"X Factor" finalists Emblem3 strive to avoid being another boy band
A band of handsome young men, guided and tutored by reality music guru Simon Cowell, competes on "The X Factor" but falls just shy of victory. Afterward, however, the group signs with Cowell's label and finds success entering the competitive realm of pop music. If that sounds an awful lot like the origin story of Brit boy band sensation One Direction, it's because it does.
Emblem3 – the Washington-based trio of Drew Chadwick and brothers Wesley and Keaton – however, doesn't seem to have much interest in being the next 1D. The fourth place finalists from the second season of "The X Factor" (which was just recently cancelled) are just starting their careers, attempting to balance their more punkish origins and inspirations with the boy band mold the industry is currently looking for.
Which way they'll go over time – punk, boy band or, the unfortunate way of many reality show acts, irrelevant – has yet to be seen. So far, though, it's been a success, releasing their first album "Nothing to Lose" last July while opening for Selena Gomez. The boys are currently headlining a tour of their own, one that brings them to The Rave on Friday, Feb. 14. Before their show, OnMilwaukee talked with Chadwick about the band's origins, their "X Factor" experience and being a boy band.
OnMilwaukee.com: How did you guys come together? I know Wesley and Keaton are brothers, so that must've obviously helped.
Drew Chadwick: We were just literally talking about the day that we met. It's crazy. I went to a party at (Wesley's) house – I was actually going to his sister's party – and I don't know, we started jamming in his basement. He was playing drums, I was playing guitar and we were playing "Dammit" by Blink 182.
At the chorus of the song, it goes from a full beat to a half beat, and when we hit the half beat, like, it was just … we were so connected. We just knew. We actually started laughing while we were playing. We just knew that we're going to start a band, and this is what we're going to do with our lives. We were so young. That feeling right there was one of the highest points of both of our lives. It was the most magical thing ever. It was like, I just found my best friend, and not only that, I found out how I'm going to be successful in life, and I found out my reason to live.
OMC: Was it going to be this or nothing?
DC: Totally. There was never any other option. To steer away from your heart's desire is like asking for misery. We knew what we wanted to attract into our lives, and we knew that the way to do that was to have a dynamic, self-sustaining system of inspiration. Best friends constantly feeding each other compliments and boosting each other's confidence that we can achieve more together. That's how a team works, and we knew that we had it and that we could make it if have each other.
OMC: How was the experience on "The X Factor," and how was all of that?
DC: It was probably one of the best decisions that we ever made. Now, we basically put ourselves in the pop world. Being in the pop world, you kind of have to work your way into it. It's almost like a small circle. But it was cool to do the show because now, whatever we bring to the table musically or creatively, it's automatically going to be in the pop scene.
Also, we got the chance to work with Simon, and we ended up being business partners with him, which is amazing. That's obviously super cool. We got a lot of exposure really fast, and that was an interesting growing period for us, going from just normal kids to all of a sudden everyone's treating us like superstars.
OMC: What was it like meeting Simon, and what is it like working with him?
DC: When we first met Simon, we wanted to appear to be assertive young businessmen, so we shook hands respectfully and we started talking business with him. They had the camera crew all around us. Basically, Simon was like, so if I sign you guys, and you guys don't take up on your half of the bargain – so don't fulfill the contract or anything like that – then he'll kill us. It was like, "Oh sh*t!" (laughs)
But all in all, he's been great. He's been super enthusiastic, and since the beginning, he's always recognized so much potential in us creatively and as business partners.
OMC: How do you guys keep your head on your shoulders as young guys in the music business?
DC: It's kind of like we're driving a semi truck, and we've never driven a semi truck before. Every time you turn left, the momentum really pulls you to the left, and every time you turn right, it really pulls you to the right. And you're in this new machine and you're trying to figure out how to control it because you have this influence, you have this reputation and all of these people watching you and expectations. And you're learning how to control that machine.
At the same time, you want to stay yourself and stay a kid and be fun. It's just balancing all of these different things. It's everything that we wanted. It's really cool and gives you so many opportunities. I don't even know where to begin; there's so much potential. But we stay grounded. We keep each other grounded and try to do normal kid stuff. We still party. We still go on epic adventures.
OMC: What was the thought process and inspirations for your first album?
DC: The first album, we gained a big fan base on "X Factor" – which, I just want to take a second and say they're not just a fan base; they're like our life blood. They're everything to us. So we earned this fan base, I guess you could say, on "The X Factor," and we realized that we needed to appeal to them. A lot of them are girls, so that was one inspiration for the first album.
The second was to deliver music that we thought was cool. We want to be respected more than anything. That's all that's really ever mattered to us, more than money and stuff like that. We want other artists to respect our art. So it was finding that balance between singing for these girls as well as making music that we thought was cool, that had a Sublime feel to it.
OMC: It seemed like there was a bit of tension on "The X Factor" with you guys kind of wanting to go pop, but also trying to be the kind of punk band that you originally were.
DC: Yeah, that was probably the biggest struggle of that period. We definitely weren't really interested in the bubble gum pop boy band thing at all. Before that, we were always a punk rock band, and we talked about political things as well as deeper, insightful things, not just about girls. So there was this big period of, like, we want to be like us, and he wants us to be like that. It's all a work in progress. And that's all I can say about that.
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