that’s built itself, is wholly owned and operated by its participants – and it’s not going away.