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Interview With Napoleon Vocalist And Guitarist Jon Elmaleh

Toronto-based alt-punk/post-hardcore four-piece Napoleon will be releasing their latest EP, Dear God, on May 31, 2024. Shortly before the release of their anticipated new effort, the band's vocalist and guitarist Jon Elmaleh spoke with me to talk about everything about the forthcoming EP and more.


Press shot for the rising Canadian post-hardcore band Napoleon.
Photo courtesy of Mike James.

Hello, how are you doing today?


Jon: Very good! Thanks for having me, stoked to be here!

In your own words, how would you describe your sound to people who have never heard your music before? Especially since there is a bit of a difference between your past music to the music that’s about to be released.


Jon: I think our new EP is more post-hardcore leaning, a lot of people have been comparing us to classic Underoath, Alexisonfire, Counterparts, those types of bands, which is dope cause I love them all! Overall, how would you compare the four tracks on your forthcoming EP, Dear God, to your previous EP, Enemy Within?


Jon: A lot faster and heavier musically. Lyrically, I think the songs hit a lot harder too, I really tried to sing about things that matter to me and have a message with our music this time around. Where did the idea come from to fully move past a hard rock-focused sound to a more post-hardcore or metalcore sound with screaming vocals coming into the forefront more than it did in the past?


Jon: For the last little bit I’ve been pushing the band in this direction, after our single “Fullsize Problem” came out, and did quite well for us -which was definitely a heavier track at the time- we decided that that was the kind of band we wanted to be, it was clear that that was what we are best at, and enjoy playing the most. Your last EP and even a single from 2020 are full of features from notable Canadian talents such as Shane Told (Silverstein), Corbin Giroux (ex-Rarity), and Luke Bentham (The Dirty Nil). I noticed while listening to the new EP, it’s free of any features. Was it just time to release a project that was wholeheartedly Napoleon from start to finish?


Jon: It’s not so much about not wanting other people involved, I actually love collaborating, those songs with the features are some of my favourites. I talked about it with Scott as we were wrapping up the recording. Lyrically, these songs are very personal to me. I don’t think it would make sense to have someone else sing those lyrics, these songs are about personal experiences and views that I have. The new EP consists of four songs that touch upon many aspects regarding faith, religion, and God and some of the inner struggles these themes have upon you. Are you willing to further discuss the EP’s lyrical themes and explain the song’s subjects?


Jon: Yeah, absolutely! I was raised in a Jewish family and went to a Jewish school and everything, my family isn’t ultra-religious, but they definitely have more faith and believe more than I do. As I grew older and went through the Jewish school system, I slowly lost my faith, and I always felt like I was looked down on as a result, just because I didn’t buy into the same things that they did. As an adult, often when I look around I see some people -of all religions, not just Jewish people- who like to use their faith as an excuse to essentially be a bad person. It is okay to have your faith if you find your own peace in religion, I’m happy for you, but just because someone else doesn’t share those beliefs it does not mean that they are a lesser person.


What are some of your favourite tracks on the album? Are there any that stick out to you that you can’t wait to test out on a live audience?


Jon: "Help Me" is my favourite Napoleon song ever! I’m very excited to play it every night now that it’s out! Were there any songs on the EP that you had any trouble writing at all?


Jon: It was kinda difficult to write the lyrics for "Heartless." It deals with a lot of negative things I felt growing up, and it wasn’t super fun to sort of re-live those moments. Do you have a profound moment from writing or recording the Dear God EP that still sticks with you to this day?


Jon: The band went through some pretty tough periods while making this EP. There were some points that I thought it might just be over. The day I recorded the last vocal track, which was the bridge of "Heartless," was a big deal for me, I felt very relieved and proud that we got through it, and got through it with the best lineup this band has ever had. What is something you hope people will take away from these four new tracks?


Jon: You can believe whatever you want, but you have to respect other people in doing so, what is important is our relationships with each other.

Over the years, you have shared the stage with heavy hitters like Escape The Fate, Single Mothers, Cancer Bats, Fame On Fire, Indian Handcrafts, Bastardane, and Michale Graves of the Misfits. Are there any other artists near and dear to your heart you would love to perform with, if the chance presented itself?


Jon: My ultimate dream is to play with Alexisonfire, they are the band that got me into screaming music. Some other ones that would be really cool, and I'm going to keep it Canadian here [Laughs] are Counterparts, Silverstein, Comeback Kid, Billy Talent, and The Flatliners. All bands from around the same area as us that I look up to! Are there any more plans for the rest of the year besides the album and the short Ontario tour to support the EP in June?


Jon: We’re doing an Eastern Canadian tour in July! And we’re cooking something up for late summer/early fall for our northern Ontario friends! If you can have your fans remember you for one thing, what would you want them to remember you for and why?


Jon: We try to keep everything fun and try to make everything a good vibe, I hope that’s how people see us! Thanks for taking the time to talk about the new EP, Jon! Before you go, is there anything you would like to add?


Jon: Hope to catch you at a show!

 

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