In late 2007, vocalist Jonny Craig found himself kicked out of Dance Gavin Dance for intense conflict with other members and a well-documented battle with substance abuse. But to then-fledgling post-hardcore outfit EMAROSA, Craig’s voice was worth the gamble and they brought him in to front their band. A little more than three years later, lingering issues with the singer’s dedication, his continued problems with drugs and crumbling reputation (thanks largely to an internet scam in which he defrauded fans out of thousands of dollars), Emarosa announced exclusively on Altpress that Craig’s time with them had run its course. In this exclusive interview, the remaining members of the band—guitarists JONAS LADEKJAER and E.R. WHITE, bassist WILL SOWERS, keyboardist JORDAN STEWART and drummer LUKAS KOSZEWSKI—tell us exactly what led to Craig being kicked out of the band, and why it won’t affect the creative direction of the band as much as you might think.
Considering his history with Dance Gavin Dance, were there any reservations when you guys first brought Jonny into the band?
LADEKJAER: Of course there were reservations, especially after DGD released their official blog [about kicking him out]. I remember we read it, then called Jonny and had him pretty much explain every accusation in that blog. After that, I think we all knew that this was a person unlike anyone we’d ever dealt with before; good or bad, we were willing to take that risk at the time.
WHITE: We thought he had to have learned something after all that.
STEWART: When he started to work with us, it felt like it could work. We were always on guard, but we felt a second chance could go along way.
When did you first begin to think it might be better to move on without him?
LADEKJAER: Jonny and I pretty quickly clashed more than anyone in the band, so that thought entered my head relatively early on.
WHITE: His first visit to jail at the beginning of our first headlining tour.
STEWART: There were various low points where it seemed like it wasn’t going to work. Some even as early on as the first tour together. Every time things went really bad and we gave him another chance, he respected it for a bit and things would go smoothly. There was rarely a calm time in Emarosa, though; it was always an up and down thing.
KOSZEWSKI: It was apparent to me in the studio this past time we recorded. He expressed some feelings to me about possibly leaving and feeling out of place. But we had also heard that a few times before.
SOWERS: Honestly, I don’t think I ever completely gave up on him until he started turning on his best friends and the people who loved him in order to support his habits. I think Jonny is a great guy—he’s just a person with a very addictive personality, and that leads him into very dark places.
Was there anything specific that prompted this decision?
SOWERS: I think the MacBook scam was without a doubt the final straw for everyone.
KOSZEWSKI: We had a member who didn’t want to put effort into cleaning up for the better of not only him, but the band. This band is our job. If you can’t dedicate yourself enough to something you supposedly love, then why bother?
How did you go about addressing it?
KOSZEWSKI: We just wrote up a simple statement. We knew what we wanted to do. But a band also have to attack problems from a business standpoint—weigh the pros and cons and how it will affect our position. We gained input from peers and people we look up to. But ultimately, it was entirely our decision.
How did you break the news to him?
SOWERS: E.R. called him on the phone. We had planned to make it a conference call and explain reasoning to him, but the exchange between them literally was maybe a 20-second phone call.
WHITE: I told him we were kicking him out. He said, “Okay.” I asked if he was all right. He said he was, and we hung up.
STEWART: I believe he had some idea it was coming his way, but it still was not an easy thing to do.
The story on Emarosa for the AP Tour issue (AP 268) last fall had a lot of revealing and controversial info from Jonny. Was any of that news to you or shocking to read?
KOSZEWSKI: It wasn’t shocking; it was expected. It was clear that he was trying to dig up some dirt. This band have never been about “Jonny’s way”’—or anyone’s way for that matter. What’s unfortunate is that a lot of kids found us thinking Jonny kind of ran this band, which is far from true. The article only provoked that more, while we had been working really hard to try and show people that’s not true.
WHITE: It was shocking to see how much we actually muffled just to save face for the band. It was shocking to read that and just think about everything that’s happened since the AP tour. It’s insane, really.
What are the plans for the vocalist position?
STEWART: We’re not looking for Jonny Craig 2.0. We just want to find someone who can bring something unique to the band.
KOSZEWSKI: I just want to find someone who wants to put as much work into this as we do.
LADEKJAER: We’ve never written with a vocalist, and I feel like doing that could be really beneficial to our songs. Jonny’s thing is to go into the vocal booth and basically improvise over the recorded tracks, and if it sounded good, it would pretty much be on the record. It would be mind-blowing to me to have a singer who actually seems to care about the end product as a whole, and not just his own performance.
How do you respond to fans that comment online that Jonny “was” Emarosa?
STEWART: Jonny’s only real involvement with this band was his voice and some lyrics. He was not a part of the writing process. He didn’t come to practices, he didn’t take part in many interviews and he didn’t do any of the grit work that goes with a band. So the majority of Emarosa are still here and working.
SOWERS: E.R. would usually write a lot of Jonny’s lyrics for him. Jonny is a great singer, but that’s as far as he goes musically.
LADEKJAER: I’m not surprised some people are reacting like that. They’re wrong, that’s all I can really say. Jonny represented Emarosa as a frontman, and in all honesty that was it. He wasn’t a guy who everybody loved to be around or who treated his fans well. He wasn’t some musical genius who put amazing effort into his writing of lyrics or vocal melodies. He realized what he’s really, really good at, and that’s how he’s getting by. Yeah, the new Emarosa will definitely be different from Relativity and the self-titled album, but not having Jonny doesn’t mean it’s not going to be worth listening to. A smart man once told us, “If Jonny was the only singer in the world, we would be the only band.”
Do you plan to stay in contact with Jonny?
WHITE: Yeah, I still love him to death. It was just time and for the best.
STEWART: I would certainly hope to. We will for sure cross paths on tour and I hope we can all continue to be friends without issues. Our decision was purely business, nothing personal to Jonny.
LADEKJAER: I will be nice and respectable if I ever happen to run into him, but that’s as far as it goes for me. I have no reason or desire to talk to him again after this.
KOSZEWSKI: This was clearly for the better of both parties, and absolutely no one should have hard feelings. So, yeah, I plan to keep in touch. We will see him again. I’m not about to deal with an unneeded awkward situation.
SOWERS: I do not. Jonny and I were never really close in the first place. I love the guy to death; I mean, I spent more than three years of my life with him. But I do not want to be involved with the things he brings into his life. If he ever does clean up and change for the better, I’d love to keep in contact.
What do you think the future will be like for this band now that Jonny is no longer a part of it?
WHITE: Professionally and personally, I think it will be better. As sweet as it is for [Craig] to hold down scene gossip and news headlines constantly, it wasn’t the publicity we wanted. Bad press is still press, but we just had our fill. [We’ll be] replacing him with someone we all get along with and who has a voice to pull off past, present and future Emarosa [songs].
STEWART: There’s no limit, really, even without Jonny. Every member of this band is ready to work and do everything we can to continue to evolve as musicians and put out music for our fans. We plan to be on the road more than ever now that we will have a singer without other commitments. We really hope fans keep an open ear and continue to support us.
KOSZEWSKI: When someone listens to our music, I want to be taken seriously. I think this might be the first chance we’ve had in a long time to actually do that. alt