Emo’s Not Dead is the nostalgic lifestyle brand that’s breathing new life into scene
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For internet personality, musician, and entrepreneur Matt Cutshall, being emo was never a phase. In fact, it was his destiny all along. As a teenager in the early '00s, Cutshall, like many others, gravitated towards the vulnerability and intensity of emo music and took great inspiration from the genre. Eventually, he formed his own group IT BOYS! in the late aughts, which performed on the infamous Vans Warped Tour a whopping four times during their run as a band — making Cutshall a certified, seasoned scene veteran.
When the genre experienced a commercial decline in the early 2010s, Cutshall was left feeling a void that he was dying to fill. Thankfully, at the turn of the next decade, emo, once presumed dead, rose from the ashes and began to make a serious comeback. Not only were people leaning on nostalgia as a form of comfort during trying times, but younger generations began to discover the music and lifestyle, effectively breathing new life into the culture as a whole. Cutshall acted quickly and began posting hilarious, engaging YouTube videos as his emotionally over-the-top, aptly titled alter ego “Emo Matt,” paying tribute to his favorite emo songs and enlisting some of the scene’s most prominent figures in cameos. With the success of the Youtube channel, Cutshall eventually launched the lifestyle brand Emo’s Not Dead, which has since ventured into the style and live music spaces.
This past November, Cutshall and co. put on the first-ever Emo’s Not Dead Cruise, which featured an iconic lineup of classic scene bands including Dashboard Confessional, New Found Glory, Thursday, Underoath, and others, and set sail from Los Angeles to Ensenada, Mexico. The cruise was such an overwhelming success that the team behind Emo’s Not Dead are already putting together the next excursion, scheduled for spring 2024.
Even beyond Emo's Not Dead, Cutshall's also been returning to his songwriting and performing roots with a new musical project, Your Broken Hero, which plans to release new “scene” music soon. In an exclusive interview with Alt Press, Matt Cutshall details the resurgence of emo culture, the genesis of the Emo’s Not Dead brand, and the very exciting future that lies ahead.
Why do you think emo music and culture is having such a resurgence in popularity at the moment?
I think everything eventually circles back, and everything becomes a classic at some point. Though emo music is not quite “oldies,” a lot of it is over 20 years old now, so younger people are just now finding it as music that their parents [maybe] listened to.
In my opinion, there is no genre quite like emo — as in the feeling that you get watching these live bands, how emotional it is, and how aggressive it can be watching bands like Underoath and Silverstein. The overall energy is huge. With this comeback, this younger generation is seeing these bands live for the first time and they’re blown away because they have never seen anything like it [before].
What were those initial emo bands that specifically sparked your love for the genre?
I went to high school with two of my best friends Judah and Duck Leary and they were in a [screamo] band called Reclaim the Fallen. It was probably 2003 when I went to their first show and it was also my first time ever experiencing and seeing screamo music, crowd surfing, and the overall energy. From there, I was hooked and asked them who I should listen to. They got me into Emery, Underoath, the Used, Taking Back Sunday, and the rest is history.
How did you develop your alter ego “Emo Matt,” and do you ever feel like you have to method act to get into character, or is this just another extension of you?
I have a lot of experience being that emo character. I started a band called IT BOYS!, and we played Warped Tour for four years, and I got my experience doing my [Taking Back Sunday frontman] Adam Lazzara moves on stage. That stage presence and performance has always been in me since then, so essentially I’m just getting back to my glory days and bringing it back to life with this character.
I started releasing these videos in 2019, and it all started in a Snapchat story where my fiancé Arielle put her hair over my forehead to make it look like bangs and I sang Taking Back Sunday or the Used to the camera. That Snapchat story ended up getting so much engagement. I got so many messages like, “I haven’t heard that song in years," or, "I miss Underoath,” and that really sparked the idea to do videos outside of Snapchat. I believe the first video we did was me singing Hawthorne Heights as my emo character and it blew up online.
What was the process like putting together the Emo’s Not Dead cruise, and what would you say was the most fulfilling aspect of it when looking back?
This was the most difficult task that I have ever done. When I first posted a survey on my Facebook to see if people would want to go on an Emo’s Not Dead cruise, I expected to have maybe 2,000 people fill out the seven-page survey –– but then 40,000 people ended up filling it out. I was completely shocked, so that was the first indicator that I had something. I’m so thankful that these bands trusted me to put this together. To show up to that sold-out cruise and see all of these legendary bands play a cruise that I curated was an absolute dream come true. I’ve been working in the entertainment business for 16 years now, and this was by far my biggest accomplishment.
[Photo courtesy of Emo's Not Dead]
With Emo’s Not Dead breaking into the apparel world as well, it seems like it has already become a key fixture in the style of the modern emo culture. How does that feel?
I am so happy that so many fans are resonating with the merch. After my sixth or seventh video, I decided that I needed to find a way to fund the videos as they got bigger and bigger. We had to fly to different parts of the country to shoot with different band guys, so these videos were adding up to a few thousand dollars a pop that I was coming out of pocket to pay for. I can’t monetize on Facebook or YouTube because I don’t own the songs, so I literally make zero dollars [in that respect]. My first drop was a plain black T-shirt that said “Emo’s Not Dead” and it ended up selling out in the first couple of days. I scaled the brand from there and now we have a full-time designer and fulfill [orders] out of our own warehouse in central Oregon. The merch is honestly what’s fueling our brand and allows me to pay my employees, have a cruise, and create these music videos.
Speaking of the music videos, you've already had so many iconic cameos and features from legendary scene figures including Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional and Simple Plan, but are there any dream guests you are still hoping to work with in the future?
I would love to get My Chemical Romance in a video. I have DM-ed a bit with [MCR bassist] Mikey Way and he loves what we do, so fingers crossed that we get them one day because I know the fans would absolutely freak out. I really want to get blink-182 in a video [as well], and I actually chatted about it a little bit with Mark Hoppus. It was when he was going through his chemo, so I very respectfully left that alone and let him deal with what he was dealing with. Thank God that he’s out of it. I’m so stoked that he’s doing great and that blink-182 is back together.
What’s next for the brand?
Live events are huge and we love meeting and connecting with all of our fans and supporters, so aside from the cruise, we are entertaining [the idea] of putting together some sort of festival. It’s not a guarantee yet, but we’re at the beginning stages of what that might look like. What I’m most excited about is Your Broken Hero, which is Emo Matt’s band that was named by Chris Carrabba. My goal for 2023 is to create an entire album, feature some of the greatest emo legends on it, and drop an absolutely amazing, nostalgic-feeling album. My goal is to play the entire album on [the next] cruise in 2024 and then do an actual tour as Your Broken Hero.