|Emanuel interview by: Julie Magyar
BurningStars.net: Name and position in the band.
Matt Breen (vocals/guitar): Matt Breen and I sing and play guitar for the band Emanuel.
BS: Where did the name of the band come from?
Matt: When we were 14 and we started the band, we were like a pop punk band and our band was called Emanuel Nice, and
we lie a lot in interviews and say our band name came from drug dealers and other shit, but it's just not true. I don't even
remember where it came from, to be honest with you, but when we started to be more serious about it a couple years ago, we
were going to change our name and we wanted to pick a band name that really meant something to us. We had so many
ideas but all of them seemed kind of contrived and we were like "well, I mean obviously if anyone says the word Emanuel for
the rest of my life, I'm going to think of my band that I've been in for years now", so we decided just to cut it down to
Emanuel and run with that, and that's the honest story.
BS: What made you get started in playing music?
Matt: I think I'm a pretty sensitive person and I'm really affected by music, music can have a real serious impact on my
emotions, so it's always something that's been pretty close to me and its always been an important part of my life. No one in
my family really played music or anything. My mom was just a big fan of music, introduced me to a lot of bands at a young
age. When I was about 13, I was writing poetry and writing stories, and I just thought, you know when you're a 13 year old
boy, you just think how cool it would be to be in a band and get attention. So I was like 'mom, buy me an electric guitar' and
I just sat in my bedroom everyday for years and taught myself how to play it. Now I'm glad I did. I'm glad I took interest in
it. It's probably the most important thing in my life right now.
BS: Who are your influences personally and/or musically?
Matt: John Lennon is an influence of mine, personally and musically, so I'll just start with him. I really love the Beatles music.
To some degree I write pop songs and I think a lot of influence in their structure, but also from his life and his beliefs I try to
model myself after sometimes. Other then that, my mom, which is kind of a corny answer, but it's true. I mean, aside from
being the reason I exist, she had me when she was like 17 and stayed in school and took care of me and raised me and I still
pretty much live off of her, she still pays most of my bills and shit. Other then the Beatles musically, it really varies. I can say
for a fact that when I wrote this record, Refused, Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana, Recover, At The Drive-In, Armor For Sleep,
all those bands were on my mind. But since then, I've really cleared my head of those kinds of bands. I mean, I still love them,
but when you are in a band that plays hard rock music and you're constantly surrounded by it, all I want to listen to now is
like modern stuff, I like the Postal Service and Bright Eyes, on my iPod I just have a section called oldies and it's just what
your local oldies station would play, like Dancing in the Moonlight or the Kinks or Smokey Robinson. Just really mellow
stuff, because that's part of what music is, its the way to get away from your life and my life is hard rock music, so now and
then I even need an escape from that.
BS: How long did you guys work on Soundtrack To A Headrush?
Matt: Some of the songs we started writing 2 or 3 years ago and we just didn't know where we were going with it at the time.
We were kind of still in high school and kind of just working part time jobs and we had a lot of other ideas. We were always
trying to be a professional band, but when you don't really know what's happening yet, you don't really know. So we had
other jobs, we decided not to go to college. About 2 years ago was when it really started, we'd be hanging out, working out
part time jobs in the daytime and then meeting at my grandma's house when we practiced in the basement at like 10 PM
every night and me and Anthony would usually write the beginnings of the songs, we'd lay the groundwork, usually smoke
like mad weed, then lay the groundwork for the song. Not saying that's necessary to write songs, I'm not ever saying that
anyone should do that because I really don't ever do it myself anymore. I'm seriously pretty much done with it entirely. I
don't think it makes you a better songwriter or anything, but I do think that sometimes it can disassociate your thoughts and
so you put old ideas together that you might not have put together otherwise and I think it helps. We wrote the record then
like a year ago, we went into the studio with Machine and recorded it. It's been a fucking long trip. I'm almost 22 now and I
wrote a lot of these songs when I was like 19, so although I love the record still, it's getting to the point now where maybe I
don't exactly feel that way all the time anymore. I'm ready to express new emotions because I'm growing, you don't ever stop
BS: Do you have a personal favorite song on off of the cd?
Matt: It depends on what mood I'm in. I guess from a songwriters standpoint, I'm happiest with "Breathe Underwater"
because I think it flows well, but it's not my favorite song. If I'm in the mood for like heavy music, if I'm excited and ready to
fucking go on stage and do it, then it's definitely "The New Violence" cause I really feel that song, I vibe that song. But "Make
Tonight" is probably my favorite. I get a lot of compliments on it and I'm kind of a sucker for compliments, and also, it's just
a cool song. That song is really true to me, it's about this night that I spent with this chick that I'm dating now and it was cool
and it had an impact on my life and a lot of people seem to be able to relate to the song. When you write songs, its an
important feeling to know that people can relate to what you make.
BS: When you write songs, do you write the lyrics first, or the music?
Matt: I have a constant list, it used to be on a piece of notebook paper, but now it's on my Sidekick, of just phrases. Just little
tiny thoughts. And then I write music all the time too. And then when I'll get an idea musically I'll be like "what does this feel
like to me?" and then I'll be like 'well, it feels like this' and I'll go through my pages and pages and pages of sentences, then I'll
be like "cool, I really dig this sentence and it feels like if I was telling a story, I might use this sentence to relate to this song".
So I'll go back and write lyrics based around that one line that I had. So it's kind of like music and songs loose, just like
random ideas I'm writing all the time and then whenever one concrete musically ideas formed, I form concrete lyrical ideas
BS: Is one ever harder than the other?
Matt: Yeah, because with musical ideas, I take them to my band, like it's usually my idea originally, but then I take it to my
band and everybody puts input like 'I don't like this, I do like this' and I'll be like "cool, lets make it this way, lets change it
this way", I have a second opinion. But when it comes to lyrics, usually it's just me, and lyrics and vocals are like the human
extension of music so there's really no one that I can ask if it's right or not, because it's just a matter of whether it's true to me
or not. And being my biggest critic and being a huge critic of myself, it can take me months to write lyrics. Sometimes I get
BS: If you could be one person for the day, who would it be and why?
Matt: Today, I would be the Dalai Lama and just see what it's like to be at complete peace with life because the Dalai Lama,
he's not afraid of death, he's not afraid of anything that's going to happen, he just is, you know what I mean? He just exists
and he's completely content with that and I think that'd be cool. But if you asked me the same question tomorrow, I'd
probably say something different.
BS: Did you ever take any music classes?
Matt: Nope. I mean, I took like in elementary school where you just sing songs together. I did that shit, but I was always to
shy to sing. So no, not really. But I worked hard to teach myself how to do what I do, so it almost counts.
BS: What is the best advice you have ever gotten?
Matt: Best advice I've gotten was... that's a really hard question. That really asked me to re-evaluate my whole life in one
second. I don't know. The best advice I've ever gotten has just been, my mom told me a million times, because, I mean, doing
what I do can be really frustrating. Sometimes your tired of being on tour and you just want to go home. My mom would
always just like say 'keep trying'. But the best advice I've ever gotten was maybe from our manager is when I get shy and I
feel like I'm not doing shit right, she just reminds me that I'm not just a guy in a band anymore, I'm an entertainer and I have
to go on stage and even if I'm upset about something at home, sometimes I have to just kind of tuck that in and not let it
show. Sometimes I'm fucking depressed and I don't feel like the song the Hey man, you know what I mean? Like I don't feel
like going up there and fucking screaming like that, but it's my job and sometimes even what you love is your job and even it
feels like a job. But for all those times when I get frustrated and don't think I can do it, there are just as many times where I
can't believe I would ever question it. It's complicated because to be in this position you have to be really aware of your
emotions but you can't let them control you, you have to control them and it can get fucking hard sometimes.
BS: What is a CD you've been listening to that you'd recommend to others?
Matt: I think The Byrds Sweetheart of the Rodeo. It's fucking amazing, because that band was like a poetic, psychedelic band
of the 60's and one day they up and decided to write a country record. Lifted by Bright Eyes like literally changed my life. It's
one of those records where I really feel like he wrote it for me. If no one told me differently, I would believe that he wrote it for
BS: If you weren't making music right now, what would you be doing?
Matt: I would be in college studying philosophy because I fucking love it. I'm not really interested in the day to day, small
details of life. I don't care what I eat for lunch, I don't care about my checkbook, I don't care about... I mean I care about the
news, but only because I think about the big picture. I'm in a really de-basing religion and just wondering about the big
questions of life.
BS: What is different now being in a bigger band (i.e. being signed, bigger tours, etc.) as opposed to before?
Matt: Sleeping in hotels, taking showers everyday, having enough money to have a cell phone and a Sidekick and nice jeans,
eating. It's all a little easier on the self-esteem knowing that people care. But it's not that much different. There's still being out
all day no luxury in my life, other then the AC in the can. Everything else is still pretty much bare, which is cool.
BS: If you could set up a tour with any band right at this moment, who would it be with?
Matt: It would definitely be Armor For Sleep because they're our close friends, they've helped us out a lot. I heard the
Smashing Pumpkins are getting back together, so them too, because it's fucking one of my all-time favorite bands.
BS: Can you give us a background to a few of your songs?
Matt: Most of the are kind of about the year that I graduated high school. I was working a part-time job, just ended a lot of
long friendships in my life, a lot of people I'd seen everyday for years I was no longer seeing. I was wondering what I was
doing with my life. It sounds cheesy but I really was drinking and doing a lot of drugs. Drinking a lot and doing drugs can
be really fun, if you're in the right state of mind, but I wasn't, I was bummer out and it just made things worse and that
whole record is pretty much realizing for the first time that I'm becoming an adult and I'm an anxious, uncertain, depressed
person and the whole record is almost like denial or fighting. But all the songs I'm writing now are like a real level of
acceptance, I am who I am and I appreciate that, even if it is sad sometimes. I am who I am and I appreciate that. So our next
record is going to be a big turn around. I think a lot of people are going to realize on our next record that there is a lot less
screaming and a lot less angry and a lot more of just sadness but I'm not concerned with it really because I think it's really
important to be honest because there are plenty of artist who aren't going to be honest. I'm sure there are plenty of bands
who are big now and they're writing songs using the formula that works for them, like "hey we sold a million records on this,
let's do it again." I haven't got to that point yet, hopefully I never will, but I certainly haven't now. So our next record if going
to be a clean slate for me. I'm not worried about where I came from or what Emanuel is, I'm not trying to reinvent Emanuel,
I'm just trying to be true because that's what it's all about.
BS: That's good because you see some bands that kind of lose themselves with "fame" and are starting to get noticed and all
that and after they get noticed they start losing themselves.
Matt: No doubt. Yeah, that won't happen to us, I promise. We'll break up before that'll ever happen because we've been
doing this since we were 13 and there was no reward for it then besides happiness and although we do enjoy success, we do
enjoy getting paid $500 every few months, which isn't much, we enjoy it, but it's just about fun to us still and that will never