Emarosa guitarist, Jonas Ladekjaer, breaks the silence with a new interview. Ladekjaer discusses the band’s future, the search for Jonny Craig’s replacement and the challenges of being inactive for so long.
MEB: Bradley Walden from Squid the Whale was supposedly offered the position as your new lead singer. What attracted the band to him and ultimately what are your feelings concerning him turning it down?
Jonas Ladekjaer: It was actually our good friend Steffen Hagavei who found Bradley and figured it’d be worth a shot sending him our way. We sent him a song from a series of demos we did here in Lexington, and he absolutely killed it. I mean, his chorus still sticks with me haha. That led to him coming down from Michigan to jam with us one night, and I think we all agreed pretty quickly that he fit right in the mix. So by the end of the night he was offered the position, and he accepted too, haha. When he ultimately decided to turn it down, we all understood and respected his decision to first and foremost spend some time with his family, and of course also to stick with his own band.
There are no hard feelings from me at all, and I’ve talked to him a couple of times since – he’s a great guy and a very talented musician.
One of the initial replacements for Jonny, at least for live purposes, was Tilian Pearson, who is now working on solo music and with Saosin. Were there ever talks of bringing him on as a permanent member?
Oh yeah, we all loved playing those dates with Tilian and he spent a lot of time with us after the whole Jonny thing. But in the end it just didn’t work. He’s an extremely talented songwriter, and I have no doubt that he will make an impact with his music.
What are your thoughts on people who say or believe Jonny Craig had a huge hand in the completely different sound in terms of progression from Relativity to the self-titled album?
In terms of vocals, sure, yeah. He always had ultimate freedom in that aspect, and we would kind of handle the music. On Relativity, we came into the studio with all but one song done and not much pre-production was done. Other than deciding to repeat a few parts to try to resemble choruses, the songs stayed pretty much exactly the same. On the self-titled however, we went to the studio with the majority of a record written, going in a completely different direction, and ended up using nothing but a few riffs. [We] spent the first few weeks with producer Brian McTernan writing and re-writing the material. So I would say that Brian had a huge hand in the sound change, more so than any of us even!
We were trying to progress and find a new route, Brian was trying to capture what had attracted him to us in the first place, and it ended up somewhere in the middle. It’s not a record I listen to much, and I would say that Relativity probably represents Emarosa better as a band.
A lot of people want Emarosa to go back to utilizing screams and sounding more like This is Your Way Out. Do you feel like as musicians you’ve shown you can be better than that release?
I was a fan of This is Your Way Out before joining the band in 2007, and I will always have an appreciation for it and what it represents, you know? On this new record, we are writing with as much freedom as we dare to allow ourselves, and we are experimenting with all kinds of different approaches to songs. The desire to write something heavy and sporadic, like you would hear on This is Your Way Out, is becoming increasingly harder for me to ignore, haha. Maybe it springs from the frustrations associated with being off the road and [being] stagnant.
What kind of timetable do you have for returning to full-time band status as far as touring and releasing an album?
Man, we haven’t been on the road or even played a show since last year’s tour with Chiodos. It seems far away right now and that’s the worst feeling ever. I have no concept of how it will be to tour again, but we have all come a long way since Jonny’s departure and I have a feeling touring will be more comfortable than ever, simply because we have all had the time to realize what matters to us and why. Having this time off has really put everything in perspective for us.
We have set deadlines for ourselves, we’ve scheduled for things to happen at certain times, yet without a full lineup we can’t go to a studio to record the record. Which is the only real way for us to make our way back to full-time and start touring again. But the last thing we want to do is rush anything! We want to create music that means something, and has an impact on people; if that means we have to wait for a while to make sure all the pieces fit, so be it – rather that than putting out a product we can’t back 100%.
What is your situation with Rise?
Rise has always been really good to us, and they’ve helped us during our time off the road. We still have a van payment and insurance to make every month, along with practice and storage space for all of our equipment. We all gave up our royalties to make sure we’d be able to sustain these things, and that covers it for the most part but the times we have been struggling to make things work, Rise hasn’t hesitated to help us out. Even me personally – I needed a rather significant sum of money to start my permanent residency application and Rise always helped me out.
What is the singer situation? Do you guys have any leads for a replacement?
A few times we’ve been so close we could almost pack up the van and go! But it’s usually been relatively short-lived and then we’re back in the same place, a little more demoralized than before haha. We were all hoping the public announcement was gonna give us something undeniable, but the truth is we didn’t get what we’ve been searching for. A lot of great singers submitted, and we sent out a bunch of clips for people to sing over and return to us. Many did, more didn’t, and we ended up not feeling comfortable enough to move forward with any of them, so far.
We haven’t exactly made it easier for ourselves by having been so quiet about the whole process since Jonny left. No one knows what we’re looking for, because we haven’t released anything to show the direction we’re headed and where we are at, and therefore we receive more submissions from people trying to sound like Jonny than people being confident in their originality. The search continues.
Fill in the gearheads – what is your setup like?
I play FujiGen Guitars pretty exclusively; a Gold Top Les Paul style and an MSA, which resembles the Gibson 339 a whole lot, both with FGN P90’s – they sound amazing. I play a Matchless C-30 combo through a Mesa Boogie 4×12 rectifier cab, and for effects our good friend Alex is in the process of building a really rad pedal board for me in the style of Pete Cornish.
What has been the most difficult part of being in Emarosa? What has been the most difficult part of the recent absence?
For me it’s been not being able to be around my family. I’m very close with both my parents and my sister, and them living across the water makes it hard to get together, even when we’re not on tour. But they support it, and it’s very worth it to be able to play music for people every day.
The most difficult part about our recent absence is definitely the feeling of being stuck somewhere you don’t want to be. Knowing what you want to do and how to do it, but not being able to make it happen. We’ve been here for over a year now, going to the practice space every day, writing material, preparing for the future, but at the end of the day we still go home with no set schedule of recording, or touring. It starts to wear on you mentally, and sometimes it’s really hard to see the light, hah.
And it’s funny, sometimes, between my job during the day and band time at night, I find myself almost too comfortable with the routine and that just produces a lazy attitude. So every once in a while someone will have to do a little pep talk, to remind us what the hell we’re doing here.
Have you read the AP article with Jonny?
I just read it the other day actually, and I have to say that he seems to be in a really good place. It seems very far from the Jonny Craig I knew, and I really hope he can keep it up. In fact, reading the interview sparked my first correspondence to him since he’s been gone. I shot him a text wishing him well, and we talked briefly on the phone last night. It was nice.
Was Jonny’s drug use a contributing factor in the decision to continue as a band without him? If so, does his current sobriety affect that decision? Is there any chance that he might be involved with Emarosa in the future?
Of course it was. It was spiraling out of control, and we had no experience with something like that and no clue of how to deal with it! All we could do at the time was watch it happen, and try and make the best decisions for the band. I’m truly happy to see that he’s sober! I will be honest and say I never thought I’d see the day, and because of that I’d say anything is possible.
Has Jonny reached out to anyone in the band since his recent time in rehab? How are current relations between him and the rest of the band?
ER [White, guitarist] and he have been in contact here and there, same with Jordan [Stewart, keyboardist]. Like I said I hadn’t talked to him at all, nor did I think I ever would up until yesterday, but a lot has changed since he left Emarosa. I was really angry with him back then, all the time, I couldn’t believe what was happening and I wanted to never be associated with that again, you know? Now, I think I have a better understanding of what he was going through and what made him do the things he did. I wish I could have been more of a friend for him than I was, and tried to help him instead of distancing him. It’s a relationship I’d like to improve, because the good times we had together as a band are the ones I remember now. The rest seem almost kind of laughable, if that makes sense.
On the topic of member changes, how did you initially begin playing in Emarosa? You came on in between the EP and debut full-length, but were previously in a Danish band called Shiiwa, where you did vocals. Was there ever any chance that you might do some singing in Emarosa?
Well, I played for a band in Northern Kentucky called At Daggers Drawn, and we would play shows with Emarosa every once in a while. Like I said earlier, I was a fan! And then one day after playing with them in Lexington, I contacted them on MySpace and told them I’d love to play for them if the opportunity was ever to arise!
Then about a year, maybe more later, I saw them at show in Covington and was invited down to hang out the next day. It just so happened their other guitar player up and left the next day, and I just kind of naturally transitioned into the band. The next time I came down I brought my 5150, and that was it!
I don’t consider myself a strong singer, but we’ve actually all talked about pitching in on vocals for this record. None of us sound like Jonny of course, but with a fresh direction and a little bit of creativity I’m confident it could turn out pretty sweet.
We’ve seen issues with international travel arise in acts from the United States a few times in recent memory. How does your status as a citizen of Denmark affect working in Emarosa?
When I first joined, I was on an extension of my dad’s work visa and was able to stay here with no problems really. Later on, I received a visa solely because of my involvement with Emarosa, and now I am in the process of working out a permanent residence visa so that I can stay here for 10 years without having to worry about it at all. It’s made it hard a couple of times, having to consider the complications we might encounter while crossing a border. We’ve been detained a few times coming back into the US from Canada, because they were a little iffy about my papers, haha. Jordan was even interrogated one time, that wasn’t a fun experience at all. But other than that, being a citizen of Denmark actually has some benefits, in that you don’t need to really acquire permits to travel and perform within Europe. So that’s one less person to worry about when we go there.
How much material does the band have prepared at this point? Have you guys had the opportunity to play together much in your time off?
We still get together at the practice space as much as we can during the week. This is still our main priority, and though we all work at Jimmy John’s during the day, it’s only to pay the bills so we can play music again. I’d say we have about a record’s worth of finished songs that are still changing and evolving to this day, and we have countless ideas lying around waiting to be used or incorporated into something else.
We’ve had a recording rig set up at practice, recording everything from start to finish which has been extremely valuable in our writing process; we have used that a lot to get a feel for what we’re doing, if that makes sense. Sometimes we go on these 5-10 minute jams, where everybody goes in their own direction and [we] somehow make it all come together. That’s really cool to me, and it brings out a lot of personality from each member, which I think is very important.
There were reports of a B-side from the self-titled and a version of “The Game Played Right” featuring Mod Sun, but neither seems to have seen a proper release. Is there any unreleased Emarosa material that might eventually see the light of day?
You know, I don’t even know where that Mod Sun track is now. We were talking about releasing it at some point, which would have been really cool. Mod Sun came out on several occasions and performed it live with us, especially on Warped Tour.
We had a whole hard-drive of unreleased material from the self-titled recording sessions. Quite a few songs didn’t make it to the record, some are just demos not even tracked, and others are tracked and mixed. I think the one you’re referring to was the last song we tracked for the record, but it never made it because the vocals didn’t get finished for it. It was a cool song though, balls to the wall with some weird time changes and whatnot – which I think made it hard to write vocals to, but it was definitely fun to play and to listen to.
There’s been a fair amount of time off with minimal communication, and many are pretty anxious to see what your next move is. Is there anything else that you want fans to know at this point in time?
I really want to say thank you to everyone that’s still there with us. I’m honestly surprised we still have people leaving us encouraging words on Twitter, Facebook and wherever they find us, and it’s so insanely encouraging and heartwarming. It’s what keeps us going right now.
And, we’ll be back as soon as humanly possible.