Rooted in the Valley

new tunes from Twin Cities band Emot

Sarah Bodeau

DON’T LOOK SO SURPRISED. The guys from Emot are based in the Twin Cities but have Chippewa Valley roots. Their latest self-titled album is out March 6.
DON’T LOOK SO SURPRISED. The guys from Emot are based in the Twin Cities but have Chippewa Valley roots. Their latest self-titled album is out March 6.

Play this record at medium-to-loud volumes through your car stereo. Crack your windows so you can start smelling the ground again, maybe get some road noise. Aim for that time of day when the sun gets low and long and yellow. Let a friend ride with you, let the trip do the talking, and let yourself believe that spring is coming. Believe it, because Emot is telling you so, and Emot is a band you want to believe.

Formed after lead singer Matt Leavitt met guitarist Bobby Mulrennan at UW-Eau Claire, Emot is a band rooted in the Chippewa Valley. “Growing up,” recalls Leavitt, “I remember Amateur Love and DeYarmond Edison. Those were my bands.”   It’s clear on Emot’s upcoming self-titled album that even after relocating to the Twin Cities, Leavitt has not forgotten the mix of folk and rock he loved as a teen. Earthy and dreamy, the album balances sonic complexity with a hopeful pop sensibility. It’s honest, but it has fun.

“The record to me sounds a lot more cohesive. It has more of a flow to it.” – Emot lead singer Matt Leavitt, on the band’s latest self-titled album

Emot is the band’s third full-length release in about four years, and like a photograph taken in infinity focus, it is both nuanced and expansive. Mulrennan nostalgically twangs along with the buzz of contemporary synth lines, Dan Choma beats out time on the drums, Justin Hartke lays a solid fuzz-bass groundwork, and Leavitt throws his clear, earnest voice over the top of everything as though he were releasing a bird back into the air.

The album contains many stand-alone songs that just feel good – “Loner Strategy,” “Open Ocean,” and “Garbage Tones,” to name a few – but overall, it is the wholeness of the project that defines the release. “The record to me sounds a lot more cohesive,” says Leavitt. “It has more of a flow to it.”

Leavitt believes the band owes that flow to the album’s producer, Brian Moen, who has been involved in acts such as Laarks, Amateur Love, Peter Wolf Crier, and the Shouting Matches. “I love everything Brian was in, either on the production end or playing,” says Leavitt. “He has a very signature sound.”

As a band, Emot seems to value the evolution of music more than they care about whether or not the end result mimics what they originally envisioned. Both with the production of the record and with a music video put together by photographer Jason Schumacher, the band pointed in a general direction they wanted to go and then let their collaborators take over navigational duties. “We have a lot of unspoken collaboration,” explains Leavitt. Emot is spacious enough to let the listener be part of that process, too, and it is easy to hear how these songs have grown from simple campfire melodies to the larger soundscapes they are on the album. “I came with the idea of the song,” Leavitt says about the song “Garbage Tones.” “We’d never played it before, and it came to be in the recording process. It’s really exciting to me when there is that energy.”

Emot doesn’t have any spring shows booked in the Chippewa Valley yet, but they hope to return to a stage near you ASAP. “I love playing shows in Eau Claire,” says Leavitt. “The energy is really good, people come out. ... It’s a really supportive music scene that way.”

Emot’s new self-titled release will be available for online purchase March 6 at emot.bandcamp.com. More information and the music video for “Garbage Tones” are available at www.emotmusic.com.

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