EMBR: Interview With Eric, Crystal, Mark & Alan

After what has been a very productive last nine months, the release of a debut album, 1823, an EP of grunge covers Idolatry, and even a reworked Christmas tune, I recently had the opportunity to drill the band EMBR for some answers. We discussed the inner workings of the band, literally what makes them tick, and even pondered on the future, and how they plan on moving ahead, considering just how unhelpful COVID has been, in establishing a name for a new band.


Covering topics from guilty pleasures, and just how needed a doom reworking of Def Leppard’s classic Women is, to plans for the future, and what’s in the pipeline, ladies and gentlemen, I give you, from Birmingham, Alabama, the ever engaging, EMBR.

Where does the name EMBR come from? What is its significance? And should it be stylized in all uppercase?

Eric: Crystal and I started EMBER (with the 2nd ‘e’) in 2014. We lived in Iowa and wanted to start a project together. We had about three to five songs down in GarageBand with no members yet. We basically looked at our lyrical content which are usually about anger, frustration, forgiveness and redemption.

Fire can symbolize cleansing and we used the music and lyrics to ‘cleanse’ and release the anger and frustration. I came up with the name EMBER one night down in the basement working on some rough recordings. I mentioned it to Crystal and we both loved it. We stylise it in uppercase because it just looks damn classy that way – LOL.

Previous to EMBR, which other bands have you all played in? What are your musical roots? And have you played together in any other bands, before EMBR formed?

Eric: Well, before we moved to Iowa I was in a lot of bands around Atlanta. LeveL, Palace of the Fallen, Self-Motivational Speaker, I was even in a band with Mark (guitar) back in the day named Canyon, a southern fried, redneck rock band.

But my musical roots are pretty diverse. When I was very young I broke into my moms vinyl’s and listened to Led Zeppelin II, Three Dog Night and Willie Nelson. Growing up as a teen  I was into Life of Agony, Acid Bath, Type O, Clutch, Tad and even Depeche Mode, Bob Marley and VOD. Now, I listen to pretty much everything from Slayer and Goatsnake to Hank Williams Jr and Jesus Culture – haha! It’s all over the place.

Alan: Stoned Cobra and Cavalen just before becoming an EMBR membr (sic).  However my roots are in grindcore and death metal.  Love that tish (sic)!!

Fire can symbolize cleansing and we used the music and lyrics to ‘cleanse’ and release the anger and frustration…

Mark: Before EMBR, I was in a few bands as well. I met Eric around 2008 while playing in a band called Well of Remorse. W.O.R. played in the same Atlanta circuit as Eric’s band Palace of the Fallen. Coincidentally, both of our bands split up around the same time and Eric and I started jamming. We played in a few different bands together before Eric and Crystal moved to Iowa.

Shortly after, I took a long break from playing music to focus on my family and career. Eric and I stayed in contact over the years and in 2019 he reached out to me to see if I’d be interested in playing guitar with EMBR. After he and Crystal released 326, I think Eric wanted to get back on the drums full time and I wanted to get back into playing in a band.

 So after a few practices I decided to join the band and we immediately started working on 1823. My musical taste has always been broad, but being raised in the south definitely infused my roots with a lot of classic country and southern rock.

Crystal: I’ve only been in one other band which was one that my high school boyfriend and I had started. If I remember right I think we went by the name Massive Convulsions – LOL! We’d played a few shows and had a good time but I hadn’t put my all into it until Eric and I had started EMBR. My roots really started at the age of 9 in 4th grade choir, to singing at church, middle school and high school choir, plays and several talent shows.

Embr ‘1823’

What made you decide to cover the Christmas song Mary Did You Know? And why choose the song you did?

Eric: Alan brought up that song to the group and Crystal and I both looked at each other because we have always wanted to cover that song! Coincidently, Alan has too. We decided to do it to show another side to the band and it was a really fun experience.

Alan: Yep, I saw my niece sing MDYK in a Christmas recital a couple of years ago. Until that moment I’d never heard the song.  After hearing it that night all I could think of was putting the heavy to it. When I joined EMBR I knew it’d be a perfect fit.

Growing up, what music influenced you all to go into heavy music? And, do you have any guilty pleasures as regards music from the past?

Eric: Well, as I mentioned, I listened to my mother’s Led Zeppelin II vinyl and that started me down the road. But honestly, I didn’t really know that I wanted to play music until I went to a Pearl Jam show when I was young. I was able to go and see them on their VS. Tour. In fact the show I was at (in the FOX theatre) is a pretty popular bootleg live album I think.  Anyway, when I saw them play I knew I wanted to be there one day.  I really don’t have any guilty pleasures, well, maybe Simon and Garfunkle. LOL.

Alan: When I was in middle school I dreamt of playing Rocket Queen by GnR on stage at school. Then I discovered Bolt Thrower and Napalm Death, things became much more extreme musically after that. As for a guilty pleasure, I swear to the gods we will apply the doom to Women by Def Leppard (^.^), I think I’m the only person on the planet that loves that song.

Then I discovered Bolt Thrower and Napalm Death, things became much more extreme musically after that…

Crystal: I had always been very well rounded on the music that I would listen to and felt inspired by. Freddie Mercury was always a marvel to me. I think the first heavy song that I got into and would sing at parties with friends who had their own bands was Korn, Blind. I would scream that beginning part (‘are you reeeeeeaaady?’) and everyone would get fired up. The group I considered my guilty pleasure was ABBA, which might not be that guilty anymore considering that Ghost has been inspired by them as well. But there was a time that I would get some looks for even mentioning them.

Mark: My influences from heavy music started sometime in the early 90’s when I was introduced to bands like Metallica, Pantera and Slayer (all while listening to the heavier artists of the grunge era.) From there, I really got into the NWOAHM and Nu-Metal movement. I think one of the most influential aspects of ‘heavy’ music for me is the energy and intensity that comes from a live performance.  My musical guilty pleasure from the past would definitely be 80’s R&B and New Wave.


If you could play ANY festival, from anywhere in the world, or any time in history, which would it be? And why?

Eric: That’s a tough one. I’d have to say I’d just be stoked to play a huge festival at all!

Crystal: I agree with Eric, any huge festival would be awesome! Personally I can say it’s thrilling to sing in front of thousands of people! Just don’t make me talk to the crowd. Talking is a whole other story. I’m actually a very shy person and I can’t stand my speaking voice. I am WAAAAY too country! LOL!

Mark: There are too many good ones to pick just one….LOL.

If you could time travel back to any decade musically, which would it be, and what genre, or sub-genre would you play?

Eric: 90s grunge. It’s just such a damn epic time. Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Tad, STP, Sonic Youth, Breeders……

Crystal: I guess Eric and I are definitely soul mates because my answer is the 90’s grunge, metal and rock scene too. The time of chilling and watching MTV music videos until the early hours of the morning. Those were good times and it would have been great to be a part of that!

Alan: 80’s synthpop.  Something like Duran Duran or Depeche Mode.

Mark: Definitely 90s grunge. I think the 90s were a great time for all genres of music.

Somebody To Love by Queen, to me it’s a very emotional song and of course Freddie was amazing in it…

If you could have written any song, or played on any song, what would it be? And why?

Eric: If I could have written any song I wish I would have written What Love Remains by Goatsnake. Such a great tune and never gets old to me.

Crystal: Somebody To Love by Queen, to me it’s a very emotional song and of course Freddie was amazing in it. Definitely would be a challenge!

Alan: From The Pinnacle To The Pit by Ghost. The bass riff and tone are so siiiiiiiiiiick. Cheese and rice, I wish I had written that! I’m ready if they ever need a fill in ;p

Mark: The live version of Half Of My Mistakes performed by the Blue Dogs.

Embr ‘Idolatry’

If you could bring back one dead musician, who would it be, and why?

Eric: Peter Steele. Do I really need to say why?

Crystal: It has to be obvious who I would say right? Freddie Mercury of course! LOL!

Alan: {Alan cast level 15 Mass Resurrection on Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and Ronnie James Dio} Oh, you said only one?  Whoops… Jeez I’m a nerd (-_-*).

Mark: It’s tough to pick one, so I would say all the fallen idols from our Idolatry EP.

Which bands have you discovered in 2020? Who would you love to work with? And, who would you like to tour with, if possible?

Eric: I’d love to work with Old Blood, Frayle, Blacklab, Vodun – man, there are so many great talents. It’s hard to pick. Every time I think of one I’m like ‘damn, I can’t forget so-and-so’ I’d really love to work or tour with anyone that shares a mutual respect.

Crystal: I’m right there with Eric again on that answer. Old Blood would be very fun! 🙂

Alan: Agree with Eric. Old Blood is impressive.

Mark: Two bands that really stuck out to me in 2020 were Lazarvs and Sun of Grey. I’ve always wanted to work with the Deftones. They’re one of my all-time favorite bands.

Two bands that really stuck out to me in 2020 were Lazarvs and Sun of Grey…

Commercial sell out, or underground heroes? Which is better, struggling and maintaining credibility, or selling out for fame and riches?

Eric: I’m not sure. Is selling out ‘selling out’ or is it providing what a market demands? I think that term is overused really. Gatekeepers sometimes will yell out that phrase, but the band might have just decided to experiment and grow. I think my answer is I’d like to do what I do, maintain respect and ultimately make a living. I don’t need to drive a bad ass car or live in a big house, but it’d be nice to maintain and have a great time with friends and fans. Hell, to be honest one day I’d like to do a pop album………like Crosses!

Crystal: Oh boy, again I agree with much of what Eric has said. I’ve never liked the term ‘sell out’.  Bands evolve, hopefully for the better, but what is necessarily better? Isn’t it all in the eye of the beholder? I think it’s good and natural for a band to change in whatever styles they evolve to, and if the majority of the original fan base is pleased with those changes, then that’s definitely a win for the band.

But let’s say it doesn’t bode well; I know that there has been a few albums that maybe at first I was kind of turned off by. But after you give it some time and come back to it, you might find yourself being in love and find that the band actually knew what they were doing. The most recent one I’ve struggled with is Mumford & Sons. I loved their old folk albums and for the most part I’m not crazy about their newest ones. I like a couple of songs but I’ll give it a listen later on down the road and see if they rub me right.

Then you’ve got Mr Bungle who I used to really love and their newest album is unrecognizable as Mr Bungle to me. It’s good music but I don’t hear any resemblance of the old stuff. But in my book that is totally okay! They are free to do what they want! I still wouldn’t call them a sell out or anything.

In the end it’s not just art for people, it’s a business.  If a band sees an opportunity to advance financially and know where the target market is, then good for them. ESPECIALLY in this day and age when music is so widely and easily obtainable for free.

Alan: I’m a capitalist, baby so….

Mark: I think artists should do what makes them happy and let the cards fall where they may…


What are EMBR’s plans for the future? Promote 1823 and the Idolatry EP, or start work on a follow up? Without being able to tour, what’s the plan for 2021?

Eric: I think right now we’re just trying to stay creative and take some opportunities as they arise. We are working on the next album and have a lot of good ideas we’re solidifying. We’re staying busy for sure.

Regarding touring and promoting during a pandemic, and moving forward, how do you see the landscape evolving? And, with EMBR personally, are there any plans to tour internationally on the cards, or are you more focused on staying within the US for the time being?

Eric: I think the landscape will evolve the way people want it to – which is scary to some. What is rational? What is worth risking? What is worth fearing? I do believe we (each individual) control our own destiny, I believe we need to look at things that way.

Right now, we’re focused on our music and spreading the word…

We’re individuals. If we maintain and allow the figureheads words to cause fear, if we are irrational and unwilling to engage in critical thinking, if we turn a blind eye to many contradictions and continue down the current path, I think the outlook is not so good. If we decide we are individuals, we make our own decisions and mold our own life (and allow others to do the same) – we have a good chance.

We’ll take opportunities as they arise and are doable. Right now, we’re focused on our music and spreading the word. If we get a tour, we’d love it.

EMBR are currently supporting their latest album 1823 that’s out now through New Heavy Sounds.

Label: New Heavy Sounds
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter | Instagram

Interviewed by: Lee Beamish