When I first moved to Philadelphia to go to art school, I spent a couple of weekends riding around in a car in New Jersey with a bunch of indie-rock kids blasting music, which is where I first heard of â€šÃ„Ãºemo.â€šÃ„Ã¹ For me, emo has a strong connection with the New Jersey area, because it seems like everyone who comes out of N.J. into the city is either punk, emo or hardcore (which are all pretty closely-related). Emo fans in the Delaware Valley would agree with me, but it canâ€šÃ„Ã´t be denied that other influential bands like Jimmy Eat World come from Arizona, and Weezer comes from L.A. (Yes, I said Weezerâ€šÃ„Â¶though their association is sometimes questioned.)Where did emo come from? What does it sound like? I interviewed Andrew Bair, called â€šÃ„ÃºEmo Andyâ€šÃ„Ã¹ by his friends, in hopes to find out what this new form of music is. According to Andy: â€šÃ„ÃºEmo was formed way back in the day, probably late-eighties/early-nineties, by a bunch of hardcore kidsâ€šÃ„Â¶.who just decided that they didnâ€šÃ„Ã´t want to be in a hardcore band anymore and decided to start a rock band for fun. And it just ended up being this whiny-ish sounding kind of indie rock band, and I guess they just called it emo because it was emotional. Thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s all it is, emo is just short for emotionalâ€šÃ„Â¶[it] has a tendency to be slower, a little sappier, more radio-friendlyâ€šÃ„Â¶Itâ€šÃ„Ã´s emotionally-charged rock, and thatâ€šÃ„Ã´s it.â€šÃ„Ã¹
Jessica Walsh explains emo from a more visceral standpoint: â€šÃ„ÃºIn my opinion, ’emo’ is an expression used to describe a sensitive person who is filled with emotionâ€šÃ„Â¶an object cannot be ’emo’ but the person who created it can be.â€šÃ„Ã¹ As for itâ€šÃ„Ã´s roots in American culture: â€šÃ„ÃºI think it came from â€šÃ„Ã²kidsâ€šÃ„Ã´ into music like melodic punk and some softer hardcore who listened to bands like The Goo Goo Dolls when no one was around. Emo is a culmination of all these things. But punk is definitely a root because, if it wasn’t, emo and punk wouldn’t be so closely knitted.â€šÃ„Ã¹
With bands such as Jimmy Eat World and Dashboard Confessional as our models, emo is a kind of slower indie rock with influences of hardcore, punk, and even a little ska. It is very emotional, with lyrics that can depress as well as uplift, and vocals dripping with a kind of high-school-sweetheart passion. It can be slow and moody, or pick up into a frenzy of drums and guitars. Usually itâ€šÃ„Ã´s both in the same song.
Of course, letâ€šÃ„Ã´s not forget the sub-categories, because the media loves to categorize everything. If a band says itâ€šÃ„Ã´s not emo, it must be something else like screamo, or emo core, or emo punk. Spin Magazine dumped Weezer, Pedro the Lion and the Get Up Kids into a genre they call â€šÃ„Ãºnew wave emoâ€šÃ„Ã¹ (nwemo for short).