EMLEE JOHANSSON (THE GEMS): “We’re Trying Our Best To Bring Rock Back Into Mainstream Radio Again”

The gems band photo

Up and coming Swedish Hard Rock band The Gems are set to release their debut album Phoenix January 26th. The band’s drummer Emlee Johansson took the time to talk with Metal Express Radio about their debut album, the formation of the band, the members previous work in Thundermother, and more. Check out the chat below!

Metal Express Radio: Your band, The Gems are set to release a new album entitled Phoenix on January 26th, what can you tell fans about the upcoming release?

Johansson: Yes, we are so excited about finally releasing this album. We are very proud of it and all the hard work we’ve put into it. Phoenix will take you on a journey through our emotional rollercoaster, 2023, and we are pretty sure a lot of people can relate to it. Even though it has a lot of anger and sorrow, the overall message is to never give up or stop believing in yourself when you’re going through tough times. The songs are in the style of 70s & 80s Classic Rock but with a modern sound – we absolutely love it and we hope that you will too!

MER: How was it writing and recording as a band for the first time? 

Johansson: It’s been amazing. For the first time we have been able to write songs and work in a safe and respectful environment and we had so much fun doing it. We all have different strengths and we need all of them to create the perfect team work in any aspect. We have written all the songs more or less together, and we all got to put our musical touch to every song on our instruments. It feels like we can finally fully be the musicians we are and feel proud of it. We spent 2 weeks in the studio recording everything and we had a really tight schedule, and it was nice to finally work with people that take their instrument seriously and come prepared for the studio. Both Guernica and Mona are just such professionals, delivering their magic to this album and I am very happy to have a band together with them.

MER: How did the formation of the band come about?

Johansson: We were all members of a band called Thundermother before, and we were a democracy, managing the band together. All of a sudden our colleague decided to start to make decisions on her own and fire Guernica from the band, and there was nothing that we could do about it. That was an overstepping that we couldn’t accept so we left the band. Me, Mona and Guernica had never planned to quit playing music so we quickly decided to form a new band and continue to play together. We were doing most of the work in our previous band so we basically continued where we took off – but with a new band name.

MER: Do you feel fans of your previous band Thundermother will also enjoy The Gems?

Johansson: Yes! We know a lot of them do, and a group of fans has now formed our fanclub – Diamonds. We are so happy and grateful for their continued support! We also know that some of the fans like both bands, and some of them might not even know that Thundermother has a new lineup and that we have a new band, but I think they eventually will find out. If they enjoyed Thundermother I am pretty confident that they will enjoy The Gems – we were 75% of the band, haha.

MER: How would you explain the similarities and differences between The Gems and Thundermother?

Johansson: I would say that the biggest difference right now is sound. Thundermother’s new singer has a completely different voice than Guernica, so they have a more heavy metal type of sound now and with Guernica we have more blues type of sound. Thundermother is very influenced by AC/DC and that is something that we decided to remove from The Gems’s music. I think we are two completely different bands now. Similarities would of course be the sound on the three latest albums from Thundermother – which we were a part of. Other than that I think that we will develop into two different bands eventually.

MER: What do you see as plans for you and the band after the album release?

Johansson: When our album is out we can finally get back on the road! This spring we will do some Scandinavian shows and festivals in the summer, and then a European tour in the fall. Stay tuned for dates and venues.

MER: Who do you hope to tour with and why?

Johansson: I would love it if we could open up for Iron Maiden, that would really be a big dream come true. We did a tour with Scorpions in our previous band, and I really enjoyed playing arenas. Would love to do that again sooner than later. I would also love to tour with Rival Sons, they are one of my favorite bands and I think our music styles would be a good fit.

MER: What were some of your favorite releases of 2023?

Johansson: Darkfighter by Rival sons. Great album by a great band.

MER: How would you describe the music scene in Sweden?

Johannson: It’s very special and difficult. Rock is not very mainstream at the moment so it’s tough to reach out with our music. Sometimes it feels like you have to be in Eurovision to be played on the radio, that’s mostly what people listen to. But there is a rock audience and it’s very strong. We’re trying our best to bring rock back into mainstream radio again.

MER: What are your hopes for the band’s future?

Johansson: We’ve accomplished so much in less than a year together, and I am very proud of that. The sky’s the limit! Right now I really hope that Phoenix will be a big success so we can continue growing and take over the world, haha. We can’t wait to show our music to the world and to play all these songs live!


  • Matt Zaniboni

    Matthew is an interviewer here at Metal Express Radio. He started his passion for music journalism back in his college radio days serving as the Heavy Metal Director at WKKL out of Hyannis Massachusetts. During Matt’s tenure in radio, he has had time working for commercial stations in Boston Massachusetts such as WAAF, WZLX AND 98.5 The Sports Hub before landing with Metal Express Radio. Anytime you want to talk heavy Metal, hockey, Guiness, and dad life, Matt is your guy m/

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