By Chase Kamp
In only about six months, a niche Facebook group called Non-Denominational Emo has raised hundreds of dollars for charitable organizations and connected emo music fans across the globe. Its founder, 23-year-old west Chandler resident Craig Lindholm, simply wanted to create an open platform to discuss a subgenre of rock music with a tenuous definition. Hundreds of musicians, poets and designers from the NDE group sent music and artwork after Lindholm posted a modest request for contributions to a charity benefit compilation. “I was blown away by the talent level,” Lindholm said, who received everything from hopeful bedroom recordings to glossy tracks from established emo bands like Aviator and The Hotelier. Thus far, the six-volume compilation posted on the group’s Bandcamp.com page only months ago has raised about $500 to benefit the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Yet the spark that ignited this effort was something of an accident. Lindholm became a father last summer and began browsing Facebook to find groups for new dads. He discovered a group called Twinkle Daddies, made for fans of the emo subgenre involving “twinkle”-style electric guitar playing, which had nothing at all to do with parenting. “I didn’t know emo was a thing,” Lindholm admits. “Out of curiosity I started listening to the bands.” A longtime fan of pop punk, he said he found solace in the emotionally unrestrained style of emo. “I’ve always had a sadness about the way of the world,” he said, “and music has kept me going.” He joined several other emo fan groups but disliked the trash talk, acrimonious one-upsmanship and, most discouraging of all, the narrow parameters enforced for “authentic” emo music. While it is widely accepted that the genre name originated with aggressive yet lyrically vulnerable “emotional hardcore” punk bands from the 1990s like Braid and Mineral, the tag has been applied quite liberally after being adopted into common rock discourse. A metalcore band with a wistful lead singer could be emo, as could an acoustic folkie who uses a certain high-pitched inflection or romantically fraught lyrics. Lindholm founded Non-Denominational Emo to embrace this big tent. If an artist says the music they make is emo, Lindholm sees no reason to browbeat them over it. “They’re doing it because they love it,” he said. The sonic diversity of NDE is evident even just among the Arizona bands on the compilations. Tempe’s Sundressed contributed a song featuring uplifting chord progressions and to-the-heavens gang vocals, while Phoenix’s Papertowns delivered a morose track with desolate guitar leads and downtrodden screams. The group has amassed nearly 1,300 members since its launch last September and Lindholm has big plans. In addition to more charity compilations and a crowd-sourced cookbook, he is currently partnering with the MSM Music Festival in Indiana to showcase NDE bands, and he hopes to solidify the group as a non-profit organization once he completes his accounting degree. But for now, bands are forming, setting up tours, securing studio time and building fan bases, all under the NDE umbrella. “There’s a mutual understanding that if you meet someone in the group, they’re going to be a very chill person to work with,” Lindholm said. Emo hair-splitting is also at a minimum. An NDE member recently posted a song by legendarily fraught and heartbroken British pop band The Smiths. “Can we agree they were the first emo band?” the poster had asked, before immediately backpedaling. “Actually, that is going to be a really annoying conversation,” they recanted.