It's a simple narrative that never seems to fail: A music genre gets hot, wears out its welcome, gets banished to un-hip purgatory for a period of time and then, inexplicably, comes back cooler than before.
It's happening right now to the punk subgenre “emo” — the sexier label is the “Midwestern emo revival” — and Evan Weiss, the 28-year-old singer/songwriter from Chicago better known as Into It. Over It., has emerged as the one of movement's most vital artists. Just don't ask him if he's surprised by it all.
“It's funny that people are only noticing it now because I feel like that revival has been happening for the last six years,” Weiss said. “It doesn't seem new to me, but if it's new to them, let them enjoy it.”
Weiss, understandably, has greater concerns than genre semantics. Into It. Over It.'s fourth album, “Intersections,” was released Tuesday, and he's touring the United States (including a stop at Washington's Black Cat on Sunday), Japan and Europe all before Christmas.
Since beginning Into It. Over It. in 2007 as a songwriting exercise (his first official release was “52 Weeks,” a double album of tracks Weiss wrote a week at a time), Weiss has continuously honed his skills as a lyricist and songwriter. “Intersections,” the culmination of his refinement, is Into It. Over It.'s most expansive effort, and as a result, makes for one of the best albums of the year.
The key to Into It. Over It.'s success, Weiss said, has been a constant battle against complacency. He calls 2011's “Proper” his “rock record,” and said that when it came to record “Intersections,” Weiss knew he wanted to head in a “100 percent different” direction with producer Brian Deck (Modest Mouse, Iron & Wine).
“I enjoy confusing people. I enjoy doing whatever makes me happy,” Weiss said. “You can call it 'emo,' I can call it 'punk,' whatever. I think writers have kind of a harder time pinning exactly what I do and that's because I don't do anything besides what I want.”
For “Intersections,” Weiss wanted to see how much he could write without using a guitar pick. He wrote and recorded the entire 12-song album without one. To an outsider, it's an intriguing approach, but Weiss said it was a natural progression.
“I thought about it later and said, 'But there's finger picking on all of the albums,'“ Weiss said. “It's not that unique but it definitely gave the album its own vibe and made it have a warmer quality.”
Like many forefathers of his genre, Weiss' lyrics are specific and fueled by raw emotion. Unlike others, he often leaves songs open-ended. On “Intersections,” he returns to past songs and themes to continue the story. “Upstate Blues” references “Buffalo, N.Y.,” a song from 2011's “Twelve Towns” album. “Connecticut Steps,” a fan favorite from “Proper,” addresses an unexpected death, and new standout “The Shaking of Leaves,” an update to the former according to Weiss, reminds us that while friends die, they never disappear.
“I was going through this year and realizing there are these updates on stories and where relationships in my life were now versus where they were three or four years ago,” he said.
“Intersections” has more deeply personal and intense moments on it than “Proper,” Weiss said. On “Obsessive Compulsive Distraction,” he sings, “I can't recall a single thing before I turned 18 / A quarter crisis from the back of my destructive brain.”
“That's actually my favorite song,” he said. “It was definitely the most emotional, I think, of all the Into It. Over It. [songs]. Definitely the most dark.”
Recently, songs from “Intersections” have received praise from outlets that didn't cover the release of “Proper,” including SPIN and Pitchfork most notably. Whether emo is having a moment or critics are finally recognizing his talents as a songwriter, Weiss doesn't seem to care either way.
“People are going to label things the second it gets pushed out, but I don't look at it the way. It's bands writing music they want to write,” Weiss said. “Love it or hate it, I know I made something I'm really stoked on.”
If you go
Into It. Over It. performs Sunday at the Black Cat, 1811 14th St. N.W. Washington. Doors open at 8 p.m. Saves the Day and Hostage Calm will also perform. Tickets are $16 in advance, $19 day of show. Call 877-725-8849 or go to blackcatdc.com.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun