Honesty is the best policy. Or, at least, it’s the sensibility Rocky Loves Emily embraced
while making their long-awaited debut album, Secrets Don’t Make Friends.
As reflected in the disc’s title, the band was focused on channeling a true representation
of themselves both as people and musicians on the album. In many ways, the album
showcases how the rock group, who hail from a suburb of Detroit, MI, has grown up
since forming early 2009. From their first EP, released at the stroke of midnight that New
Years Eve, to their first disc on Tooth & Nail, the 2010 EP American Dream, Rocky
Loves Emily has been on a journey to discover how best to express themselves.
“The band grew into who we are as people between the EP and this album,” Andrew
explains. “We figured out who we are and put it into music.”
That process was greatly aided by producer Matt Grabe (The Maine, The Summer Set).
After touring to support American Dream, Rocky Loves Emily headed down to Phoenix
in July of 2011, armed with an album’s worth of demos they’d recorded in their practice
space back in Michigan. Originally, the plan was to flesh out the demos using electronic
elements, but Matt quickly rerouted the process to embrace the band’s live rock aesthetic.
“We had written all the songs on our own back in Michigan and recorded demos of
them,” Brandon says. “Just rough live recording demos, just one mike in the room. When
we sent Matt the demos he was really excited about the fact that we didn’t just track
everything perfectly. So when we went to record with him he tried to push us to not be a
cookie cutter, overly engineered band. He wanted us to have an organic, rock ‘n ‘roll feel.
He pushed us to accept our human flaws, which allowed the recordings to be alive.”
The band spent three and a half weeks in the studio with Matt, pushing themselves to be
the best musicians they could be. Matt encouraged the band members to record every
sound on the album themselves—no computerized drums or electronic sounds. The result
is a compelling, dynamic collection of songs that focus on genuinely honest expression
rather than perfection. Much of that sincerity comes from Brandon’s lyrics, which were
strongly inspired by a bad relationship and its heartbreaking end.
“I took my mask off,” Brandon says. “On the EP I said what I thought people wanted to
hear, but on this one I didn’t think about that. Every song was my heart on paper. I felt—
and I still feel—nervous because I’m very exposed on the record. I’ve never put out a
project where it’s my heart.”
There’s something of bipolarity on Secrets Don’t Make Friends because of this thematic
content. The pop-rock instrumentals create upbeat, outgoing melodies while Brandon’s
lyrics search for deeper, more introspective meaning. “I Don’t Like You” is a catchy
rocker with propulsive guitar riffs and driving beats, embodying a sense of catharsis as
Brandon reveals how he feels about his ex. “Oil & Water,” a slower, more anthemic rock
number, explores the other end of the spectrum, showcasing the band’s musical range.
Ultimately, though, the disc is whatever the listener needs it to be in the moment.
“If you’re happy and you put on the record you’ll have a good time,” Andrew says. “But
if you’re feeling down you can dig into the lyrics and find something to relate to.”
So while the album is about honesty, in both vague and straightforward ways, it also
represents it. Rocky Loves Emily toured extensively for over a year on their American
Dream EP and during that time the members discovered their identities, individually and
collectively. The album reveals the same band as the EP, but with more confidence and
self-awareness, which is something they feel these new songs convey.
“We just wanted more real songs,” Brandon concludes. “Stuff from the heart about the
things we were going through as people. Matt definitely saw that and helped us complete
that vision. It’s an album we can all be proud of.”