Omaha rockers Emphatic began making waves within the music scene with the single “Bounce,” which has flown up Rock charts. The band, which just released its debut album, Damage, are currently on the Carnival of Madness tour, which comes to Dayton's X-Fest (at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds) this coming Sunday with Staind, Theory of a Deadman, Five Finger Death Punch and others.—-
The band is currently on tour without their lead singer Patrick Wilson, due to a vocal chord injury. Grant Kendrick of Omaha band The Wreckage is standing in on vocal duties and holding his own with the band until Wilson recovers and can re-join Emphatic on the road.
CityBeat spoke with lead guitarist Justin McCain before Emphatic's recent performance at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville. The two discussed life on the road and the personal stories that have influenced his songwriting.
CityBeat: You guys have had a big year. What has been the biggest life change you have had in the last year?
Justin McCain: I would say just being on the road so much. We have been on the road more this year than any other. It is something that we definitely wanted and we are out here playing music everyday, so we are very lucky.
CB: You have been out with the Carnival of Madness tour for a few weeks. Any crazy stories so far?
JM: No, you know what — there are no crazy stories (that) you can … print, but we do have four weeks left.
CB: We can print anything.
JM: Nothing too crazy. We get up on stage and we like to kick ass and do what we do. Believe it or not, we are fairly tame offstage.
CB: You guys came through with Pop Evil to Dayton when you were doing show with them last month. You probably don’t know where you are on any given day, but do you have any fun Dayton or Cincinnati stories from tours in the past?
JM: I know we have been to Dayton a couple of times and it has been great every time. Our rhythm guitar player, Lance, actually lives in Ohio so he has some family around there. We always have a good turn-out and good time there. It’s always a good time.
CB: I have been listening to the album. I know you write most of the songs yourself. My favorite was “A Place to Fall.”
JM: That’s funny. That’s actually, I would say, my favorite song, too. I fluctuate a little bit but that is one of my favorite songs on the album.
CB: Can you tell me the story behind it?
JM: “A Place to Fall” is such a special song to me and I think it can be relevant to so many people in the world. It’s basically a story about that person in your life that tries to always be the caretaker or the helper, the one to carry all the weight on their shoulders. It is telling that person it is OK to let go sometimes and let me take care of you now. That is why the chorus is “If you need a place to fall, fall into me, because I am there for you, too.”
CB: If you write about somebody special, do they know?
JM: To be honest with you, that song, I think is for wives and mothers out there. My mother definitely inspired that song. My brother was killed years ago by a drunk driver and my mother was the glue that held the family together. It was absolutely crushing for her and the whole family, but, at the end of the day, it is important for everyone to be there for each other. So that was my way of saying that it is your turn to let go.
CB: What inspired you to get into music originally?
JM: My parents. The funny thing is that they are not musically inclined whatsoever. There is no musical talent in my family. In fact, there is probably anti-talent when it comes to music. But they are very, very supportive.
One thing I can say is music was always around in my house. Nobody played any instruments but my parents always had music going, AC/DC and Bon Jovi and stuff like that in the house. It really kind of turned me into a Rock guy from the time I was a little baby. That is what really inspired me to pick up a guitar. I actually picked up a broomstick first. I’d set up different toys and play the drums, and play the broomstick. My parents saw that and said, “Let’s get him on guitar.” I am very grateful for that because it became my life.
CB: What is one thing that no one knows about Emphatic?
JM: I would probably say that we are a bunch of big time dorks. There’s always this cliché with Rock bands that they are badass and so cool. We are just normal, regular guys that are extremely happy to be doing what we love to do and extremely grateful and we want everyone out there to be a part of it. We call it the Emphatic Army. We are recruiting everyday. Just know, we aren’t very special. We are pretty dorky. So come join our dork club.
CB: What are you listening to right now?
JM: Actually that is my band in the background, so we are listening to that right now. They are playing the CD, I think. Honestly, I don’t really listen to music, which is ironic because I am in the music business. I try to keep an open mind when I do listen to music. I usually listen to something like Lil Wayne or Ke$ha, or Modern Rock, I love Modern Rock. I love Skillet and stuff like that. A lot of people say Classic Rock or the roots. For me, it is either a band like Korn, Skillet, Shinedown or it is something like Lil Wayne or Ke$ha. I even like Country. I am a songwriter, so I’ve always tried to keep an open mind.
CB: I can’t go to sleep unless I have … (fill in the blank)?
JM: Said "Goodnight" and "I love you" to my wife.
CB: That’s really nice. It’s not the typical answer. The other song on the new album I really like is “Do I.” I love “Bounce” and I am sure everyone likes “Bounce” at this point, but I try to pick the next hit. What is “Do I” about?
JM: “Do I” isn’t about (anything) specific. It is more so about my perspective about someone. It is kind of like a story. I wouldn’t say it is fictional but more of an outside perspective. It is about a badass guy that is sick of putting up with the world’s crap and finally snaps and says, “Nothing is going to hold me back.” Do I walk the valley or do I walk alone. It is coming to the realization that you can’t be held back in life anymore and no matter what comes your way, you have to go take it head on.