For years, fans of true emo lived a doubly disgraced existence. Not only were they ridiculed for their association with the genre, they were mortified at what the term had come to describe. In the past few years, however, the genre has revived itself — through reunions of classic bands and a wave of new bands — and rebranded itself as “skramz.”
So while Get Up Kids shirts need no longer hide behind the pearly snaps of button-downs, the most refreshing aspect of the recent revival is the quality and caliber of the new wave of bands. Reluctantly leading the charge is Philadelphia-based trio Algernon Cadwallader.
“We never set out to be leaders,” said Algernon bassist and vocalist Peter Helmis. “Nor do we feel responsible for carrying a torch. We’re just doing what we want. Always have been.”
The “torch” he’s speaking of is the sonic and emotional similarities that Algernon bears to classic bands such as American Football and Cap’n Jazz. But while Helmis is quick to shake off the yolk of torch-bearer or flag-waver, he is quick to acknowledge his influences.
“The mid-’90s Chicago scene had a big influence on how we play over instruments. The early ’80s hardcore scene gave us our DIY ethics. The Beatles taught us that you can wrap it all up in a nice little pop package.”
Their sound, while an homage of sorts to the emo pioneers, has an edge all its own. Noodling guitars freak out over controlled feedback while brainy lyrics soar.
And with only two albums completed, Algernon have still managed to noticeably mature and develop their sound over time. The angsty bounce of “Some Kind of Cadwallader,” from the 2008 album of the same name, is markedly different than the focused pop of “Preservatives” off of 2011’s Parrot Flies.
As there are mixed results when combining punk music with major labels, Helmis and crew have made it a point to stick to their DIY guns.
“We had been fully engrossed in DIY culture before this band even started,” said Helmis. “It would have been pretty boring waiting around for someone to notice us. By the time any business men came a-knocking, it seemed to us that they would more or less just be taking a cut of what we had worked so hard to build on our own.”
As for their first stop in Indianapolis, Helmis and company seem rather excited.
“It’s no secret that the Midwest kills it when it comes to DIY punk music. This will be an unforgettable show. If anything, I’m worried for the roof of the Hoosier Dome!”