- Tiana Speter
INTERVIEW: Emmy Mack (REDHOOK)
UNIFY is hitting the road, taking some of the best Aussie heavy bands around five states for UNIFY Off The Record in 2023. Boasting a stacked lineup of local and international acts, Off The Record has been taking place at some extra-special intimate club shows around the country; and with one show down and five to go, what better way to celebrate the amazing things still to come than by grabbing the incomparable Emmy Mack from heavy heroes RedHook for a killer in-depth chat about Off The Record, the band's insanely amazing recent debut album Postcard From A Living Hell, smashing some pumpkins and beyond...read on!
TIANA SPETER: Where on earth do we start here? Debut album out in the world, swinging in at #10 on the ARIA album charts, massive headline tour currently underway, supports with The Smashing Pumpkins in your wake, UNIFY off the record tour imminent….how are you right here, right now in this moment?
EMMY MACK: Ooooft! Absolutely chaotic, dizzy, overwhelmed… every day has been like a frantic game of whack-a-mole trying to keep on top of everything! But more than anything we’re just so, so, so incredibly grateful for each and every crazy moment!
TIANA: Let’s chat Postcard From A Living Hell for a moment here - RedHook are a band who have managed to take over the world without an official full length out in said world, but you’ve ticked it off and then some in 2023. While it’s undeniably wall-to-wall fire from start to finish, it also tackles a lot of very vulnerable and hard-hitting themes too…to pour so much of yourself into art is par for the course for many, but how did you personally feel once the album was finally completed and you could witness listening to it back in full? Was it cathartic, exhausting, empowering or perhaps all of the above?
EMMY: Definitely all of the above and then some! But I think the biggest emotion I felt was relief. I exorcised so many demons on this record, purged so much of the ugliness and darkness from my soul. And now that it’s out, I feel a lot lighter! It’s nice not living in hell anymore :P
TIANA: What really resonated with me so strongly was how much personal experience translated into universal experiences, even though we have our own unique timelines and journeys, somehow everything you said across the album spoke to me in my own way and made me feel so seen. It’s amazing how art can transcend so many things and unify listener and artist, whether intentional or not. RedHook have that nailed down in spades, and it’s so inspiring to see how significantly that has resonated out there too – on that topic, how has it been to see the reactions to the album now that it’s been out in the world now for a few weeks?
EMMY: First of all, thank you so, so much, that honestly means the world to me! It’s been so genuinely humbling, a lot of people have said similar stuff about the album, or mentioned that it’s come along at a critical time for them because of shit they’ve been going through lately. I guess it makes me happy and sad at the same time. I’m sad that so many people can relate to some of the fucked up stuff I’ve been through, but I’m really happy that these songs can help, even in some small way. That’s what music has always done for me, so it’s really rewarding to be able to, I guess, repay that debt. There’s a lyric in the song ‘Inarticulate’ - “strange how we all suffer together, thinking we all suffer alone” - which I feel like kind of cuts to the core of the album’s whole message. So many of these horrible experiences - trauma, depression, heartbreak - have a way of isolating us and making us feel completely alone. Which is so devastatingly ironic because so many of us are going through it at the same time. My biggest aim with this record was to shatter that feeling of isolation and help people feel less alone with their own struggles.
TIANA: The album also features some amazing and beautifully varied features as well, how much did having Sly Withers, Yours Truly and The Faim in RedHook land impact the end results of those songs? And shout out to the epic sax solo at the end of SoJu too, I am always a firm believer that not enough music has sax solos in it!!
EMMY: Haha same here! We love the sax! And Craig will be stoked for the Soju sax solo appreciation, he worked really hard on that one to make his high school jazz teacher proud! Honestly, all the features on the LP made those songs astronomically better. Josh’s incredible vocals on Inarticulate still give me goosebumps every time and truly lifted that song from one I liked to one of my favourites on the whole LP, Jono’s charismatic guest verse in Soju elevated the character of that song so much and made it even more of a crazy party. And I don’t even know where to start on the Imposter collab with Mikailia. That became so much more than just a song for me. It was a defining moment in our friendship and working on it together really helped us both process and heal from a lot of trauma and emotional abuse that we were both still recovering from. That song is infinitely more special to me because of Mikaila!
TIANA: And you’ve been able to play heaps of this insanely awesome new material in a live setting now too, has there been a particular fan favourite emerging from the new stuff so far that’s been significantly noticeable?
EMMY: Ooooh honestly, Soju has been going the fuck off! We first played it live at Good Things back in December just after it’d been released, and honestly we initially saw it as a bit of an energy killer! Being the least heavy song on the setlist, none of us were really looking forward to playing it that much. But it’s done a complete 180! Picture hundreds of people with their middle fingers in the air, shouting along every word with us! Plus, we’ve been getting Lachie from Bad/Love up on guitar and Bianca from Grenade Jumper up to sing the Sly Withers feature so it’s just become the biggest, funnest, all-in party song!
TIANA: Looking ahead, we’ve got Unify hitting the road for a run of epic Off The Record events, RedHook will be hitting up Frankston and Hobart alongside a lot of friends…it’s awesome to see not only bands generally venturing out more and more to regional areas but also to see such a stellar array of heavy bands flying the flag for our incredible Aussie scene as well. As a band who has played across the globe on a variety of stages, How important are these sorts of events to foster and celebrate music in regional areas for the local scene?
EMMY: Honestly, they’re so important. Regional areas deserve to have thriving, supportive music communities just as much as the big cities do and festivals like Off The Record are so critical in helping to nurture that! Some of our favourite shows ever have been regional Aussie fests and I’m confident OTR will be no different! I feel like there’s this added level of appreciation and excitement when cool events like this visit places that don’t normally get a lot of festival love. And it makes the whole vibe that much more electric!
TIANA: And anyone who has been to a RedHook live show can attest to, you’re in for nothing but musical fireworks when RedHook roll through a town near you…but have you got anything particularly special or different planned for these Off The Record shows? Anything you can reveal or hint at?
EMMY: There’s definitely going to be a few fun collabs, with maybe one very special big surprise one planned for Frankston ;)
TIANA: On the topic of live shows, let’s traipse down RedHook memory lane here for a moment…take me back to the first ever RedHook live show. Where was it, who was there and would we be able to officially class it as a success?
EMMY: Hahaha well this is a fun question. Officially, the first RedHook show was supporting Motley Crue at Qudos Bank Arena almost three years before RedHook had released a single song and before I’d met Craig, Ned or Alex! Basically the story was, my old glam metal band won this competition to play the show but our shredder guitarist moved away and nobody else could play his parts! So I essentially had two weeks to get a new lineup together and change the setlist, and then I figured I should probably change the band name to boot since we were doing it as a completely different band. It was cheeky, but it’s how RedHook was born! I’m fairly confident we sucked hard, but the crowd seemed to dig it AND I got to meet Alice Cooper. So all in all, I’d class it as a success!
TIANA: Speaking of live music, we can’t NOT touch on your recent adventures with The Smashing Pumpkins, Jane’s Addiction and more…that tour announcement genuinely broke the internet, but what was your favourite moment from that run, whether it was on or off the stages?
EMMY: Oh man, that whole tour was just such an amazing experience! Getting to be side of stage watching the great Billy Corgan play ‘Tonight, Tonight’ on acoustic guitar right next to a freakin medieval castle was pretty surreal. Getting to meet him backstage in the paradisical surrounds of Bribie Island was even more surreal! And then making it onto a Simpsons meme page after someone screenshotted the Simpsons-themed Instagram post I did after meeting him at Bribie Island was the cherry on top!
TIANA: What I continuously love about RedHook is how much of a wide sonic palette you paint, there is zero chance of pigeonholing or labelling RedHook with any one genre or word, and I adore that. But what artists, albums or bands inspire you personally at the moment, who do you turn to in your downtime that gets tick of approval at the moment?
EMMY: Ahhhh thank you so much, that’s so lovely to hear! The sonic diversity is definitely something that confuses and divides some people, especially in the industry, but it’s always been the way we’ve wanted to do things, rejecting the box and forging our own path. I love listening to artists who surprise me with every song. It makes every single release feel like this big, exciting event because you don’t know what to expect! Bring Me The Horizon, Sleep Token, Enter Shikari and Stand Atlantic are a bunch of artists right now who are doing that really well. I always get so excited to hear whatever they’re putting out next!
TIANA: Another factor in all of these amazing successes is the fact that RedHook operates as an entirely independent band - proof it can be done, albeit with its own set of hurdles and highs as you go. What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as an artist in a fully independent band?
EMMY: It might sound like a cliche but I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is the importance of backing yourself, and of surrounding yourself with a great team who’ll also back you. There’s been so many moments along this crazy journey where I’ve been tempted to do things like sign a record deal or license our back catalogue purely out of financial desperation (stating the bleeding obvious here but being an independent artist is REALLY hard work… and when you’re working your ass to the bone but somehow still struggling to pay rent or afford groceries, it can be very demoralising!) but I’m so glad I’ve had people around me who’ve encouraged me not to give up and to stick to my guns. We can see the value of our back catalogue now and it’s nothing short of insane. And we own 100% of it, baby!
TIANA: To start to finish us off today, looking ahead, just after Unify Off The Record, RedHook will be jumping over to the UK to appear at Download alongside Alexisonfire, Architects and an insane amount of other bands. What else is on the horizon or short-term bucket list for RedHook at this stage after 2023 has started with such an insane bang?
EMMY: We’re sooooo excited to be heading back to Download UK and visiting some brand new places in Europe with our pals Stand Atlantic! As for the rest of 2023… I daresay there’ll be more music before the year is out. Honestly, possibly my favourite song from the Postcard sessions actually got left off the record! It was a tough call but at the end of the day I felt like it deserved to have its own time in the sun haha. So that’ll be coming out before year’s end. Also without giving too much away, we’re so pumped to be flying the flag for Australian heavy music on a few, shall we say, “normy” Australian festival lineups still to come in the second half of 2023. We seriously couldn’t be more excited!
TIANA: And lastly, your latest album title is postcard from a living hell - what is your own personal idea of the reverse, what would make a RedHook heaven or a RedHook utopia?
EMMY: Ooooh! I think touring the world with some of our favourite bands while making enough money to support ourselves and having absolutely nothing back home falling apart would be a pretty nice way to live! Also, while we’re at it, can we send all the narcissists and abusers to go live together on the moon and leave earth for all the people with kindness and empathy to enjoy? :)
UNIFY OFF THE RECORD 2023
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BY TIANA SPETER