Recording engineer: Steven Kray, with technical assistance from Randy Layton
Video production: Jarratt Taylor
Video shooters: Jarratt Taylor / Anthony DelCalzo / David Christensen
Photos: David Christensen / Jeremy Petersen
Interview: Jeremy Petersen
Past Life Martyred Saints, the 2011 debut from EMA (aka Erika M. Anderson), doesn’t always make for easy listening. The imagery is often dark, ranging from violent to anxiety-riddled, and the hooks (of the musical variety) aren’t necessarily identifiable upon a first or second listen. Anderson’s voice often seethes with rage, before turning on a beat to a whispered sweetness— thus creating the cathartic crux of many of these intense and personal songs. A little more quality time spent with the music begins to reveal its pop sensiblities, especially in comparison to Anderson’s past work as part of the experiemental noise duo Gowns. “It’s not all like minor chords just strummed slowly through reverb,” she told us, “I feel like there’s a lot of triumph on it…even if it’s dealing with heavy themes.”
EMA stopped by our studios with her band (Leif Shackelford on keys and viola, Nicole Anderson on drums, and Nicky Mao on guitar) for a faithfully passionate set of songs from the debut. Let the record show she was also enagaging and downright cheery (she told us that interviewers are often surprised that she isn’t “suicidal and crying in a corner”) as she talked about her music, the cultivation of her visual image, and her small-town South Dakota roots.
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