Six Australian Emo Bands You Need To Know In 2020
Emo is far from over - if anything, it's better than ever.
Depending on who you are, the word ’emo’ can inspire a visceral reaction just by itself. Over the years, the early 2000s emo boom has proven to be more than a subversive trend that sparked a legion of long black fringes.
That’s because today, it’s a unifying slogan that brings people together; whether you were an all-black-wearing, American Football-listening devotee or not. Emo music is no longer marked by aesthetics or a point in time (or highly questionable lyrics) but rather by its humanity. It eschews posturing in favour of raw honesty with emotion helmed by storytellers whose confessional lyrics create intimate connections between themselves and their audiences.
And that’s what these Australian bands do best. Whether it’s lamenting shitty weather or a bad breakup, Australia’s new wave of post-emo acts break barriers between themselves and listeners seeking comfort and validation. But the common thread that ties all these artists together is their resounding hope.
To that end, here are six Australian emo bands that will make you cry, make you dance, and make you love harder than ever.
Ceres has been around for a minute — since 2012 to be exact — but a string of major changes in the last 12 months makes them worth talking about here. The four-piece turned into a group of five in 2019, with the addition of multi-instrumentalist, Stacey Cicivelli (who also happens to be drummer, Frank Morda’s partner). A former member of pop-punk outfit Self Talk, Cicivelli first lent her voice to the band’s release, Ceres Is For Lovers in 2015.
Part of what makes Ceres special is lead singer Tom Lanyon’s vignettes about the darkest moments of his life. Drawing inspiration from the likes of Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday, his love affair with emo-leaning rock music began in 2003, eventually leading him to songwriting.
Breakout hit ‘Stretch Ur Skin’ propelled Ceres from Melbourne’s underground rock scene to national recognition in 2017, but for Lanyon this moment was bittersweet. “After ‘Stretch Ur Skin’, I was just like ‘I’m done with the band. I’m not going to do it anymore,’” he confessed in an interview with Rochelle Flack from Casual Band Blogger.
It was more than a song for Lanyon — an extremely personal recount of a messy breakup that further alienated him from his ex-girlfriend.
But Lanyon didn’t quit and today, Ceres is renewed with a sense of joy. The addition of Cicivelli coincides with the band’s third studio album, I Don’t Want To Be Anywhere But Here, a refreshing departure from the band’s characteristic tortured and brooding salvos. Musically, nothing much has changed, and songs like ‘Marriage’ and ‘Me & You’ celebrate Lanyon’s newfound love.
The Lazy Susans (FKA Antonia & The Lazy Susans)
The Lazy Susans create music that is indelibly poignant, marked by simple and dynamic storytelling. The four-piece outfit, formed in 2016, sees Antonia Susan Vial, Kieren Turnbull, Wesley Reyes, and Ashlee Giblin tug at listeners’ heartstrings as they sift through life’s most complicated issues: vulnerability, love, life and what it all really means anyway.
The Melbourne-based band’s debut EP, Closure doesn’t mince words. Lead singer, Antonia grapples with what happens when families break down on ‘Bloodties’, while on ‘I Don’t Like You’ she meditates on heartbreak, street harassment, and hopelessness tempered by juddering guitars matching her frustrations.
Since their debut, The Lazy Susans have become a fixture in Melbourne’s rock scene, lauded for their hypnotic indie tinged emo salvos. Their debut 2019 record, Now That The Party’s Over is an amalgam of joy (‘Care About Yourself’), candour (‘If I Hurt You’), and loneliness (‘Reaching Out’), though the band concedes that writing happy songs just isn’t their thing: “We’ve tried… but it’s just not who we are; they always end up sounding like a cheesy jingle,” the admitted to Pure Nowhere.
Tasmanian emo band Squid Fishing tend to immerse themselves in sadness and self-loathing, but what makes this four-piece special is their effervescence and sharp wit.
Formed in 2016 during high school the original trio has grown not only in band members but also with interstate tours and a dedicated fanbase. Best described as emo-meets-indie punk, Squid Fishing has continued to make a name for themselves while flying the flag for Tasmania’s blossoming scene.
Fronted by exuberant emoters Zena Mohamad and Ethan Groombridge, the two play off one another and effortlessly ride a wave of playful and gritty guitar tones, florid cymbals, and reposeful licks of bass created by bandmates Nelson Otten and Zen Cane.
Early songs like ‘Meaningless Sex’ are raw, exposing Zena’s tangled thoughts and loneliness, while ‘Netflix Ruined My Life’ wryly winks at listeners. Every difficult or emotional moment is alleviated by humour, capturing their audience’s propensity for self-deprecation.
By giving a voice to the private nagging thoughts in their heads, Squid Fishing force listeners to leave their egos at the door. This is likely why ‘Shitty Weather’ the band’s first release of 2020 has become an anthem. The song is nothing but a stack of complaints from the rain in March to homesickness but is ultimately underscored by hope — something we all desperately need.
“No gods. No masters. Gender is fake. Fuck cops.” This is Sports Bra’s thesis and also the words scrawled around the cover of their eponymous debut record.
Formed by Sydney’s Alex Gallagher, Zoe Lane from acoustic project Dog Dirt, Naif from Hannahband and Passing, and Kate from Mortgage, the band is a veritable supergroup comprised of some of the city’s most well-known artists. There is no definitive frontperson and all four members rotate roles with a camaraderie that emanates from the stage. The diaristic nature of the record captured unexpected attention and success, launching the band to almost instant national recognition.
Anthemic odes to resilience and survival fill the band’s second album, Talk It Out. Songs like ‘Little Beast,’are explosions of anger and optimism: “Please please don’t give up, you are so loved and more than enough,” Naif begs on the frenzied outro.
It’s the antithesis of the typical self-flagellating emo and post-punk from 2003 most of us remember fondly; Sports Bra is the modern antidote, promoting togetherness, love and community instead.
Lyrics about misogyny, self-care, preservation, apathy, feeling like a burden but asking for help anyway feel worn and lived in. It feels like a privilege to even be privy to such thoughts, and it’s this bright and soul-baring songwriting that makes Sports Bra a musical tour-de-force.
Paper Thin may have only just formed in 2016 but each member has been around the block. Frontman and bassist, Spencer Scott has played in the Newcastle scene as a solo artist for years before he decided to join a band. Unbeknownst to him, his new band has been right there all along.
Together with longtime friends Aidan Roe (the band’s guitarist and vocalist and drummer) and Liam Tobin, the three decided to come together for a one-off practice. The synergy was there “so we knew we wanted to do something from the get-go,” Scott told Tone Deaf.
“No gods. No masters. Gender is fake. Fuck cops.”
The emo three-piece has released a string of EPs, and their debut album isn’t far off. After winning the New South Wales leg of the VB Hard Yards competition, the band received $5000 in prize money, allowing them to record the anticipated record without financial constraints.
As with most DIY projects, all three members hold down day-jobs to fuel their passion as musicians. It’s a stark reality that often goes unspoken but Paper Thin has been, well, spread quite thin juggling work, music, and family commitments. “It can be tough,” Scott continued. “We’ve had to turn down some good opportunities [but]I think we’ve found a good balance now.”
Taking inspiration from Taking Back Sunday and Kisschasy, Paper Thin is fresh, but with an edge of nostalgia.
Superdose Gangway may have formed based on a shared love of the glossy, Midwest-emo of The Hotelier, Into It. Over It., and Tiny Moving Parts, but over the last five years, they’ve crafted a sound of their own.
The Adelaide band formed by Max Tulysewski and Liam Gare began with their ‘Twenty-Six Songs in Twenty-Sixteen’ project, where together with bassist Ned Heggart and Craig Burns on drums they wrote, recorded and released a slew of new songs. Since then the band has evolved with the addition of Bonnie Aue on bass and Ben Finnis on vocals and guitar, while Ned and Liam have since left.
Monsoon Season, the outfit’s debut effort, is comprised of songs from their initial project and features meditations on boredom, heartbreak and self-doubt, all sung in a heavy Aussie lilt. But it’s their followup debut EP, Temple Bay, that sees the band shine. From unexpected moments of restraint, like ‘Romance O.N.O.’ which plays with vocoders, to frothy emo textures that feel steeped in nostalgia.
The quintet has been particularly quiet since their 2018 EP, though their steady run of shows could signal new music in 2020 — at least we hope so.
Kish Lal is a writer and critic based in New York City. She is on Twitter.
All this week, Music Junkee is tumbling down memory lane and exploring everything to do with the emo. Get stuck in here.
Photo Credits: Michael Thomas/Facebook