Emily Whitehurst began her career as the frontwoman of punk rock band Tsunami Bomb. Now, she creates electronic pop music through her synth-driven solo project, Survival Guide. Emily recently moved to San Antonio and plans to release her first self-written album this year. Survival Guide joins eight other artists on the lineup for KRTU’s Spring Showcase at Paper Tiger on March 7.
Can you tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are now?
I’ve been playing music for a really long time. I started out doing punk rock, pop punk. I was in a touring band for along time called Tsunami Bomb, and we toured all over. And when that band broke up, I was in a kind of power pop band, I would say, called The Action Design, and we toured all over as well. And now, I’m doing Survival Guide, which is not so much a band as just a solo thing, but it’s as loud as a full band because I’ve got some backing tracks going, and I’m playing a bunch of keyboards while I perform, so it’s more electronic but still has kind of the feel of a full band.
What has that experience been like, going from working with bands to focusing more on your solo stuff?
It’s been interesting. There are definitely pros and cons to each. I do miss the camaraderie of playing on stage with other people. That’s definitely the best part of being in a band, but doing a solo is really awesome because I can do whatever I want. I can play every show if i want to play every show. I think coordinating a group of people is the hardest part of being in a band, and also it’s like a relationship with two, three, four other people. There can be a lot of tension. You have to be in a van together for a lot of hours, and it can be tough. So being solo is a lot easier in that regard.
You’ve gone through a kind of evolution of sound. Is the place you’re at now a product of those previous sounds, and do you see yourself making a shift in sound again anytime soon?
My current sound is definitely a culmination of the sounds I’ve been creating so far throughout my career. I’ve always just kind of created what I’m interested in and what I’m listening to, and so I started out at a young age straight punk. That’s all that I wanted to do, and as my music tastes have expanded, I’ve wanted to do more music. I’m currently writing my next record, and I am kind of seeing more expansion. Now that I can do anything with electronic sound, I’m interested in adding more orchestral stuff into my music and making the music itself a little more dramatic.
Tell me more about your album. What has been the drive behind creating this new music?
It’s actually been a bit of a struggle. I’ve never written a record by myself. The record that I have currently, all of the music that’s released as Survival Guide, I had a guitar player with me. We used to be a two-piece, and we were writing everything together. So now, I’m trying to write everything by myself, and it’s going okay, but it’s definitely kind of just like, “What am I doing?” So we’ll see.
What experiences inspire your music?
It’s so much easier for me to write vocals and lyrics than it is to write the actual music, although I have been involved with that process with all my previously written music. Pulling it all out of my own mind is the hard part, so I’ve been getting inspired just by the sounds that I come across. Sounds that are either in my keyboards that I already have or ones online. So I’m kind of building ideas. I’ll just mess around with sounds and see what comes from it. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing.
What are some other major influences in your writing?
I would say, one kind of turning point in my own musical history was when I started listening to Björk and just that she kind of can do anything with music. She just uses it in such a unique way, and then currently, not necessarily am I emulating her, but I’m really into Caroline Rose. She’s got a band backing her, but I believe it’s her project, and she writes everything and when I listen to that it, inspires me in a way that’s like, “Yeah, I can do this. I can write a record by myself.”
Tell me about how you perceive San Antonio’s music scene?
I’m really loving the San Antonio music scene. Throughout all of the touring that I’ve done, I feel like San Antonio has been a really supportive scene, and the people who come to the shows are positive and they’re there for music, and I felt that prior to moving here, San Antonio has always been a really good city for me, and then after moving here, I still continue to see it like that, especially when I go to other shows of touring bands. They always seem excited about the enthusiasm of the crowd here in San Antonio, which is awesome because there are so many cities where people just act like they’re bored during the show, even if they love it. San Antonio is a city where it definitely is more expressive compared to a lot of cities out there.
What can people expect from your performance on March 7?
They can expect me to have a few different musical gadgets going. I use a telephone mic for a couple of songs, which is fun, and I have a bubble gun. So if you’re in the front row, you can expect to get bubbles on you, some bubble juice.