An Emo Kid Since Before Being Emo Was Cool

Posted on: December 21, 2022
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Stefny! At the Disco says her life has always revolved around music, especially under the emo umbrella, spanning shoegaze to hardcore to indie pop. We spoke on December 19.

Michael A. Brown: How did you and KOOP find each other?

Stefny! At the Disco: I was at iHeart Radio in Austin in 2019 but left when I got a new full-time job. Then the Covid shutdown pretty much shut down that job, so I needed other things to do, including volunteer opportunities. I always have loved radio and found the volunteer page at the KOOP web site. I applied and now, almost four years later, I’m back on the radio with my own show.

MAB: Near the top of your Emo Diaries show page at the KOOP website, it says “A weekly trip through your middle school and high school Livejournal account.” What’s the story behind that cool line?

Stefny: When I was in middle school and high school, Internet blogs were really popular. At the time, most blogs weren’t on a specific topic … they were more like personal diaries. I wrote a Livejournal and a Xanga, and I recently revisited the archives. Some of my posts were embarrassing and cringeworthy … what you might expect from a 13-year-old writing in a diary. But there’s a feeling that goes along with being a teenager, and there’s also the music that produces the feeling of that time. My show is about the feelings those kind of songs elicit.

MAB: The show page also says, “There’s always a way through the tough times. No matter how much we’ve grown though, we can all agree that it was never just a phase.” Tell us about that please.

Stefny: When we’re kids, we’re sometimes told, “You’re just going through a phase … it’s not really who you are. You’ll grow out of it.” But for me and many other people, it wasn’t just a phase because at that age, we were coming into ourselves, discovering who we are and what we like, not what our parents like. We gravitate toward music and aesthetics that make us feel like our own individuals. And even though we are individuals, there’s a group aspect where we’re discovering the world as us. So the emo era wasn’t just a phase, it was who we became and who we are. I’m 34 years old and I’m still an emo kid at heart.

MAB: How does the more recent music on KOOP compare to your play lists on The Emo Diaries?

Stefny: A lot of what I play on the show stems from the mid-2000s. I also play earlier music that shaped what I listened to in that era, plus new stuff that came later … the whole history of what can be considered emo music. Some of the artists from the mid-2000s are still releasing new music. Paramore is coming out with a new album. My Chemical Romance came out with new music for their reunion tour. Blink-182 is still making music. I want to be faithful to bands like that who shaped the genre and influenced newer artists as well. Newer artists like Olivia Rodrigo, whose music is more pop rock than emo per se. I also play sad girl pop from Girl in Red and Soccer Mommy.

MAB: Beyond the music, how did cultural elements such as Myspace and The OC influence you and your listeners?

Stefny: MySpace was the first ubiquitous social network. It enabled people around the world to connect and communicate about mutual interests like movies and music. Bands like Panic! at the Disco and the Arctic Monkeys and singers like Adele were discovered on MySpace. A whole generation of kids created their on-line profiles and got into HTML via MySpace. The TV show The OC provided a cultural moment for emo and indie music discovery … it’s where Death Cab for Cutie got known. Plus, young music fans got to see on the show non-traditional characters who were like them.

MAB: In addition to KOOP, what other musical and community activities are you involved in?

Stefny: My full-time work is with a state agency. I also work for a non-profit record label here in town and am a talent buyer for a music group, booking bands and artists at area venues. And I write press releases for a Canadian music writer/publicist. So besides my full-time job, I insert myself into music because that’s what I’ve always wanted to do.

Check out The Emo Diaries with Stefny! At the Disco every Friday from 4:30-6pm.

Interview by Michael A. Brown