Over Coronas and limes, a conversation with the band EMÆL veers from the finer points of cellist Yo-Yo Ma’s persona to the prolific output of Dr. Dre and composer John Williams. Heady stuff from a group of kids mostly born and raised in Orange County all who live within a few minutes of each other in Placentia.
Emmanuel Ventura-Cruess, lead vocalist and cello, with Alyssa Cantal on vocals, Michael Womack on guitar and vocals, drummer Joris Hoogsteder along with keyboardist Daniel Kristoff form the current lineup.
Although things can rapidly change as they’ve been known to add and drop members as needed. Eman, as Emmanuel is referred to, performs the bulk of the songwriting but thrives on working with others “There is never a reason not to collaborate,” he says.
Collaborations aside, the tight relationships between the mostly OC natives (Hoogsteder came to them by way of Holland) remains a core factor in their ability to tighten the focus on their latest release Introspectre. Set to drop on May 31, EMÆL celebrates the album’s official release tomorrow night with a show at The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa.
Introspectre is their second after last year’s full-length Glasswork and can be seen as a follow-up, featuring tracks that didn’t quite fit with the previous album. “Glasswork was referring to our bodies and very introspective being trapped in them; looking inward, this one kind of continues with that idea,” explains Eman.
Lush with haunting lyrics, the EP has a more expansive feel than its just over ten minutes running time. The gorgeous “Le Lac” has Eman’s hushed vocals calling to mind Brandon Boyd on 2001 Incubus release, Morning View.
“Diotima” presents a reflective bridge while the strongest track, while “Steam in the Faucet” brings in a more pulsating vibe with Alyssa featured on the lead chorus. “Yeah, we’re actually siblings” Eman jokes about his relationship with Alyssa, who he met in elementary school. Working together for so long, their voices blend comfortably, complementing and contrasting as needed.
Introspectre ends in kind of a sweet exorcism after taking a few harder edge detours no doubt influenced by Hoogsteder, known for his composition work. Joris is out traveling somewhere in Portland they tell me. Emmanuel met him six or seven years ago when both were in CSUF’s music program. “He was just in there playing on a Moog synthesizer one day and I was just like ‘I got to get to know this guy.’
It also marks the edge of evolution for the band. In the three to four years with their current lineup, they’ve built a growing audience based on a creative fusion of genres: jazz, hip-hop, electronica, orchestral, you name it. Ventura-Cruess’s main instrument is the cello but he treats it as a tool: strapped around him like a guitar, it’s often plucked and played like a bass.
Despite all the genre-defying eclecticism, this release marks a decidedly centered turn. “After this, we’re definitely headed in a slightly more refined, boiled-down direction,” Eman explains. “Songs that are a little more simple and more straightforward…to me, this EP is like the final, artsy hurrah.”
The plan is to dish out more singles, perhaps on a monthly basis, eventually leading to a completed album. Dropping more frequently opens up a dialogue with their fanbase, many whom message the band with works of art inspired by songs: whether it be choreography or a flute solo.
And while sometimes that dialogue can be intense—”Straight-up people could be crying, but that’s not going to be The Wayfarer show”—the party is just getting started.
Catch EMÆLwith CAPYAC and The Moon Jays Friday, May 24th at The Wayfarer Costa Mesa. Upcoming dates include Piano Fight in San Francisco on the 25th, and Harvard & Stone in Los Angeles May 31st.
An editorial and feature writer specializing in music, beer, fashion and entertainment, Christine’s work has appeared both online and in print; most recently in October Magazine (Pitchfork, Conde Nast), and the award-winning OC Weekly. She lives with her husband and son on the cool side of Anaheim.
Additionally, Christine writes blog articles and web copy for businesses ranging from luxury real estate agents to nutritionists, musicians and entertainment figures.
Christine began her career in editorial writing as a contributor to the South Asian English-language watch magazine The Time Place. The Time Place is a high-end niche consumer publication created by Time International, a top retailer of luxury watches.
At The Time Place, she soon became a lead contributor and copywriter, where she wrote ad stories and copy for brands such as Cartier, Gucci, Girard-Perregaux, BMW and Johnnie Walker.
There she covered events such the Hamilton Behind the Camera Awards and The Film Independent Spirit Awards, conducting interviews with celebrities such as Zoe Saldana and David O.Russell as well as with brand CEOs (Philippe-Leopold Metzger of Piaget and Sylvain Dolla of Hamilton.)
Christine studied Theatre Arts at California State University, Fullerton where she was a two-time nominee for the prestigious Irene Ryan scholarship award.
A longtime resident of Silver Lake in Los Angeles, Christine recently moved to Orange County, CA and covers both areas. She resides with her husband Dan, a local musician.