Last month we held a contest where fans could try to win a night out bowling with Orlando-based post-hardcore screamers Sleeping With Sirens. We were overwhelmed by the feedback.
We combed through tons of tweets and the winner, ultimately, was Emily Becker. That's her (red hair) above with her friends Elliot Young (green ball), Kate Russell (Batman shirt), and SWS frontman Kellin Quinn (tongue out).
Sleeping With Sirens have a brand new album out today, Madness, and mega-SWS fans are incredibly excited. One of them, of course, is Emily herself, who has a pretty remarkable story and a connection to Sleeping With Sirens that extends beyond the night of bowling and the SWS concert at Hammerstein we sent her to.
Depressed and listless, late last year Emily found herself in and out of hospitals -- she didn't want to die, but says she didn't have a reason to live either.
She accidentally overdosed on prescription medication. It was in the hospital, sitting on a paper-covered table, close to a heart attack, that she realized "this wasn't how I wanted it to end," she tells BuzzFeed Music. "I had never strung together the words 'I like myself and I want to live' in a sentence before, but finally I did, and I realized I wanted a life beyond just staying alive."
She says she had some digging to do, and so she began going through old photos, looking for signs of happiness in each.
"I think the first, and maybe last, time that I felt like the world was open to my future was when my best friend got me a photo pass for Warped Tour so I could start my music blog . A lot had changed in the two years since I had taken my first photo. But music had stuck with me. And photography had stuck with me. And one photo in particular had stuck with me, from that first Warped Tour I ever photographed -- one of Kellin Quinn, mouth wide open screaming, hand outstretched to hold onto a fan. I could look at this photo and believe that my life was going to keep going, and that it had a purpose.
"I wish I had been able to see my own face when I won the bowling trip with Sleeping With Sirens. I felt like the light of the universe was flooding my body. I had entered the contest on a whim and a prayer, and to be chosen as the winner, out of thousands of people? It was a sign that I was on the right track. The night was incredible. The band was warm and welcoming and treated me like a friend. The world I had turned to for safety was just as kind in person as through my headphones.
"On February 17th, 2015, I was pressed up against the barricade at Hammerstein Ballroom, three feet from Sleeping With Sirens.
"I cried at that show. I never really cried when I was sick, I didn't cry when they put me in the hospital, and I didn't cry when I overdosed, but I cried at this concert. To be completely fair I didn't bawl at the show. It was a respectable cry. A few manly tears. But it was still crying and crying isn't something I do a lot. But there was something about surviving years of feeling hopeless to end up in a mob of thousands screaming your favorite song back at Kellin Quinn.
"So maybe music didn't save my life. But it sure makes living a lot easier."
Now that Sleeping With Sirens' new album is out, we asked Emily to interview the band. Below you'll find snippets from her conversation with singer Kellin Quinn.
On why Kellin loves music:
"I love being able to create an art form that can communicate to a bunch of different people. Music connected me to my grandmother, who kinda got me started into classic rock like the Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It's a way to connect, and is a great way to share and connect to people you care about."
On why he decided to pursue music as a career:
"I used to go to this church when I was younger, a music group mission thing we were working in L.A. in this inner city church and there was a guy who was a rapper and all the girls were super obsessed with him because he used to rap. So I remember praying...to God...and asking him to giving me the ability to make music so I could impress girls."
On how his attitude toward music as a career has changed and developed over the years:
"Once it becomes a career or a job it can sometimes become monotonous, so you have to figure out ways to keep it fresh. When I'm on tour it becomes monotonous -- you have to remind yourself the show is going to be new for someone, it doesn't matter how many shows you've played it's going to be new for that person coming to the show. I've created a bit of excitement for myself by trying to say something new each night. I'm very, very grossed out when artists say the same thing at every single show to the point where one night I didn't say anything between songs, and didn't tell my band about it and they were very furious at me because literally a song would be done and I'd just be staring at everybody."
On what 2009 Kellin think of SWS now:
"I think that 2009 Kellin would appreciate non flat-ironing of hair. That was a really bad phase, and I'm glad I don't have to do that anymore. I just let my natural hair do its thing. And also 2009 Kellin would appreciate that they started selling skinny jeans for guys and I don't have to buy girls pants anymore."
On what advice Kellin would give his younger self:
"Enjoy everything you have and the journey and the climb. No matter what you're doing -- going to high school or college or starting a new job, I think it's important. Just being present is important."
On scrapping a full album before Madness because he was unhappy with it:
"I knew in my heart that it wasn't the right thing and something I learned young through my mother and family members is to just trust your intuition because usually it's right. If I'm not feeling right about this record how can I expect anyone buying this record to feel stoked about it?"
On if he ever feels intimidated by so many fans looking up to him:
"I do. I think that it's important to remember that nobody is better than anyone else. I don't want anyone to see me as someone better than them. I think it's important to understand that I'm just a guy too. It just so happens that I'm in a band. "
On keeping perspective:
"I think some people buy into what everyone says about them and I think that's wrong. I think having a family and a daughter helps me in that situation. It helps me remember to stay grounded for other people who don't have that situation and are always surrounded by people looking up to them. I think it's important to stay who you are."