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Washed Up Emo

Author: Tom Mullen

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Join Tom Mullen for a look back at when emo was an unknown word, its relevance now and speaks to those deeply involved with the emo/punk/hardcore/post-hardcore scene.

179 Episodes
Today, we have someone on the podcast that changed my life. Mike Parsell, guitarist from the band Frail. Frail were from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and when they played a local teen center near me in high school, I was absolutely hooked. Only around from 1993-1996, they influenced countless bands we love today when the worlds of emo and hardcore collided without dollar signs. Mike was very nice at the beginning of this podcast, letting me nerd out a bit about the first time I saw them and was very open about the band, his thoughts now about the music, and what it means to him.
Today we welcome Tonie Joy from Moss Icon. Moss Icon were around for only four years but impacted two genres and countless bands after their short time together. They are an icon in this scene and it was absolutely fascinating to hear Tonie’s perspective on DIY and the music scene from his vantage point of being in this band from 1987-1991. We talk about how he met Jonathan Vance, finding punk and hardcore in the suburbs of DC, and the first time he heard the word emo. We also go deep into his relationship with the word and what he thinks now. Tonie was honest and someone I wish I could listen to for hours. Lucky for us, we got an hour and a half of a legend speaking about a time and place where many of the bands we love today bore some lineage to the bands Tonie was in. If you have no idea who these guys are, take a listen online. If you do know, you’re going to hear some stories told only on this podcast.
#177 - Conor Oberst

#177 - Conor Oberst


Today, we welcome a legend, Conor Mullen Oberst to the podcast. No, I didn’t just add my last name to his name, that’s his actual middle name and we talk about it and no, we discussed it. We are not related.  Mr Oberst was very gracious with his time while having some work done on his house, which you’ll hear at times during the podcast. It was an honor to discuss such life changing events as seeing Fugazi when he was 11 and the first time he heard the word emo at 16. We also chat about his feelings on the word emo and his association with it when his sound was traveling the opposite way. What I loved most about this interview was Conor’s openness. He was willing to discuss at length his history and what he’s trying to pass on as not just as a musician but as a human. We then spent time on Bright Eye’s legacy as the band turns 25 this year and what he thinks about himself and what the future holds.
Today on the podcast is Gared O’Donnell from Planes Mistaken for Stars. Gared and I recently connected after he heard an earlier podcast, episode 110 to be exact, with writer Jason Heller about the impact of Planes Mistaken for Stars and the untimely death of band member Matt Bellinger. Gared hadn’t heard this episode until recently and reached out to me after he listened. We ended up talking a bit and he agreed to come on the podcast.  This episode now takes on a little extra weight.  The interview, done in May of this year was before Gared was diagnosed in late August with stage 3 Esophagus cancer. As a favor, it’d be great while you’re listening to Gared’s interview to check out the link to his GoFundMe on Washed Up Emo. They’re still researching the best options for care but any words of support or some donation will go a long way for a legend.  If you don’t know much about Planes Mistaken for Stars or a super fan, this episode is for you. Gared pulls no punches talking the band’s association with emo saying, “I think we wanted to lean into the dark side of things because it made more sense to us.” On their rowdy days, he admits. “It was a circus act, it wasn’t a magic show.” He talks fondly on his time with bandmate Matt saying, “Matt walks on stage with me, every time I do.” Lastly, he’s one of the most aware of his faults and dreams I’ve ever interviewed saying, “Sometimes life is just crushing, just to walk outside the door… if one our tunes can get you to roll up your sleeves and brave through it, then that’s all I want. Then stating eloquently “I’m hoping that on my deathbed, I’ll just remember that, I did it my way.”
Today on the podcast we welcome Thomas Barnett from Strike Anywhere. A legend in the punk scene and someone that I’ve been following since 1999 when I first heard Strike Anywhere and their brand of political punk from Richmond, VA.  When Thomas from Strike Anywhere first jumped on the phone with me said he was shy and not really a good talker. Well, he was completely wrong and I just sat back for most of this interview and listened to the master who has been going to shows since the 80s. he talked about learning how to put on shows at a barn on the outskirts of Richmond Virginia, and spoke passionately about what first bands he saw that shaped his life and his previous band Inquisition. I did a lot of editing myself out, yes, even the giggles. It was funny thought listening back to this interview and going, “yea don’t need to hear me talk there.”  I was absolutely honored to have someone like Thomas take time to chat about the history of the “scene” in quotes and what shapes the scene and yourself. We of course talk about emo, don’t worry, but as you know, my love of hardcore runs deep so to hear him talk about the Richmond, Virginia scene, his life now and the band Strike Anywhere is still around! Their most recent album is out on Pure Noise Records now called “Nightmares of the West.” Definitely go check that out and as we all know and you’ve heard me preach, emo has many tentacles and a long history. A big part of the history that isn’t talked about enough is hardcore and punk. Hardcore intersects with emo so much that having Thomas on to school me on the history was amazing to experience.
Today we welcome Jon Marburger from I Hate Myself. I Hate Myself were a three piece emo band from Gainesville, Florida and were around for only a short time from 1997-1998 and then reunited in 2003 and 2005. Not the longest career but to me, a cornerstone and trailblazer for the music we all love that followed. If you have any interest in the history of this genre and I Hate Myself hasn’t come into your life yet, I ask you to stick around and hear Jon’s words. We talk about his thoughts on his history in the scene, I Hate Myself, emo, the music Jon created after I Hate Myself, and we nerd out about Coheed and Cambria.
#173 - Alex Dunham (Hoover)

#173 - Alex Dunham (Hoover)


Alex Dunham, singer and guitarist for the band and I connected in NYC right before the pandemic took hold in early March. It's crazy to hear our conversation have zero of the weight of conversations happening with our friends and family today. A time capsule for what was before this insanity we’re all in now. It’s also the last time I did an interview in my apartment in NYC. I insanely miss doing interviews in person because there’s time to gauge an answer, a pause, the eye contact, and the laughs. I’m happy someone captured the moment of us at my shitty Ikea kitchen table.  If there’s one thing to do during this podcast, its take a minute. I let Alex contemplate and take a breath a lot of the podcast. There’s so much to get to from Alex’s beginnings in Arizona, learning about punk, getting the fuck out of Arizona and heading to Washington DC, getting signed to Dischord, and a story about Fugazi staying at his grandmother’s house. We also talk about what he’s doing now with his custom furniture company Brokenpress Design. Hoover should be mentioned daily when talking about post hardcore and the early 90s. Absolute icons and I couldn’t be happier to have Alex on to tell his story.
So great to have Chris Simpson back on the podcast. Since we last spoke all the back for episode 15 of this podcast, Mineral wasn’t even reunited yet. We had a lot to catch up on. We talked about the Mineral 25th anniversary and how it was different from the reunion in 2014, the two new songs they wrote for the 25th anniversary book, and The Gloria Record’s reissue of A Lull in Traffic. I also continue to grill Chris about the unheard Gloria Record album I want him to finish and discuss the amazing new Mountain Time album at length which is out now on Spartan Records. At the end, if you stick around, Chris tells an amazing Antioch Arrow story. Lastly, the next volume of the Anthology of Emo book series was announced. Learn more at
Today, we welcome Danny Pound from Vitreous Humor and The Regrets. In this podcast, I’ve tried to go back and find the origin, the meaning, and the stories behind this genre. In this episode, we go back to the start with Danny Pound. Danny’s band Vitreous Humor in the late 80s was the first band signed to Crank! Records and also their first release in 1994. Along with Boys Life, they were some of the first bands from this label out of the gate for a time that was hugely influential to me. The band broke up before I had a chance to see them and along with The Regrets, bucked the trend of what was supposed to be emo, thoughts around it and one of the true pioneers in this scene. They aren’t talked about enough and the best part, Danny is still making music today. Learn more at
When I look back on my life and what albums had an immediate impact on me from the 90s, one jumps out that I felt never got their due. The band was M.I.J and the singer of that band, Jeff Hanson. Jeff tragically died in 2009 and left a wealth of material from three solo albums on Kill Rock Stars to an album and EP on the legendary Caulfield Records. I wanted to find a couple of folks to talk about Jeff and his life, stories, and legacy. Speaking about Jeff in this episode is Bob Nanna from Braid, Hey Mercedes, and many other bands, plus Bernie McGinn who put out the full length, “The Radio Goodnight” and an EP. They speak eloquently about Jeff and you’ll find out more about music but also his humor.  If this perks your interest, I’ve linked a bunch of articles and content on Washed Up Emo to continue your dive into Jeff’s music. You can also go to This is by no means a complete history and I urge you to dig into Jeff and his life to learn more.
Today, we welcome Whitmer Thomas. You’re saying, who is Whitmer? Whitmer is a comedian that recently had a 1-hour comedy special on HBO called The Golden One.  It’s also an album of music with the same name that you can listen to on our favorite DSP. Whit was a musician before a comedian and has quite the extensive knowledge of punk, hardcore, and emo from his days playing in emo and screamo bands. To that, Whitmer jokes throughout his HBO special about bands we all know and love. You should search it out, as there isn’t a more specific comedy special for our crowd. Whitmer was a joy to talk to and we had a blast talking about his inspirations, his late mom’s band, and being creative in both music and comedy.
Today, we welcome a legend. Guy Picciotto from Rites of Spring and Fugazi. You may also know him from Happy Go Licky or One Last Wish. Insert another obscure band to tweet at me later.  In my years of doing this podcast, I never expected to have such legends of the genre. I’m glad I waited because Guy speaks about his feelings about the word emo and how it’s changed over the years. Really eye opening and wasn’t expecting him to expound on that as much as he did. Definitely stick around for that.  Rites of Spring were only around for a couple years but still are mentioned when referring to this genre. As the word morphs and changes, Rites of Spring are the big bang of emo worth mentioning to this day.  Guy was so eloquent and thoughtful in his responses and since we did the interview at my day job, Atlantic Records. We start the podcast discussing Fugazi’s experience back in the day when they were being courted by Atlantic.
Today we welcome Matt Saincome, Bill Conway and Krissy Howard from The Hard Times! The world famous satirical site stopped by Washed Up Emo on their recent book tour to talk about how the site started, how they come up with all the funny headlines, some regrets they’ve had, and I challenge them to come up with some emo headlines on the spot. A truly inspiring tale of finding something you love and making it your job.
Today we welcome drummer, William Goldsmith from Sunny Day Real Estate. You may also know him from The Fire Theft, Foo Fighters or his new band called Assertion.  William and I had an amazing discussion about how he got into music, meeting Jeremy Enigk, the formation of Sunny Day Real Estate, and the lasting impact of the band. We also talk about how he met his close friend and bandmate in Assertion, Justin Tamminga, who you’ll hear speak up at times during the podcast.  William’s story is one of perseverance, admitting when you need to fix yourself and when everything is stacked against you, you keep picking yourself back up.
Today we welcome Steve Pedersen from such bands as Cursive, The White Octave, Slowdown Virginia, and Criteria. The boys in Criteria, after 15 years, have a new album entitled “Years,” coming out on 15 Passenger Records next month and Steve was kind enough to spend some time with Washed Up to talk about it. If you’re listening to this in the future, it’s out now on streaming services. In this episode, we dive into how Steve met Tim and Matt from Cursive, what was the glue and luck behind the Omaha scene, and how that led to Saddle Creek Records starting up. We also discuss how he divides up work and play and how that was achieved while attending law school at Duke. We try and touch on every part of his career and most of all talk about the new Criteria record. Fun fact: It’s Steve’s first 3rd album as a musician. That’s reason enough to celebrate and you’ll learn why later on in the podcast.
Today we welcome Jimmy LaValle from The Album Leaf. Jimmy and I met up in Los Angeles to talk about his early days from the 90s in San Diego being exposed to DIY and screamo to touring with bands like The Get Up Kids, Piebald, and Jimmy Eat World. We also dive into The Album Leaf project, how he met Sigur Rós, the Sub Pop Records days, and how he’s now busy with film scoring. It all makes sense and how each one happened all started with putting yourself out there and being involved. Jimmy’s story is one of constant creativity and making connections.
We welcome again on the podcast for a 3rd time, Matt Pryor from The Get Up Kids. In this episode we discuss at length, the 20th anniversary of their album "Something to Write Home About." Matt and I discuss the making of the record, we go track by track on stories and lyrics behind the songs and the release of the record on Vagrant. We also dive into the aftermath after it’s release and boom of emo that followed.  We spend time reflecting the album’s lasting impact with fans and the band that continues to this day.  When an album comes out during a time that connects, yet today, there are kids now that still reference it shows the staying power of this album. From that opening drum beat of 'Ten Minutes' to the guitar pick scrape on 'Holiday' it all floods back for you and someone out there feels the same hearing it for first today today. That’s pretty amazing. Here’s to 20 more The Get Up Kids and happy anniversary to an absolute classic, "Something to Write Home About."
Today we welcome singer, guitarist and lyricist, Scott Hobart from Giants Chair. Giants Chair are a midwest band that in the early 90s influenced many in the scene we know today. Starting out on the legendary Caulfield Records, Giants Chair have been off and on over the years and continued to be talked about when this genre and era is mentioned. Now they’re about to release their new album “Prefabylon” out December 6th on Spartan Records. If this is the future, it’s out now on streaming services. I think I giggled or laughed more than most episodes as Scott and I talk about the band’s history, his kids, his day job, and “Prefabylon.”
Today we welcome Tracy Wilson from Dahlia Seed. You may also know her from her other bands Souvenir, Ringfinger or Positive No. If it is a no, let me explain. Tracy is an icon in the emo scene because she made her own path and her own rules on how to make it in the scene. Tracy and I talk about her many bands, jobs and stories over the years that intertwine the icons of the scene and little known ones that deserve a second look. A free flowing interview done in my apartment in NYC that was really enjoyable to listen to back to. We need more Tracy Wilsons in the world.
Today we welcome Casey James Prestwood from Hot Rod Circuit. Casey and I talk through the history of Hot Rod Circuit and his current endeavors with country music and his band The Burning Angels. Casey recently released a 7” out with fellow friend Josh Berwanger on Lost Broadcast Records that’s worth checking out. If you ever wanted to know the ins and outs of what went down in the early 2000s, Hot Rod Circuit was right there. Casey weaves such a beautiful story through the eras, labels, and both hits and misses. I mostly sit back in this episode and let the master storyteller weave his tale.
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