A brief Q&A with the creator of the emo encyclopedia
We talk history, research, and the emo iceberg
I came across the emo encyclopedia about a month ago through real_emo_only_consists_of_the, a shitpost account that I’ve found to be a great guide to the newest emerging voices in emo. The real_emo account belongs to Jesse, a teen with a sharp ear whose killer “Fifth Wave Emo” playlist initially drew me in; I found it a couple of months ago, since the playlist includes an act I had recently written about, Chicago-via-Texas bedroom skramz project Your Arms Are My Cocoon. Jesse’s Instagram posts and stories capture all the minutia of being involved in a young emo community—it’s so different than what I’m familiar with, which is partly why I’m drawn to his work.
The emo_encyclopedia account, on the other hand, surfaces the genre’s most obscure bands. I wish I could have found something like it when I was first becoming acquainted with emo a couple decades ago. It’s run by Nick, a teen whose interest in emo started about a year ago; from the looks of his Instagram page, he’s become well acquainted with the history. Since he launched emo_encyclopedia in September, he’s written about several poorly documented 90s bands I’ve long been curious about. Chief among those groups is Little Rock’s Everyone Asked About You, whose drummer, Lee Buford, went on to cofound the stylistically slippery metal band The Body.
My interest in emo_encyclopedia piqued when I saw Nick’s “emo iceberg,” which ranks emo and screamo bands by obscurity. I loved the idea of a wide-reaching document that does something other than organize bands by chronology or “greatness.” And I loved to see what a stranger considered obscure. It’s cool to observe where my understanding of what’s least known overlaps with Nick’s interpretation, and where my interpretation completely clashed. Among the bands ranked most obscure on the iceberg is Punjab, a short-lived Chicago group. I’ve come across cheap copies of their seven-inches at Reckless Records often enough that I ended up purchasing Morning Mood on two separate occasions without noticing it till a huge record organizing effort last year. One of the band members is also a longtime local concert promoter I’m routinely in touch with for work. I never saw Punjab, but the band’s history is so engrained in my experience of music in Chicago I consider them a little less obscure than the iceberg suggests. But if I never moved to Chicago, I probably wouldn’t question this particular ranking. (Miranda and Ellie have written great pieces about the iceberg, which you should read!)
The more I looked at the emo iceberg, and the more emo_encyclopedia posts I saw, the more I wanted to know about the person behind it. I saw my window after Nick posted some AMA stories on emo_encyclopedia’s account about a week ago. He answered a handful of questions over email:
-So you first got into emo about a year ago. What interested you in it?
When I was first getting into the genre, what initially stuck out to me was the cryptic and oftentimes mysterious artwork many of the classic bands used. Groups like Indian Summer, Moss Icon, and Rites of Spring all had very minimal-yet-intriguing aesthetics that grabbed my attention instantly.
-Where did you look to expand your knowledge of emo?
Learning about emo and the roots of the genre can oftentimes be a very difficult thing to do, due to the never-ending debate regarding its qualities and intentions. In order to combat the oftentimes regurgitative discussion about its elements, I looked towards old non-opinionated BlogSpot pages and forums such as Beyond Failure, Sophie's Floorboard, and Desperate and Lonely. They oftentimes gave first-hand recounts and knowledge regarding the bands, pushing past the term "emo" and focusing more on the history of its progenitors.
-Why did you want to start the emo_encyclopedia account?
I started the Emo Encyclopedia account in order to highlight and bring attention to oftentimes ignored and forgotten releases that are left out of common discussion. From what I've witnessed in some circles online, people become very combative and hostile over ultimately arbitrary terms and classifications. I wanted to subvert that and just share really awesome music with people, while offering some history or trivia on it.
-When did you get the idea to make the emo iceberg? What was your method for figuring out where to place all the bands?
The emo iceberg originated out of the same intention that the creation of the page did. I basically wanted to have a huge list of artists that people would be able to dive into and explore, allowing those interested to find some gems and potentially new favorites. My method for placing the bands wasn't the most sophisticated I admit, and was decided between myself and a group of three other friends. I've noticed some people online threw some criticism at many of the placements, but I think they're kinda missing the point of it. It's more a list of artists everyone should check out wrapped in a facetious format than anything else. I wanted the main point of discussion to be investigating the obscure groups themselves and their music, instead of their position on the iceberg. There wasn't a biased or opinionated intention in their placement, rather just their obscurity relative to what me and my friends saw online.
-How have you found like-minded fans?
I've found the most like-minded fans by engaging with followers of the page, as well as talking to some of those who are active on the forums and servers I mentioned previously. It's always a great feeling to be able to talk to someone about the genre, as everyone I've directly communicated with who is a fan has been nothing but wonderfully nice. I feel very grateful that I have a platform to be able to show people music, as music is my passion and sharing it with others brings me great fulfillment.
-What keeps you interested in researching?
I'm very interested in being able to research about all corners and branches of the genre. As of now, I feel like my page/knowledge of the genre is relatively limited to older groups, and I want to definitely expand into discussing some of the newer artists and musicians who are keeping the genre going, as they're just as important to its history.
If you liked this and are interested in reading more about emo, pick up a copy of my book. It includes chapters on Bob Nanna, fourth-wave emo, and American Football. All the proceeds benefit the Chicago Reader.