Our favorite dance/cry-party is back in LA this Tuesday night March 7 and we’re still reeling from last month when boss-man Skrillex debuted the reunion of his old band post-hardcore band, From First To Last, at the original Emo Night party in Echo Park. We caught up with Emo Nite’s founder Morgan Freed to give us the full history on this party-turned-social-experiment-turned-cultural phenomenon to find out exactly where their magic comes from. Enjoy a conversation with Morgan Freed, whose email signature line lists his current position as “Human Trash Can.”
How did Emo Nite come to exist?
Emo Nite is Babs, TJ, and I – we all worked at this creative agency, they worked in digital strategy and I worked in the video department. They went and did Dashboard Confessional karaoke in Palm Springs then came back and said, “We should have a night like this.” So we decided to do it, just go to a bar and play the music we liked. We thought at least ten of our friends would come and just hang out, get drunk, and that would be it. Originally we wanted to do it on a Thursday but the pieces of shit over at The Short Stop [the bar in Echo Park where Emo Nite started] didn’t let us, they gave us a Tuesday. Whatever, we did it anyway, my partners were working in digital strategy so we did one Instagram post that must’ve worked because there was a line around the block.
We didn’t realize what was happening, I think the cap at that bar was maybe 150 and there were maybe 500 kids waiting in line for a night at a bar that didn’t even exist yet! So we were like what the fuck? Ok. Had a really fun night, did it again the next month, and the line was twice as long.
And you just played straight emo tracks? Not remixes or mash-ups?
All we did was play the tracks. We would make Spotify playlists of shit that we liked, so I’d play a bunch of older shit cause I’m a little older. I would play Get Up Kids, early Jimmy Eat World, a lot of Promise Ring, things I grew up listening to. Babs and TJ are a little bit younger than me so they would play the newer shit like Taking Back Sunday – they grew up on the stuff that goes really hard. Some of those TBS or Brand New song go hard just like any rap or electronic shit, it builds and drops. And we’re submerged in this culture where we go to rap shows or to see DJs and stuff like that, so Emo Nite kind of felt like being at one of those shows but also very different. It was a super weird and surreal thing and it still is. Then we just moved to a bigger facility and started asking people to DJ. First we asked Mark Hoppus to DJ and he learned how to DJ for it! The rest is pretty much history. Rolling Stone, Billboard, Forbes?! All that shit – it’s really unreal. And now we just keep trying to make it cooler and more fun and keep throwing the best party. We try to make it the best experience that anyone going to a party in Los Angeles can have who likes that type of shit. Even people who don’t like that type of shit, we make it fun for everybody.
So now what’s the music like compared to your first Tuesday at The Short Stop?
Well what happened was after we did the night a few times one of our friends Ryan Rabin who’s the drummer of Grouplove came to us. He’s in this producer trio called Captain Cuts with Ben Berger and Ryan McMahon and they write Top 40- alternative rock songs. They’re really great musicians, but what we’ve found out is that even though people make different types of music they all grew up listening to this stuff [emo]. So it was a really cool way for them to mix newer shit with that type of music, which really hadn’t been done before. And it sort of created this weird hybrid of new music, of using old emo songs and newer songs and mixing them together to make something unique.
The very first Captain Cuts mixtape, it’s called ‘If You’re Listening,’ they released it on SoundCloud and it got like 500k plays in two days or something and then Drake made them take it down so now you have to download it. Now we save their performance for the end of the night and that is EDM – in fact it’s a better EDM show than anything I’ve ever seen. We were trying to figure out ways to make this concept more entertaining and work with people that we really like all while keeping it within the spirit of Emo Night which is just a fucking fun party.
So what we’re hearing is Emo Night is certified 100% organic?
100%, this was not calculated at all. It was the right place, right time, right people, right motives. We didn’t start it to make money or for any recognition, I want to be super clear here – we just wanted to have fun and throw a fun party. Now it’s turned into a creative outlet that lets us do what we want to do, now I don’t have any boss telling me, “That’s not going to work.”
What’s the Emo Nite LA demographic like?
It started off as our friends and friends of friends who are into the type of music and now I think because of the press its gotten, a lot of people just want to come and see what the fuck is going on and then they end up having a really good time and come back. It’s at the very least a great excuse on a Tuesday to go hang out with a bunch of really fun people. The Ham on Everything guys do our patio music, so their demographic crossed over into ours and it’s essentially become a melting pot of every single different kind of person in Los Angeles. It’s fucked up! It’s awesome!
How do y’all end up with these massive headliners?
We now own our own creative agency called Ride Or Cry which is focused mainly on music videos and digital strategy. For the record I fucking hate the term “the music industry” but I guess we’ve technically been working in it for quite awhile so we just know a bunch of people. Just say you work in music, people, you sound like a dick. If you work at a restaurant or hotel you don’t say, “I work in the service industry.” It sounds like a passive way of saying, “I’m better than you” and for the record, I am not better than anyone. In fact am probably much worse than everyone you’ve ever met. Plus at this point we fuck heavy with the right people, but in the beginning we would do anything to track down whoever we wanted to play the party. We would hunt down their friends or exes and message them on Facebook looking for the contact. We hustled to get the people involved who we thought would make the night really cool. And now we have people asking us to participate, but it wasn’t like that at first of course. We worked really hard to make this what it is.
You took this thing on tour right?
Yea! We had a summer and fall tour, we also do collab shows. The cool thing about this is every flyer is done by an artist we love and we theme the nights – we’re literally theming a them night doing everything we could to make it more fun. We get to work with people we really like and respect whether its graphic artists or clothing designers or music curators or videographers, all this from a small party we started at a bar. The same shit that happens at Emo Nite LA happens on tour and sometimes if tours align we get guest artists to perform. But usually it’s just us and everyone in that city who fucking this music. We’ve been in maybe 15 to 20 cities and now we’ve got fucking friends in a bunch of different places – it’s so fun! Everyone’s so nice and glad and we’re so grateful for the opportunity to be part of something so cool. It’s not us that’s doing it, we come up with the dumbass ideas, but it’s the people that come and actually make it happen.
Does having Skrillex reuniting with From First To Last at Emo Nite complete some kind of cosmic nostalgia circuit?
Oh, you mean Sonny? jk Ya I don’t know! I hope we will see some more really great bands reunite, put out new records and tour again. I mean I hope that fftl showed other bands there’s a demand for it with how excited everyone is about them, emo nite and everything regarding music in general. Its all very fucking cool, but we’re super grateful they chose our night to reunite. It’s definitely one of the cooler things that have happened in my lifetime.
Who are some other up and coming artists that come through your party that need to be on our radar?
Well one of my all time favs Joyce Manor. Movements come by all the time. Some bands that we love and would love to have cruise are The Hotelier, Pine Grove, Oso Oso, are a couple of my top choices rn. I dunno would be pretttttty cool if My Chem [My Chemical Romance] decided to pull a From First To Last…