MUSIC FEATURE: Five Minutes With…EMBR
Photo Credit: Ashley Guise
A band who play straight from the heart without being confined by any one genre, EMBR are four musical kindred spirits who are ready to share their debut album 1823 with the world. Broadening the horizons of doom by bringing in elements of grunge and alt-rock, the band’s new record is crushing and enthralling in equal measure. We caught up with lead vocalist Crystal Bigelow to find out more, including her first musical memory, EMBR‘s influences, ambitions and more.
Firstly, tell us a bit about yourself and your band.
My name is Crystal Bigelow and I’m the lead vocalist of the Birmingham, Alabama band EMBR. I’ve been singing since I was about nine years old. My experience had modest beginnings, performing in talent shows, plays and other public concerts. My experience has grown immensely over the years though and I’m really enjoying my progression.
The band EMBR has been classified as doom metal, alt-rock, sludge and heavy metal but we just write what feels good to us, we play straight from the heart. When we write, we remain open minded and lay down what moves us. Musically we try to keep things low, (mostly) slow, loud, spacious and heavy. We feel this helps open things up and creates a good canvas for me vocally.
My style has been described as haunting and operatic at times. When I am developing patterns and notes, I really enjoy challenging myself. I try to be more of a dynamic vocalist and not just a singer. I incorporate screams, growls, grungy techniques and other styles that I feel fit the vibe of whatever song we’re creating.
How did the band form and how long have you been together?
I had always wanted to make music with my husband Eric Bigelow [our drummer] early in our marriage. Eric was reluctant about it; afraid of the strain it could put on our relationship. I suggested it for many years to no avail and eventually gave up on asking him. Finally in 2013 when we lived in Spirit Lake, Iowa, Eric was willing to give it a shot by starting EMBR’s grassroots there. We have since found that we work almost perfectly with each other! That’s not to say that we don’t have disagreements. When (and if) they do happen, we work them out by remaining open minded, and try all ideas to see what sticks.
After a time Eric’s career (he’s a lean manufacturing manager) moved us back down south and we began our musical journey in Alabama. Throughout these seven years (in Iowa and Alabama) we’ve had many great musicians contribute to our growth, many of whom we are still friends with today. Each person has had a hand in molding EMBR into what it is and for that, we’re grateful. We thank them all.
There was a short time where Eric and I had to try our best as a two-piece band. We couldn’t find any dedicated members, Eric was going through prepping himself to start dialysis and there was just a lot going on. In any case, during that time we wrote and recorded the five-song EP 326: Spiritual Dialysis. We were successful in this venture due to Eric’s ingenuity; fortunately, that was only necessary for short while. Things changed for the better…
It wouldn’t be long before current members Mark Buchanan [guitar] and Alan Light [bass] joined forces with us in 2019. Now EMBR is complete. Mark and Alan are great individuals, great friends and great musicians. I couldn’t imagine having a better or more cohesive band family. We work well together on writing, filming, art and brainstorming the vision. We are really excited to release our first full-length album 1823, which we all worked on together and recorded with Matt Washburn at Ledbelly in Dawsonville, Ga.
Can you remember the first time you realised you wanted to make music?
I think it started (for me) while in high school. My high school boyfriend and I started a metal band. It definitely helped spark my passion to create music. We had a lot of fun and some great experiences, but I didn’t really take it on with vigor and discipline until Eric and I started EMBR.
Eric has always been the lifeblood of our group. He not only brings in his many talents (being a multi-talented musician, an artist and an amazing performer) but also really helps in all the elements that are important to keeping the band active and sustainable. He has always been the driving force of organisation, planning and execution for us. His encouragement and proficiency is what really lit my fire to creating music. He has so much heart and passion in everything he does. It’s inspiring!
Who and what are the band’s main influences?
The vision for EMBR has always been to create something heavy with clean vocals (though recently we have incorporated guttural and screaming style vocals). Eric is inspired by bands that are slow and sludgy and you can hear that in his drumming style. Alan and Mark bring in heavy styles as well with inspiration from stoner, doom, metal, rock and even a taste of southern rock peppered in. We’re eclectic on influences, it’d be difficult to list all our favourite bands. Perhaps you’ll hear the influences come through when you hear the next release.
For me, I’ve been intrigued by many talents. The great Freddie Mercury, Dio, Chris Cornell and Mike Patton to name a few. These are vocalist who have exceptional talents and can give you chills, make you cry and occasionally, hit you with dark techniques of screams, growls or gruff. I love music and vocals that make me feel in a very deep and emotional way. These great men do (and did) just that. They always leave me inspired every single time I listen to them.
To me, it’s all about being versatile and accomplishing the vibe the song calls for. It can elevate the song from being what would be a great song, into a masterpiece.
What do you aim to achieve as a band?
Put simply, we want to make great music with feeling and soul. We are always striving for growth and (as far as success) the sky’s the limit. We are going to keep working and hammering it out until we just can’t do it anymore. We are driven. We got a lot of great ideas in the bank and were always coming up with new ones so, we are trying to plan out how to accomplish all of them!
For those who are yet to see you live, what can they expect from an EMBR show?
Well, we’re very loud and we put our all into our shows. You’ll see a wall of amps and you might even see me lose my balance because sometimes the volume throws off my equilibrium – lol. But seriously, we try to throw down as much as we can and (as I stated in the question above) we always try and grow. We’re always discussing how to make the live show better. We have some tricks up our sleeve we’ll be revealing soon, stay tuned.
What’s next for EMBR?
Our new album 1823 comes out on 17th July. We’re super excited about that. It’s available for pre-order now HERE. We are staying active and are super busy right now. We’re working on a few more videos (which we do ourselves) and we’re also working on an EP to be released soon. Writing for the next full length has also begun.
We are going to start up playing shows again as soon as venues start to open – but we have toyed with the idea of doing live streams…we just have to figure out how to maintain the sound quality of it.
EMBR‘s debut album 1823 is due for release on 17th July 2020 via New Heavy Sounds, available to pre-order HERE.