Remo Drive are hardly a new band. Since their formation in 2013 they’ve been hard at work with five EP and split releases and plenty of shows under their belt. However, with the release of their debut full length, Greatest Hits, the band decided to reinvent themselves. Rising from the ashes of emo stereotypes, the born-again Remo Drive is here to rock your world. Vocalist Erik Paulson shed some light on the process of creation with a reinvigorated passion.
For a while now the band has been pretty candid about the fact that they were no longer happy with the style of music they were making. “I burnt myself out on it because it was the only thing I was listening to,” says Paulson. At some point last year he began to feel as if they were being pigeonholed in the emo genre, no longer making music that resonated within themselves but rather what they believed the scene wanted to hear. This eventually led to the questioning of why they were making music that is derivative; “at that point I might as well just listen to the music of the people who are doing it better than us.” These feelings were coupled with a renewed passion throughout the band for music of all types. “I reconnected more with what I was listening to before I was into [emo] and as a result I realized that there is so much good music again, rather than just being super one dimensional with my tastes.” Together this gave the band the confidence to experiment with their sound. While it still fits under the emo umbrella, “it’s a little more genuine to where we come from rather than just taking a few bands [as influence]. It’s more of a spread of what we all like.” The band also looked back on music before the internet, for inspiration. “I sort of had this realization that there weren’t many successful copycat type bands. Everybody who was really doing it was bringing something new to the table. I just looked at a lot of my favorite bands and I was like ‘man, I want to have the same effect as like Rivers [Cuomo of Weezer] had on me when I was in middle school or high school.’ I just felt that connection because there’s nothing else like that.”
So far, it’s worked. The music video for the album’s first single, “Yer Killin’ Me”, received a shout out from The Needle Drop’s Anthony Fantano as well as finding a large audience on Reddit. “It’s kind of some positive affirmation that we did something more genuine. But it’s also kind of nerve-wracking to me. I didn’t really expect the album to have this many people listening to it.” While the band has always had a personal and unique internet presence, they have never had this much of an audience. With the fast paced world we live in where it’s easy to be on to the next big thing, forgetting about the last, “it’s kind of just trial and error for us to figure out what works to keep people engaged.” As fans of hip hop, the band has allowed that genre’s style of promotion to influence their own, shifting the focus from setting up premieres on larger websites to creating music videos and other ways to grab and keep people’s attention. “Just trying to put content first rather than where the content is coming out. And then I just try to be like how I am in real life [on social media]… Just genuine, I guess.”
Looking back at the creative process, it becomes even clearer why the new album is making such a splash. “I think the first thing for this full length that was super important is that our first drummer Sam, rejoined the band. That made a huge difference because his playing style is definitely very clear on the full length.” This was combined with a new vocal flair as well; Paulson was forced to change up his delivery because he was having trouble singing the way he has on past releases. It was also the first Remo Drive effort Erik was making after working on his solo project, Focus Ring. “I had just gotten so much more practice [writing] that it was more mature.” The last major sessions for Remo Drive had been in early 2015, which led to both their Wait For The Sun EP and Breathe In // Perfume 7”. The band spent more time creating Greatest Hits and did it together. “This was the most collaborative effort, too, where I’d kind of take my hands off and let the songs do what they did. Just do it how the three of us play.”
While Jack Shirley’s (Jeff Rosenstock, Joyce Manor, Deafheaven) mix and master job gives the album a clean feel, it is the way it was recorded that displays Remo Drive’s personality in the best possible way. The band demoed extensively, allowing songs to fulfill their full potential as well as weeding out those that didn’t quite fit; then they self-recorded, right at home. “Previously we recorded with other people so time was kind of a crunch and we didn’t really have much time to get really good takes.” This time around they were able to work at their own pace, honing in on their performances and waiting for the right moments to the point that they did not even require any editing. The band was so happy with the process that they have considered rerecording some of their previous releases, which they made the decision to take down. While they were not totally satisfied with those performances and would, perhaps, make small updates to lyrics or arrangements here and there, “We still think some of those songs are worth preserving. In particular the song called ‘Heartstrings’ we’d like to update. And then there’s this other one from the split that we did with Weathered that was called ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ that we like playing live a lot. We figure it makes sense for us to try and maybe bring that one to a newer form.”
Despite removing most of their back catalogue, Remo Drive did leave up their original 2014 demos. “At that point I was aware of all the emo revival stuff and it was mainly that I just liked the aesthetic of it – the faster, punkier thing. But I’d just gotten out of a huge progressive rock kick at that point so I feel like it was more just pure because I was trying to write stuff in a genre that I didn’t know anything about.” This lack of genre knowledge allowed the band’s first effort to be an authentic version of themselves at the time, trying to figure out what sounds and styles worked best for them rather than what fit into the accepted norms. It was this mentality that came back around for Greatest Hits and will continue to remain going forward. “I feel like we should just try to do something that’s true to ourselves rather than try to sound like our favorite bands. It’s hard to top your inspiration.” And now the breadth of influences has grown as well. “Musically, I’ve been listening to so much different stuff – a lot of music from the past, like 70s and 80s and all that… Lyrically, I think before I just didn’t know what I wanted to say and now I think I put a lot more thought into it.” The end result is a truer display of the band member’s personalities and where they each stand in the wider landscape of music. “It’s fun to hear more accurately what us three would sound like together if there were no genres in existence.”
With Greatest Hits, Remo Drive has produced what is objectively their best work to date. The band has been able to use past experiences to transcend their genre, while a renewed goal of making music for themselves has allowed them to resonate with steadily growing audiences. Press play below to join the ranks.