To the music of thousands of screaming fans, Emblem3, the Sequim hometown heroes and growing pop sensations, are poised for a run at fame.
Drew Chadwick and brothers Keaton and Wesley Stromberg have been building steam since first singing their original tune “Sunset Blvd” on TV’s “The X-Factor.” They finished fourth in the singing competition and recently followed up with the rising charter “Chloe (You’re the One I Want).”
The band released its first full-length album, “Nothing to Lose,” July 30 online and in retailers across the nation via Columbia and Syco Records. Their album comes in 11-track standard and 15-track deluxe editions featuring both songs.
To give fans a sample of the album, Emblem3 arrived near the members’ old stomping grounds on July 23 for a mall appearance at The Commons in Federal Way hosted by Seattle’s KISS FM 106.1, with morning hosts Jackie and Bender deejaying.
Some fervent fans waited for the show from the time the mall opened, five hours before Emblem3 would take the stage.
Friends Wendy Monjarez and Justine Stephenson, both 16 and from Federal Way, said they arrived at 11 a.m. and still weren’t at the front of the stage.
Stephenson said some of the fans were cutting and being rude to get to the front.
Given their dedication to seeing their favorite band, Emblem3’s fans are hardcore.
DJ Bender learned this quickly after prompting the audience with questions before the show and receiving booming, almost piercingly loud answers.
On stage, teddy bears, love letters and various handmade tokens of appreciation sat at the band’s feet. Many of the fans in the front rows held signs and had painted messages such as “I love Wesley” on their bodies.
The howling crowd consisted of mostly pre-teen and teen girls, with moms watching from the back.
Brandy Martinez of Elma brought her 16-year-old daughter Jessica to the show at 10:30 a.m. Martinez said she and her two daughters — Kelsey, 17, couldn’t make the concert — watched “The X-Factor” and shortly thereafter began following Emblem3 online.
“(Jessica) follows them on Twitter and freaks out when they announce something new,” she said.
Beverly Wright, of Bremerton, brought her daughter Tia, 14, and a niece to the show and even made a sign of her own, a rebus with candy boxes taking the place of some of the words: “Hi Drew, Keaton & Wesley, you’re such (Hot Tamales) you shine like a big (Starburst). I love how you can be such goofy (Goobers) and don’t have a (Sour Patch) in your body. You’re all (Sweet Tarts) to me.”
“We really got into it,” Wright said. “We love Demi Lovato (a judge on the show) and saw them and we fell in love.”
The trend among attendees was discovering Emblem3 on “The X-Factor” and absorbing every little detail about them through social networking and befriending fan pages for each of the band members. Local Sequim fans, of course, may have seen Emblem3 members in former bands Deferred Prosecution or The American Scholars.
The Wright family has taken fandom to a different level. They’ve flown to California on two occasions, in February and April, to see the band play live.
“(The girls) love them. I do feel kind of awkward as the only mom with a sign but no shame,” Wright said. “I love that these guys do their own thing.”
Creating their own sound
With current heart throbs One Direction and Cody Simpson adorning young fans’ MP3 players, walls and lockers, Emblem3 could be the next group to appear in commercials, on T-shirts and on school binders everywhere. They’ve already done TV performances after “The X-Factor.”
To defy stereotypes and maintain their “We’re not a boy band” stance, Emblem3 blends and blurs diverse sounds of hip hop, pop, punk, rock and reggae.
At the time of a Gazette interview in September 2012, as the band was rising in the rankings on TV, band mates were beginning their fight to overcome “boy band” stereotypes. Wesley Stromberg said they write all their own music and don’t want to necessarily stand around and dance on stage for fans.
Chadwick said the “boy band” stereotype would narrow their sound.
In one light, the band seems reminiscent of Hanson, the trio of brothers who rose to fame with one-hit wonder “Mmmbop” but after fame faded pushed on as musicians and continued to tour and release albums while making a living.
Emblem3 hasn’t hit the full spotlight but is still rising. They may be bucking some pressures like other “boy bands” by playing their own instruments on stage, too.
That’s one of the appeals for Sabrina Begin of Mount Vernon and her 14-year old daughter Courtney
and two friends, also 14.
“I actually like them,” Begin said. “They remind me of Sublime.”
When looking and listening to One Direction or Emblem3, Begin said, it’s not a matter of one over the other since she likes them both, but she would rather see Emblem3 live.
As minutes ticked down to 3 p.m. anticipation and emotions were high long before Emblem3 took
Updates were given periodically, met with squeals of joy. Even some tears were shed.
Sarah Sloan, of Mount Vernon, found the excitement overwhelming.
“I can’t believe I’m here,” she said fanning her eyes.
At one point, Bender prompted the audience what they would like to ask Emblem3: One fan asked him to have them play with their shirts off.
John Sebring, one of the few males in the crowd, said the response seemed typical for the age group.
He, his wife, Silva, and their three daughters — ages 10, 11 and 14 — drove from Sammamish for the show.
They, too, watched Emblem3 on TV through the season.
“All three are crazy into them,” Sebring said. “We recorded the show and we still watch them.”
Kristin Pryor, of Enumclaw, brought her 14-year-old daughter Zoey and two friends.
She said they love the song “Chloe” and think of it as a theme song.
While Emblem3 maintains its fun, quirky lyrics throughout the new album, “Chloe” specifically centers on encouraging girls to believe in themselves.
Positive message aside, Pryor said the girls also think the boys are hot. However, Calder, her 10-year-old son, is drawn to Chadwick’s rapping because he likes to rap, too.
Calder said his sister always plays Emblem3 at home, so he was forced to listen but he grew to like it.
“I like hearing music live,” he said.
While waiting for the band to play, he passed the time playing video games on a handheld system.
After hours of waiting, many fans grew restless. DJ Bender helped the audience pass the time by reading love letters to the band and asking who was the audience’s favorite band mate. Keaton seemed to receive the most shouts and screams.
Throughout the performance and afterward in line for a rare meet-and-greet with the band, girls would scream lyrics and “I love you’s.”
From the minute it was announced Emblem3 was ready, the crowd turned its collective body stage left.
Everyone shifted, along with the metal barriers encircling the crowd. Local police and security made the rounds to keep fans at bay but when the band came on stage, security had to press the barriers back to keep fans from pushing their way onto the stage.
Keaton entered first, followed by brother Wesley and finally Drew, who was said to be under the weather. One indication was that he realized halfway through he used to listen to Jackie and Bender in the mornings.
Keaton and Drew had to hold their hands over their ears at certain points because the crowd’s decibel levels skyrocketed.
Emblem3 wooed its fans through the show with three songs — “Reason,” “Sunset Blvd” and “Chloe” — over a 30-minute set where they also answered questions from the fans.
Their favorite superheroes? Keaton said, “Batman”; Drew chose Bob Marley. Wes at first agreed with Drew but then rescinded and said, “Jesus Christ.”
When asked about playing in Washington again, Keaton said it was like home to them.
After “Chloe,” the set was over and some fans meandered around the stage and parents looked for opportunities to help their daughters find good spots in line.
Fans Monjarez and Stephenson were looking at photos from the concert while waiting for the meet-and-greet with wristbands securely on.
When asked what they thought of the show, Stephenson said, “It was worth waiting.”
Everyone at the show said they plan to see Emblem3 again when the group opens for Selena Gomez at the Seattle Center on Nov. 11. Buying the new album was a top priority, too.
Brandy Martinez said her daughter Jessica “would die if she got to go to the concert.”
When it came time for the meet-and-greet, Jessica seemed reluctant and almost began to tear up from nervousness at the entrance. Later, however, she was near the exit waiting for one last look at her favorite band.