As Hispanic Heritage Month draws to a close, Grimy Goods honors local group EMÆL, led by Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess. The Fullerton native is half-Mexican and has a bunch of new music ready for all to hear. Last month, the band released a new single, “THREE60,” an even-tempered yet mystical indie rock tune, and today they have another to share. Below, watch the video for “3/4 In,” a labyrinthine production that reflects the haze of confusion facing millennials today.
EMÆL will soon release an album, THREE60, and I had a chance to exchange words with Ventura-Cruess about the new music; read what he had to say below. Pre-order the record on Bandcamp. Follow the band on Instagram and Twitter.
words by: Zoë Elaine
“3/4 In” refers to the period between childhood and adulthood that many young people today can relate to, myself very much included. What in your life, if anything, prompted you to write this song?
EVC: I wrote the song because there I was at 25, living in the same bedroom I had been in since I was 5. Many of my friends were in the same boat: still at their parents. If you think about how our grandparents/parents already had their kids and houses by that age, but here we are still going around partying and traveling with no cares or responsibilities but also with no place to call our own… It’s just really absurd. A whole generation of people stuck three-quarters into adulthood. It’s a privilege of course (lots of young people around the world are forced to become adults at terribly young ages) but it’s also simply the reality for many people in their 20s in the US, especially here in California.
Though it’s simply repetitive, the chorus does seem to morph as it is sung, as if losing its meaning. How did you write that line, from a musical perspective?
EVC: I typically don’t write super catchy songs and try to instead grasp the listener with interesting textures and harmony instead. This chorus line was definitely improvised early on in the process, and, while I could have developed it to be less repetitive, I felt it actually embodied that feeling of being trapped in childhood quite well. From a technical standpoint, the chorus vocal seems to morph because the harmony underneath it is changing while the vocal stays in the same place. Definitely an analogy going on there between the music theory and the meaning of the song.
Who is the short statue that sits in the middle of the floor in the video?
Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess: That is Saint Francis. I wasn’t really raised Catholic but we had that exact statue in our garden when I was a kid. It’s a nostalgic piece for me and reminds me of my brother who was named after him.
You have mentioned that Radiohead, Son Lux, and Hot Chip are all influences. Can you talk about how “3/4 In” pulled from any or all of these music styles?
EVC: My songs almost always start with a riff or a chord progression. For “3/4 In” it started with the synth progression that is present throughout the whole song. I was sitting down with a Prophet synthesizer one day and played that progression, and I definitely think it manifested itself from my subconscious influence of “Everything In Its Right Place” by Radiohead. The vocals came immediately afterward. As I was crafting the layout of the song, I found its quirky synthetic simplicity similar to some Hot Chip songs, so naturally I studied some of their stuff to draw inspiration and direction for the overall production and sound of “3/4 In.” Broadly speaking, Son Lux and Radiohead (really Nigel Godrich, their producer) really inspire me because of their seamless ability to blend organic and synthetic textures. It really elevates the music to another dimension of existence and is something that I always strive for on nearly every EMÆL release. Luckily there’s more and more technology emerging that is allowing this blend to also be brought to the live stage, such as Sunhouse Percussion. We’re excited to explore those avenues once the world heals from the pandemic.
Just over a month ago, you put out the alluring song “THREE60.” Am I sensing a numerical pattern in the song titles?
EVC: Haha! I had the same thought when I started putting these songs together a while back… There is one more song with numbers in the title but I wasn’t trying to do anything clever.
After a couple more singles, you plan to release an album, which has been described as a break-up album since it comes after the end of a 10-year relationship. Without giving too much away, what do you hope listeners take from the forthcoming THREE60 record?
EVC: On the rare occasion when music truly, truly speaks to me—I’m talking tears streaming down my face—there’s this inexplicable existential connection that washes over me. Somehow a song can seem to explain the unexplainable, the paradoxes of life. A song can make you feel less alone by connecting you to an astral stream of emotional energy that connects all peoples experiences. It may seem a bit lofty, but I hope listeners are able to find this kind of connection with the music I create. To help people feel understood, to understand themselves better, and to just feel emotional release from the onslaught that we all currently call life. On another side of the try to make something that would inspire others to create, whatever medium that may be. It makes me so happy when people want to remix our music or create a painting or dance choreo for one of our songs or even if someone is teaching a yoga class with our music in the background. For me, this creative ping pong is essential to keeping the overall art ecosystem thriving and healthy.