More than most other genres of music, emo has been characterized by several drastically different, instantly identifiable eras.
For instance, Rites of Spring are considered by many to be the first emo band, but they also easily fall into the '80s hardcore movement centered in Washington, D.C. Either way, Rites brought an intimacy into punk music that didn't quite exist before–a blueprint countless bands built upon.
Two decades later, groups like My Chemical Romance and Dashboard Confessional brought emo to the mainstream. Those bands represent an era when major labels signed bands to lucrative deals in hopes that they'd score a crossover success with emo similar to grunge a decade earlier.
But plenty happened in between the genre's birth and its most popular peak. Now, with emo experiencing a small but enthusiastic revival, a number of yesteryear's most influential bands are coming out of retirement. We've seen bands like The Promise Ring, American Football, Mineral and more spring back to life recently, with the reunions ranging from a few shows to full-on comeback albums and everything in between.
Keeping track of it all can be overwhelming if you're not familiar with the history of these acts, so consider this a guide to the biggest reunions we've seen so far.
Regardless of whether you loved these bands when they first came out or if you're just discovering them, the important thing is to enjoy this while it's happening in real time—because it sure isn't going to last forever. Take the opportunity to discover something you were never familiar with or relive something you forgot about years ago.
The Basics: With four albums between 1994 and 2000 but four separate stints of activity since their formation, Sunny Day Real Estate is an on/off switch without a real resting place. They're from Seattle and are considered to be among the most important bands in terms of defining emo in its earliest days.
Why They're Important: Sunny Day Real Estate were perhaps the closest band to making emo appealing to other indie rock fanbases. They were on Sub Pop and released their critically acclaimed debut album, Diary, in 1994. It's absolutely adored in the canon of emo and one of Sub Pop's best-selling records of all time.
The group broke up after a second album in 1995 as Nate Mendel and William Goldsmith joined Foo Fighters. SDRE came back for two more albums between 1997 and 2001 and broke up again, taking their longest break before becoming active in 2009 with a reunion tour and rumors of new music.
What’s Happening Now: Without any clear-cut indication as to whether they'll ever be a full-time band again, Sunny Day Real Estate just put out their first new song in 14 years on Record Store Day, called "Lipton Witch." Whether they'll do more together remains to be seen, but the fact that supposedly an entire album worth of material has been written is probably weighing on the minds of diehard fans.
The Basics: Identified by a post-hardcore influence, the Champaign, Illinois quartet stood out thanks to the dual vocal approach of Bob Nanna and Chris Broach. Braid was fully active from 1994 to 1999 before disbanding. They reformed for a minute in 2004 and then really turned the switch back on in 2011.
Why They're Important: One of the main voices in mid-to-late '90s emo, Braid's first five years together were prolific: 1998's Frame and Canvas is an essential record for emo purists, the group released two more LPs in that timeframe and Polyvinyl Records put out two records of non-album tracks in 2000. Some of the band went on to form Hey Mercedes in 1999, but it was always evident that the boys would get back together and Braid sprung back to life with the Closer To Closed EP in 2011.
What’s Happening Now: Braid's first new full-length in 16 years, No Coast, will come out on July 8 via Topshelf Records. There's a song called "Bang" streaming now, and you can probably expect shows to support that album as well. Along with The Promise Ring, this was the beginning of the reunion wave we're currently experiencing.
The Basics: Hailing from Milwaukee, The Promise Ring weren't just emblematic of '90s Midwestern emo: they were one of the most celebrated bands in the history of the genre. Under the leadership of frontman Davey Von Bohlen of Cap'n Jazz, their sound incorporated elements of power pop that would become more popular in later years. They broke up in 2002 and after nearly a decade of inactivity (save for a one-off festival performance in 2005), The Promise Ring officially reunited in February 2012 in– where else? –Milwaukee and Chicago, the Midwestern heartland that birthed them.
Why They're Important: The Promise Ring embodied everything that defined an entire wave of emo: talk of an isolating hometown, lovelorn lyrics and a dismal sense of the future—all rolled into one painstakingly relatable package, with song titles like "Why Did We Ever Meet?" and "Nothing Feels Good." More than that, The Promise Ring's hook-packed pop sensibility was unique for the genre at the time and helped them inject a shimmery energy into emo that still feels fresh today. The released four albums, three via Jade Tree Records and a polarizing fourth on ANTI Records.
What’s Happening Now: The band went on to play a successful string of shows throughout 2012 and even unveiled some new material live. But since then there haven't been any performances nor any indication that a new album is in the works. Although there's no telling whether TPR will give us LP 5, the strength of their existing catalog—from the iconic Nothing Feels Good to the comparatively underrated Very Emergency—should give emo fans more than enough to be grateful for.
The Basics: A cornerstone of mid '90s emo, Texas Is The Reason was founded by Shelter guitarist Norman Brannon and 108 drummer Chris Daly. Based in New York City, the group was an instant success with just a three-song EP in 1995 and a split 7" with The Promise Ring in 1996.
Why They're Important: Following that split with The Promise Ring, TITR put out their only full-length album, 1996's Do You Know Who You Are?, which landed them a ton of attention. They eventually decided to sign with Capitol Records, but nothing came of it because Brannon and Daly decided to abruptly break up the group at the end of a European tour in 1997. They never had a chance to ruin their legacy, and as a result Texas Is The Reason live on in a weird fog of what was great and what could have been.
What’s Happening Now: The band reunited for Revelation Records' 25th anniversary party in New York City in October 2012. They played a few more dates, but the reunion ended in August 2013. Although the time might not have been right, maybe the current climate will convince the group to come out of hiding again soon.
The Basics: A short-lived stint from 1997 to 2000 gave the Champaign-Urbana, Illinois, trio a cult-like following. One of many projects associated with the Kinsella brothers, the group's only album was released in 1999. They broke up in 2000 and we didn't hear from them at all until this year.
Why They're Important: Perhaps no band on this list has retained as devoted of a following since their breakup as American Football. Mike Kinsella and Co. helped define the late ‘90s Midwest emo sound and became one of the most important bands in the storied legacy of Polyvinyl Records with their self-titled LP. They received more critical acclaim than many of their brethren at the time, largely due to their intricate instrumentation and folksy melancholy—many of today's emo bands have obvious American Football influences in their songwriting. Kinsella on his own might be the most important emo musician of all time, as his work in Cap'n Jazz (who played a few reunion shows of their own in 2010), Joan of Arc and Owen has made him a living legend.
What’s Happening Now: The band haven’t played a show in 14 years but are coming back to life with a reissue of their self-titled album (with unreleased tracks to boot!) and four shows this fall, including three nights at New York City's Webster Hall. The band recently announced two California dates in December. Those lucky enough to score tickets are in for something monumental.
The Basics: The Austin quartet were only active from 1994 to 1997, and we didn't hear a peep from them until last month.
Why They're Important: Mineral were one of the only celebrated '90s emo acts to not come from the Midwest. This might have worked to their advantage; they were able to develop their own brand of quiet-loud-quiet-loud songwriting, which has influenced countless bands today. Both of their albums—1997's The Power of Failing and 1998's EndSerenading—were released via Crank! Records and hold up as classics from that generation of emo.
What's Happening Now: Vocalist Chris Simpson released a statement announcing the band's reunion in April. "Reconnecting with each other and this material for the first time in 17 years has been a real joy and pleasure. The shows will be the icing on the cake. We are grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to getting to play for all the people who have loved us all along as well as the many who have discovered us posthumously along the way." They'll play Fest 13 in Gainesville, FL before embarking on a full U.S. tour in the Fall.
The Basics: An emo/post-hardcore/screamo band from California, Saosin were originally fronted by current Circa Survive vocalist Anthony Green.
Why They're Important: After recording Translating The Name, a 2003 EP which made them incredibly popular on MySpace, Saosin signed to a major record label and Green called it quits. Replaced by Cove Reber, Green went on to start Circa Survive, but the legacy was already laid down and fans have been wondering whether the original incarnation of Saosin would ever take the stage again. Translating The Name carried along a screamo sound that utilized Green's versatile vocals and EP opener "Seven Years" has been covered by more bands than we can name.
What’s Happening Now: It was announced earlier this year that Anthony Green will front the original Saosin lineup at New Jersey's Skate & Surf Festival on May 17, with the band heading out on a West Coast tour shortly after. Make no mistake about it—Green's heart lies with Circa Survive first and foremost, so be sure to make it out to a show if you can. It's pretty unlikely that anything else will happen with Green on vocals.
The Basics: The New Jersey pop-punk pioneers got their start at the peak of the late '90s emo explosion. They released three LPs, including their beloved 2000 debut Save The World, Lose The Girl, via Drive-Thru Records before eventually disbanding in 2005. Members went on to start new projects, the most notable of which is frontman Gabe Saporta's dance-rock outfit, Cobra Starship.
Why They're Important: Although their sound– which doesn't resemble much of the other emo on this list –planted them firmly in the pop-punk category, Midtown were catalysts for a whole different wave of emo that subsequently exploded. The turn of the century saw a sudden influx of bands that took musical cues from Green Day and blink-182, but with a shameless sense of self pity that was unmistakably emo. Midtown (along with bands like Saves The Day, The Get Up Kids and New Found Glory) were among the first to set the standard for this new strain of punchy, upbeat underdog anthems.
What’s Happening Now: Midtown will reunite to play this year's Skate & Surf Festival in Asbury Park, much to the delight of pop-punk lovers (and Cobra Starship haters) everywhere. They're also performing a secret show in Brooklyn leading up to the festival. No word yet on whether more shows or new material are in the works, but their headlining sets at Skate & Surf are sure to be killer.
The Basics: An emo-leaning punk rock trio from the early '90s, Jawbreaker started in New York City and later relocated to California. They released four albums between 1990 and 1996, including their major label debut (and final album) Dear You, which saw mixed reviews. They played their final show in May 1996, citing internal tensions as the cause of their breakup.
Why They're Important: While their music sounded more punk than stereotypical emo, Jawbreaker's intimate lyricism and raw sound made people rethink what punk could be, and they remain one of the most enduring and influential punk bands of the past 20 years. Frontman Blake Schwarzenbach has become a contemporary cult idol as the leader of Jets To Brazil, The Thorns of Life and Forgetters.
Could A Reunion Happen? There's been interest in a Jawbreaker reunion since the day they broke up, but with today's flood of reunions, that interest is more intense than ever. Jawbreaker have historically dispelled all suggestions that they might hop on the bandwagon, but that's part of the reason why we appreciate them so much: they've always been too cool to do what everyone else wanted. They don't need to remind anyone why they're the best, because nobody ever forgot. That being said, we'd be first in line if they ever changed their minds.
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