Finding emo

Finding emo

By Nick Mendez

Broken hearts, one-night stands, angry stepdads and the challenges of life on the road. These lyrical devices are staples of one musical genre: emo.

The latest wave of boy bands have scaled both the charts and MTV’s Total Request Live. Cute Is What We Aim For brought their own brand of emo when they headlined at afterHOURS, Friday.

The four-piece pop-punk band performed with Boston-based Landsdowne and Lights Resolve. Combining crunching guitars and heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics, they revved up the audience’s inner emo-child throughout their set.

Shaant Hacikyan, Jeff Czum, Jack Marin and Tom Falcone man the band’s vocals, guitar, bass and drums respectively. Though the bandmates are under 20, they’ve already tasted success with their debut album, which has sold almost 100,000 copies since its release last June.

Marin said he attributes their success to hard work and dedication.

“Quit everything, and do it,” he said. “If you really want to take it seriously, you have to quit school, and you have to quit your lifestyle. You have to sell everything you own, buy a van, and just go. There’s no easy way to do it. It’s going to be hard.”

Marin is no stranger to the emo music scene. In addition to playing bass, Marin was a tour manager for Panic! At the Disco in Europe and Hellogoodbye on the Vans Warped Tour.

While afterHOURS was a smaller crowd than the band has seen at larger festival shows, pop-punk has a loyal fanbase. Several students stood on a table throughout the set, dancing and mouthing the lyrics over the deafening drumbeat. But regardless of how critics categorize their blend of guitars and high-pitched vocals, Marin said their music has always been about the fans.

“Just being entertained and feeling like it was worth the 12 bucks that they paid for it,” he said. “That they got a high-energy set, and maybe walked away with a T-shirt.”

Diversifying the night’s lineup was Lansdowne, with Jon Ricci on vocals, Shaun Lichtenstein on guitar and Tom Sargent on bass. Both Lichtenstein and Sargent have roots in punk and hardcore music, while Ricci’s smooth vocals lend the band pop-like melody lines.

“It’s cool that we all have different musical tastes because it shows in the music,” Lichtenstein said. “It’s definitely something fresh, and something new. It’s fun.”

New York’s Lights Resolve wasn’t peddling CDs or T-shirts Friday, but their aggressive, outrageous style made them a different kind of act.

With Neal Saini on drums, Matthew Reich on vocals, guitar and keys and Michael Sherman on bass, vocals and keys, Lights Resolve has no shortage of interesting characters. The band incorporates punchy dance rhythms and syncopation to shake concert wallflowers to the stage front.

“We have all these different influences; I keep it down with a little reggae on bass, and it keeps it different, even with the rock vibe going on,” Sherman said.

Though there was a variety of acts, students were drawn to the headliner.

“They’re pretty unique when it comes to the vocals and the types of lyrics that they have,” said Barbara Lee, a freshman undecided major. “The thing with Cute Is What We Aim for is that they have lyrics that a college kid can really relate to; you get something more in depth, there’s some feeling and meaning to it.”

Although emo music can sometimes get a bad rap, Lee said it’s a genre with widespread appeal.

“Humans go through all these emotions and we want music to go along with it,” she said.

Singer-songwriter and middler music industry major Baird Caner said emo music has credibility.

“Anything is a legitimate musical genre as long as there’s emotion behind it,” Caner said. “I’m not terribly into it itself, but it’s definitely a pretty raw type of music. There had to be a little bit of a sting to the situation for it to become an emo song. Sitting on the couch with your cat can’t become an emo song.”

Caner said a variety of performers, not just soft-spoken singer-songwriters, have been influenced by emo predecessors.

“If you go to any afterHOURS show, any hardcore band, anyone louder than your mom would like it to be, has aspects of emo in it,” he said.

Sophomore music industry major Ryan Blake, is a guitarist in the rock band The Cadence. As a local musician struggling to make it in the music business, he said the most important goal is to find his music an audience.

“I think from a band’s perspective it’s important not to look at the labels, and just listen to the music,” Blake said.

Caner agreed and said his biggest concern is getting his music heard, regardless of perceptions.

“People could categorize me as anything, as long as its being received,” he said. “I put emotion into what I do. If someone wanted to say I’m emo, I don’t really care, just listen.”

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