Emo should've seen its slow decline coming. It was only a matter of time before the melody-driven punk offshoot collapsed under the heft of its aesthetical crimes against humanity—though the scene's transition from twee-as-fuck Midwestern dudes in thrift-store clothing to legions of post-hardcore Warped Tour crusaders is a mystery to anyone who doesn't write for Alternative Press magazine. At the ripe age of 29, Evan Weiss portends a much-needed renaissance.
"Any genre of music that gets popular has a tendency to get co-opted, commercialized and destroyed," says Weiss, frontman of Chicago's Into It Over It. "Look at punk in the '70s, hardcore in the '80s. Subculture gets twisted and becomes this bland, stale piece of pop culture. The movement can only go so far before it collapses and has to be completely rebuilt from the ground up."
With the breakneck urgency of punk, the arpeggiated guitar acrobatics and off-kilter time signatures of math rock and the earnest vocal style that "screamo" threw to the wayside, Into It Over It is a blast from the not-so-distant past. The band is part of what the national music media have deemed a golden-age emo revival. Haircuts and denim choices aside, things feel different this time.
"You've got a bunch of bands working hard and doing things on their own, and there's no economy for bullshit this time around," Weiss says. "No one has the money for huge productions or releases. At that point, everything just goes back to the basement. People just want to see a band bang it out and fuck shit up."
From Connecticut to California, sincere guys in cardigans are bringing jazz beats with twinkly guitars and pop-punk hooks back into vogue. The Onion's A.V. Club published an article that crystallized a genre tag for emo's new youth movement: twinklecore. Weiss is also part of the first twinklecore supergroup, Their/They're/There, with Chicago elder statesman Mike Kinsella.
Into It Over It comes to town on a bill that's a veritable "who's next" in the new crop of emo bands. Connecticut's The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, a band universally anointed as the harbinger of the scene's future, offers a hair-raising blend of long-form post-rock buildups punched with careening, shout-along implosions. A Great Big Pile of Leaves, from Lawrence, Kan., received high marks from Pitchfork for its jangly fusion of straight-ahead pop structures and the emphatic wailing of revered fellow Kansans the Get Up Kids.
There's a lot for emo loyalists (OK, old people) to be excited about, if they're willing to keep basement shows and split 7-inch record releases on their radar. For Weiss, it's the next wave of kids that should be cautious of the holding pattern a new genre can get caught up in.
"It's not going to be like it was a decade ago, at least not in our world," he says. "No one in our scene is looking to commercialize. Bands are getting weirder and trying to experiment and grow as musicians. Maybe the bands that follow in our footsteps will fuck it up, but no one in our circle has interest in being co-opted. No one's writing emo music to make money."
SEE IT: Into It Over It plays Branx, 320 SE 2nd Ave., with The World Is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and A Great Big Pile of Leaves, on Wednesday, Jan. 29. 7 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. All ages.