Most up-and-coming bands spend the week traveling from city to city in a rusted van, performing one-hour sets at nightclubs and repeating the process over and over until the wheels fall off. But for the young gentlemen of pop-punk group Emily’s Army, they pass the weekdays inside a classroom.
On this sunny afternoon in Oakland, California, vocalist and guitarist Cole Becker is walking home from high school. While the sophomore enjoys the attention Emily’s Army have garnered, he isn’t planning to ditch his education for a full-blown music career just yet. Really, he’s trying to be as normal of a teenager as possible.
“I love school. It’s great,” the 16-year-old says. “Being in a band with someone or a group of people for a long time sometimes gets stressful, so school is a good way to take a break from it for a while. Also, I like being around other people my age, so school is also good for that.”
Don’t Be A Dick
But when Becker and company aren’t sitting through lectures or finishing homework, the four-piece are promoting their debut album “Don’t Be A Dick.” The 14-track collection, released through Adeline Records, is an impressive pop-punk recording -- especially considering the fact it comes from a group of individuals who still can’t legally buy a pack of smokes. It’s also one of the genre’s better efforts of the year.
Coming across as a younger version of Green Day, Emily’s Army masters the energetic pop-punk songwriting formula as the music contains tight riffs, rich bass lines, straightforward lyricism and ultra catchy hooks. While the teenage California quartet have fun on angsty compositions like “Asslete,” “Bad Cop” and “Rom Drom,” they also pen the heartfelt “I Wanna Be Remembered” for their cousin Emily, whom inspired the band’s name.
Coming across as a younger version of Green Day, Emily’s Army masters the energetic pop-punk songwriting formula as the music contains tight riffs, rich bass lines, straightforward lyricism and ultra catchy hooks.
“Don’t Be A Dick” has been fueled by the leadoff single “Broadcast This,” a catchy pop-punk ditty where Becker expresses his discontent for mainstream radio.
“It’s an anthem that really captures what we all had been feeling when this album came out,” Becker explains. “I have a lot of trouble listening to the radio because I’m really particular about what I listen to. So I was trying to write about my frustration with everything going on -- not just radio.”
Billie Joe Armstrong
Overseeing the recording process was Billie Joe Armstrong -- the vocalist and guitarist of Green Day, founder of Adeline Records and father of Emily’s Army drummer Joey Armstrong. Though immensely experienced, the punk icon didn’t act like a bigwig with a creative control addiction. Instead, he gave the boys complete freedom and dropped some gems of wisdom.
“He is a really good mentor,” Becker says. “He was like, ‘Do whatever you want. Do a few takes so you have a lot to choose from and just do your best.’ It’s kinda like [having] a sports coach -- it’s probably one of the other kids’ dads who are coaching you. That’s kinda like how it is in the band.”
Becker has known the Armstrong family for quite a while. In fact, he and Joey launched their own band, Raining Souls, in 2004 after being inspired by the musical comedy “School Of Rock.” Guitarist Travis Neumann and Becker’s bass playing brother, Max, would round out the lineup.
Also, the band changed their name to Emily’s Army. This was done in tribute to the Beckers’ 15-year-old cousin, Emily, who in 1998 was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis -- a life-threatening genetic illness that damages the respiratory and digestive systems, as well as other areas of the body.
“It’s really horrible. It’s a chronic and terminal disease, and basically affects your lungs and digestive tract,” Becker explains. “The life expectancy of someone diagnosed with CF is about 35 I think at this point. But when we do benefit shows and stuff, we’re raising money so if they do find a cure, we can pay for it and also, pay researchers to keep researching.”
In addition to the benefit concerts, a portion of the album sales of “Don’t Be A Dick” goes to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation for research on this deadly disease. Emily’s Army also set up a fundraising organization that shares the same moniker in hopes of being able to pay for the cure for their cousin when it is discovered.
Clearly, Becker has a lot of responsibilities that need his full attention and though he is still a 16-year-old in an up-and-coming band, he is just trying to be as normal of a teenager as possible. While the Emily’s Army is serious business, the young front man has taken a lighthearted approach when it comes to the music.
“The minute it starts becoming serious is the minute it stops being for fun, which is my main reason to be in a band -- to have fun because, ya know, I’m a kid,” Becker says. “I don’t really like to take a lot of things super seriously. It’s just a really fun thing and I love it a lot, and I hope to continue with it as my job in the future so I never have to work.”
But for now, Becker has to hit the books.
- Cole Becker – Singer/Guitarist
- Max Becker - Bassist
- Travis Neumann - Guitarist
- Joey Armstrong – Drummer
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