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June 2020

EMA: "Making an album is always a process of discovery"

EMA gives insight into a record that doesn’t beat around the bush.
Published: 10:18 am, August 22, 2017
EMA: "Making an album is always a process of discovery"
Hey EMA, are you having a good summer?
It’s been not bad! So far I’ve caught a lot of fish in Minnesota and floated down a river in Oregon.

Tell us about your new album ‘Exile In The Outer Ring’, where was it created?
‘Exile In the Outer Ring’ was recorded mostly in my generic apartment in Portland. It’s the sort of standard-issue American apartment complex with white walls, beige carpeting and slit blinds on the windows. After recording it myself, I went to Jake Portrait from Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s studio in NYC, and we finished it off.

Did you know what you wanted the album to be about before you started? 
Making an album is always a process of discovery for me. A boring apartment in a suburban zone isn’t the most obvious place for inspiration, but through making art, I discovered it as a place of radical transformations and/or spiritual crisis.

The album covers political themes such as poverty and capitalism, are they particularly close to your heart?
I think it’s really hard to see outside of a system you’ve been raised in, like a fish in water. There are lots of these — racial and gender hierarchies, sexual norms and taboos, ideas about food, families. I feel like capitalism can be especially devastating because it gets so tied up in people’s self-worth and it’s a system that is so heavily exploited by the rich. Also — this idea that everything has to grow, grow, grow all the time. Like every project and company and profile should just try to get as big as possible and if it doesn’t it’s failing… So you’re either poor and worthless, or you are doing okay, but it’s never enough… it’s annihilating compassion and the environment.

Did you do much research before writing the record?
I read a lot, even just during the process. A lot of long-form journalism, profiles on people, reports from geographic regions, etc. It’s interesting for me, so it doesn’t feel like a chore. During this record, I read a lot about race relations in America, which are super complicated. I don’t necessarily set out to research a topic, I just take it all in and let my subconscious filter it.

What would you most like listeners to take away from it?
Mostly just the music. There are always a lot of themes in my records that end up being topical, but also I put a lot of work into the sounds. There are a ton of hooks on there and interesting instruments. It’s a unique blend of sonics and styles that is hard to describe and is pretty outside of current genre. Hopefully, it can reprogram your ears in a good way.

There’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world at the moment - tell us something positive.
Damn, I keep getting stuck on this one!

What are you up to for the rest of the year?
Touring! I’m putting together a super tight band, a three-piece, and we are hitting UK and EU in the fall. I’m stoked!

Taken from the September issue of Dork - order your copy below. EMA’s album ‘Exile In The Outer Ring’ is out 25th August.

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