EMA: You must be strong to go it alone

You must be strong to go it alone

EMA: "I feel like I can do whatever I want with this project"
Photo: William Rahilly

EMA rises from the ashes of Gowns with debut solo album Past Life Martyred Saints

The leap from South Dakota to Los Angeles is long, far and wide, more so when you’re an 18-year-old musician with hopes of making it big in the underground. Such was the case with guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Erika M. Anderson, first licking her chops as part of the folk-meets-noise unit Amps for Christ, followed by a lengthy stint as co-founder of the too-cool neo-experimental Gowns project, and then fast-forwarding to now and her new joint as EMA, whose debut platter has just shone its light on us. Past Life Martyred Saints is a keeper, an album that finely exhibits her lo-fi avant-garde past alongside bits of now: pop and electronics. People are listening.

Hour: Would you consider EMA strictly yours, or is the input from collaborators an important component of the creation of the music?

EMA: The thing about EMA (and why I chose to use my initials instead of a band name) is that it’s super flexible. I feel like I can do whatever I want with this project, totally solo or with crazy collaborators. Ezra and Corey from Gowns are on this record, and Leif Shackelford (who also plays violin and electronics in the live band) works with me on production. I do get final say, and I’m so damn particular that that’s exactly how it’s got to be!

Hour: What were your expectations once the album had been completed?

EMA: I had a hard time deciding if I was ready to get back into music or to just call it quits and move back to the Midwest. I knew that putting out a record is a lot of work and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to commit to all of that. However, I decided to buck up and just do it. And the response has been incredible. It feels like a blessing and a second chance.

Hour: Sadly, Gowns flew below the radar of many folks. What are your thoughts on the acclaim that’s greeted this project?

EMA: I feel like there are a lot of people welcoming me back, which feels great! Gowns was an artistically ambitious project that had a real element of anti-success to it. We didn’t work with publishers or booking agents; we relied on our community and slept on floors. However, we worked hard and played some kickass shows. A lot of the attention that I’m getting now is based on the work I did with that project. I feel it had a lot of integrity and people respected that.


w/ Helado Negro

At Quai des Brumes (4481 St-Denis)

July 22

Posted in