VersaEmerge’s Ex-drummer Opens Up About The Band

VersaEmerge‘s ex-drummer Anthony Martone left the band two years ago but has never actually said what really happened. He has opened up about the situation on AbsolutePunk. Read it below:

This is a story based on something that happened in my life that changed the way I look at everything. I have been inspired to tell it. It plays through my head constantly. I still get asked every day about this story. I have been terrified to release it, but today, this is what my horoscope read: “Give in to your impulsive mood today, Scorpio, and say or do whatever moves you. If you’re feeling passionate about a special opportunity but you feel that taking action now could potentially backfire, then you might be over-thinking it. Trust your instincts and follow your heart and you will be fine.”

I woke up to a tweet at 5AM this morning, linking me to two brothers telling the truth about what happened with their recent resignation from “their” band, and then I saw that Ronnie from Escape The Fate decided to release his story as well. I feel like it’s now or never. No one will be named in this story.

It’s the first week of 9th grade and I am approached by a tall, dark, and handsome young fellow. He is slightly shy and he informs me that he plays blues guitar and he has heard that I am a drummer. We arrange a meeting that night and jam for a little while. From that point on, we were inseparable. We played local gigs with our blues band until we decided to form a heavier band. We started a screamo project, and got a lot of experience and local credibility. While recording a new album for this band in Ocala, Florida, we decided to let go of our vocalist right before he could track all the vocals. So we left with the music that we had already recorded and started to form a new band, with a new name, and with a new singer to sing on the tracks. The songs for this were written as a band. Together.

We found a new singer in our town that had been in opus classes and had a great, more classical sounding voice. We recorded his vocals over all the unfinished songs. Soon, we received a few formidable indie record label offers. We negotiated everything basically together but I was always the guy on the phone. At the last minute, our singer told us that his parents wouldn’t let him tour and that he wasn’t allowed to sign the record deal. He left the band. We had a lot of problems with him anyways, as he was young and unexperienced at the time. We also later found out that it wasn’t his parents. It was his girlfriend telling him that if he signed, she would leave him.

At the same time, both guitarists of the band (the original shy one, and another guitarist that was added to the band) were clashing with the writing. One wanted to go a little bit more experimental and the other wanted more control of the writing and to write more standard, but epic pop songs. The one that wanted to go a little more experimental also had a few more unstable things about himself. He was having a lot of problems outside of the band e.g. family, and girlfriend drama. Since our tall, dark, and handsome guitarist was technically the original guitarist, he had all the demo recording equipment, and overall was determined the better option, and it was also determined that if he was kicked out, I would leave with him, so our experimental guitarist was cut from the band. Obviously, we were unable to sign the record deal we were hoping to sign.

In this time, we had been holding open auditions online for our vocalist position. Also, we lost our long time bassist and great friend to a college scholarship that he couldn’t turn down. At this point the future of the band was unknown. My sister knew a bass player from a town about 100 miles north of us that was into being in our band. He tried out and we took him in. He was practicing with us and driving to and from his hometown multiple times a week to make it to anything we needed him for. He had to quit his job and didn’t have money to pay for the expenses that came along with being in the band. My family stepped to the plate and let him live at my house with us for the rest of the time that we were in the band together because his parents told him that he couldn’t use their resources to be in the band anymore. After about a hundred vocal auditions, we received an audition from a guy from California, that had been in a signed band before. He was a great vocalist and he came to try out. We also received an audition from a female vocalist. We determined that we liked the female fit with the music better than the male fit. This male then went off to play in another nationally known and signed band.

Our new female vocalist lived on the other coast of Florida. She told us she was a little older so that we would let her in the band. We wanted someone 18 or older so that we wouldn’t have to deal with parent’s when it came to signing a record deal. Her mother would drive her back and forth to practice all the time. This was insane, seeing that it was a 6 hour round trip. Her mother, still to this day, is one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She would do anything for us. She loved that her daughter was in the band. She even took her out of high school so that she could tour and spend more time with the band. We determined that her mom was awesome and that even though our new singer wasn’t of age, her mom would definitely still sign a deal.

When we practiced with her, we knew she needed a lot of work. We were constantly on her about her voice. She did great in the studio, but we had a hard time pulling a great live sound out of her. In this time we also got a new rhythm guitarist. He was from Orlando, Florida, and he also traveled for every practice. He did all of our design work and helped a lot with the business end of the band. He and I basically managed the band in the early stages.

We released the new band with the new lineup and a new single with our female vocalist. People were confused, but we received mostly positive feedback to our new single with our new female vocalist. Within a few days, a big booking agent in our area that had helped us out since the early days of our first screamo band, showed the demo to a manager he knew. The manager was a guy that already managed a few small indie label bands and had ties to a large group of music industry people in NYC. He flew out to our sold out, debut show in West Palm Beach and it was a DISASTER. Our very bitter ex-guitarist showed up, and our new singer completely bombed the show. We had her singing new songs and old songs that originally had the old male vocalist on them. Everyone there was shocked at how bad we performed. This was our hometown crowd. I was beyond mortified. The new manager said he didn’t care, knew we would get better, and he would manage us for free until we started making money.

This manager was amazing. He was getting us things that we could have never obtained on our own. Tours, endorsements, lawyers, producers, a business manager, and record label offers. He told us that a lot of it came naturally because all he had to do was show someone and they instantly wanted in. This manager and I talked on the phone for hours EVERYDAY. He became one of the best friends that I have ever had, and taught me so much about life. We were really happy with him. He got us an awesome deal with a producer in Baltimore, Maryland. The producer was great, and we made an awesome EP with him and self released it. We wrote all the songs as a band. Together. We got on some good tours basically to get our feet wet. We toured for months. In between, we had a lot of negotiating with labels and other industry people going on. We visited New York City where we were toted around to different offices to meet all the new people we would be working with. Two of these people were a big time song writing team. They worked in the office with the owner of another huge management agency and they all worked in an office that was owned by an even bigger management agency. They all seemed like cool guys, but off the bat they seemed very into image and control. Eventually, I was even in charge of making sure that our singer lost some weight because they saw her play a show and agreed she needed to lose ten pounds. We had already met with the label we wanted to sign with, and it seemed that they really wanted us to work with these people. So we all just trusted in it and went with it.

Right before signing the big deal, we went on a midwest tour with some signed metal bands. It was weird, but we didn’t care. Our rhythm guitarist was turning very negative and hostile towards us. He was especially hostile to the female singer. They weren’t getting along very well. She was still constantly struggling with her voice at live performances. She got the best vocal teacher she could, warmed up every day, got in ear monitors, and basically tried everything she could to perform well, but it seemed like nothing was working. We were all nervous because we knew we would be playing some big shows soon and we couldn’t keep performing like this. The guitarist was also a little older than her (she being an 11th grader at the time and him being in his 20s) and I personally feel like he was just too mature for the whole group and he got fed up. It got to the point where we decided to let him go. It was so hard because he was an awesome guy and it was right before the highly anticipated signing.

We signed the deal in NYC and started to work on the next EP. We had the option of doing a full length but we went with the EP because we knew that we were still a new band and we would be opening on a lot of tours and it is easier to get a kid to buy a 5 dollar ep from a band they’ve just heard of then a 10 or 12 dollar full length. Again, we did the writing mostly together. The lead singer and guitarist did a little writing with our new song writer friends to keep the industry people happy. We demoed a lot on our lead guitarist’s computer. We went to another amazing producer who had some big names under his belt in Orlando, Florida. We stayed there and recorded the album together and we were stoked on it. The label told us it wouldn’t go into stores or get any type of radio play and we agreed because we didn’t want to get shoved down people’s throats too quickly and then just die out or get played out. We decided to tour and sell them only online and at shows. At this point the whole band was as poor as possible. We all had no money. The only hope of money was that when we released this EP, we were given some cash from a publishing agreement. After a few months of solid touring, we had all spent our money. Right before we recorded the EP, we picked up a new rhythm guitarist. Awesome guy, great singer, and great player. Perfect fit for us. But We wouldn’t let him sign into the record or publishing deal. Instead he was just a hired gun, and we paid him half of what each of us got from the publishing because we felt we all deserved more because we were in the band longer. This guitarist has the most bills and thankfully was the most resourceful out of us all. He knew he wasn’t signed to the record deal, so no one controlled what he did. He made some songs in garage band and sold them to fans for 5 dollars just to make end’s meet. I know I felt terrible for him because he had a lot going on at home and we kind of made it seem like he was joining this big time rock band. He even left law school to pursue this dream with us.

We found ourselves saying a thousand times that our singer’s vocals would improve with practice, but we found that they did not. Off time, off pitch, out of key, flat, sharp, forgetting the lyrics and off time from the music at 75% of the shows for the entire time we toured together. On top of this, my sample/ipod set up was failing me every night. I drummed to a click track on every song and the samples would just come in on the click they were supposed to come in on in the song. I didn’t hit a sample pad. My ipod would fail most nights. We tried to figure out a solution for about a year, but it still did it. It would pause or skip in the middle of a song throwing the band off from the click and I would have to pull the plug on some important samples. This would screw us all up and if our singer was singing bad and the ipod screwed up (which happened A LOT), the band’s morale would be in the gutter.

Fast forward to Warped Tour. Greatest time of my life. We were in a bus that for most of the tour we shared with some bands from the UK and some of the time we had it to ourselves. Because we got added last minute to the tour, we had to agree to play for free every day. Now we have to pay back a loan we got for a bus from the label, completely out of our merchandise sales. Sales weren’t doing as well as we thought, and we weren’t pumping out as much merch as we needed to. A lot of the shows were bad. Mostly on the vocal part. For a little while, we had a streak where things were going ok, but then it turned back into crappy shows and low sales. I could see look on people’s faces as I heard her hitting sour notes all over the place and it really made me upset. I was doing what I loved to do, but hung my head in shame when I was getting off stage. Throughout all of our tours, the singer and I butted heads more than anyone. Actually, no one butted heads but us. I was constantly on her. I was the business of the band and I was the one on the phone with the industry people every day. So if we didn’t do well, I was the one who had to directly report about it. If you’re running a pizza place, and your partner that runs the oven is burning all the pizzas, and you aren’t selling pizzas because they are always burnt, and therefore you aren’t able to pay your rent, you’re going to stressed and probably really pissed off. Especially if all the pizza stores around you are killing it and gaining business. This is how I felt on tour. All the other bands were pumping out merchandise, and playing for way more screaming fans where we had people walking away from the set and coming up to me afterward asking me what was wrong with our vocalist. I will openly admit I was a little harsh. I would get pretty stressed and upset about it a lot. I was depressed and I felt like the rest of the band was a little depressed too. At this point, we had all run out of money and we were barely getting by. Me, the guitarist, and bassist all smoked pot a lot. Most of the band drank too. Everyone except the original lead guitarist basically drank and smoked all the time. This was typical. 99% of bands party super hard. We were light weights compared to most. Around the last month of Warped I decided to quit smoking cigarettes after about 6 years of smoking a pack a day and this obviously made me even more high strung. I hit an all time low. The singer and I were basically on a no talking basis and I was super depressed. I felt like everything in my life and all my hard work was spiraling into obscurity and it was completely out of my hands and at the fault of someone else in the band. I felt like we all played great shows ,and showed up for everything on time, but then our vocalist would be missing and then she would play a bad show. I even came up with a t shirt idea that they use now. It has to do with the vocalist’s tardiness and inability to be found at important moments

After Warped Tour, the singer and lead guitarist went off to all sorts of different places around the country to go and start working with song writers and producers. The rest of the band had NO part in writing any of the new full length album we had all been excited about starting. We were told the singer and guitarist would write it with these songs writers and send them to us to learn while we were home. I reluctantly agreed because I really had no choice and they told us that with the help of these writers that we would get huge. Our rhythm guitarist left Warped to get home to some family stuff and the whole crew left besides the tour manager. It was just the bassist, the TM, and I. We rode the bus all the way from California to Tennessee, where our van was parked, and in the middle of the night unloaded the whole trailer full of everything the band owned, and cleaned out the entire bus so it looked like new, then we drove to drop off our tour manager somewhere near TN, then the bassist and I drove all the way home to south FL by ourselves.

While the writing was being done by the lead guitarist, singer, and co writers, the bassist and rhythm guitarist went to Florida, and I went to stay with my girlfriend in NJ/NYC area. They would send us demos just to give us a feel of the new album. We had mixed opinions but for the most part I thought it was alright. I was still depressed. I even texted my manager one day that I didn’t even want to wake up anymore. He never replied. A few days later I heard the singer and guitarist would be in NYC doing co writes with more people and doing an acoustic set in Union Square. I was so excited to see them and I was going to apologize to our singer for not speaking to her on a lot of warped and being so harsh. I tried calling and tweeting them all day with no answer and I hadn’t really spoken to anyone in the band in about two weeks. I could tell something was up. The lead guitarist called me and said that they felt I was unhappy and depressed and that I should take off from their next tour. I was not happy. I tried telling him that this was not going to cure my depression but only make it worse. He said that when the tour was over that I could home and TRY OUT to be in the band again. I talked to the bassist and rhythm guitarist (who was, and is still dating my younger sister) on the phone for hours because my lead guitarist (who was also now my best friend for almost 7 years) was being very short with me. They said I wouldn’t be kicked out and that it’s just so I can rest and get myself together. I BEGGED for a conference call. I got one a few days later but until then they made me sweat it out and no one would talk to me at all. I was so broke that I even begged my manager to borrow money to pay my cell phone bill and he was kind enough to give it to me. This obviously made me more depressed. Then I got my conference call where I BEGGED IN TEARS for them to please not do this to me and cried hysterically for them to please just forgive me if I had done anything to hurt anyone that I was only trying to run a successful and happy band and I didn’t mean it. These were the best friends I had in the whole world. They were everything to me. I used everything I had in me but they just kept saying no. That I needed to not be in the band any more and that they are changing and going more major label and i’m going more indie label and that I don’t get along with the singer and obviously you cant kick out the singer the deep into the band because then the band is destroyed. So I was given the boot. I felt it was very unfair and posted about it on twitter. A few days later I was called into our manager’s office and he was really awesome to me as usual. Our whole management team was always great. We talked and they offered me a settlement, I signed some papers, and I was out. They also made me delete everything talking about the break up of the band and that is why I have been afraid for two years to post this.

A few months later the rhythm guitarist also left the band. Him and I are the only ones that still remain close. We hang out all the time. He left because he knew the band wasn’t going to take him anywhere and he couldn’t live broke and on the road anymore. He still wasn’t even “officially” in the band. I have never talked to the singer ever again, and the bassist (the one that lived with me) and I talked once, got into an argument, and never talked again, and I talked to my old best friend, the lead guitarist, once or twice since then but that was about a year ago. I did leave my drum case in the lead guitarist’s garage and right before a tour I was filling in on, they basically accused me of stealing a $250 check that went missing over a year before it was even brought to my attention. It was given to me and then went missing and I guess I cashed it but I would NEVER steal money and I honestly to this day have no idea what happened to that money. I still don’t even know what check they were talking about. I felt like it was so petty but they wouldn’t let me have my drum case back until I paid them. I didn’t have the extra cash and I was just about to go on tour so I had to go out with home made cases when I had a 1000 dollar drum boat sitting in his garage that I paid for with my own cash. That was the last I heard from anyone and that was about 6 months ago and it was probably 6 months before then that anyone tried to talk to me.

I’m not trying to bad mouth anyone. I just feel like I needed to get this all off my chest. People still ask me every single day what happened. I have always basically just told them “it didn’t work out” because I was scared I would get sued or something. I need to tell the truth and the recent onslaught of band break ups and member changes has really fueled me to release this.

I will admit I was much less mature back then. This situation made me grow up really fast. No one even contacted me to say they felt something was wrong with me. It was just that one day I got a call and I was out. No warning at all. I wasn’t perfect, I mean hell, I got wasted in Manchester off of free Jack Daniels on a huge tour and got so drunk that I got kicked out of the venue and fell out of our sprinter van on my face. But I cried all night about how sorry I was and how it would never happen again and it never did. No one is perfect. I was always overly responsible and professional. I also got in trouble once for talking crap on an absolute punk post about a select few garbage electronic groups that were going to be on warped tour with us. Remember those 2 big songwriter from NYC I talked about? I found out that one of the bands I talked about was going in the NEXT DAY with them. They were pissed lol.

All in all I’m so glad that all of that is in my past. I have continued to play music and still have a lot of fans that have stuck with me through every thing I’ve ever been involved with. I am also very grateful for everything this band has done for me because I did not leave empty handed. After this experience I have always said that I would never permanently join another band unless it was the perfect band, so I have been filling in a lot, but I am about to release my own project in a few weeks. It is called Play It Purple and it is a straight metal band that I have been working on for over a year.

I have thought a lot about this whole experience and one theory I came up with was this: We had a lot of label offers and the last offer we got was who we signed with. They saw that a lot of major labels were trying to get us and they offered us what seemed like an amazing deal. If another major got us, they would have probably used us as competition against another large scale female fronted rock band that we got compared to a lot. This label didn’t want that to happen so they swooped us up and kept us slightly under the radar so that we didn’t interfere with the progress that their already huge female fronted band was making. The people at our label were all really nice to us, and seemed supportive, but you never really know what is going on behind your back especially with the fact that since the split, they never spoke to me again (not even when the split happened). I have never talked to a person from this label again except once at a show I played in NYC with a band I was filling in for. I saw someone from the label there, talked briefly, gave them my number, and never heard from him again.

Thank you all for reading this
-Anthony Martone