Several Questions With Survival Guide’s Emily Whitehurst

by Ayo Khensu-Ra | 

And now somewhat of a departure for Forum and Boeotia. We have had live music at Forum events in the past but of course music isn’t our main focus. Still, music is a vital part of the arts and thus we present an interview with local musician Emily Whitehurst. Whitehurst was the lead singer of punk act Tsunami Bomb for many years. More recently she has been the lead vocalist of the band The Action Design and even more recently, she and Action Design guitarist Jaycen Mckissick started the two-piece known as Survival Guide. I interviewed her via email.

Ayo Khensu-Ra: I’m intrigued by the band bio on It says in part that you started Survival Guide “with a plan to have no real plan” how does that tie into the whole ethos of the band?

Emily Whitehurst: Our “plan to have no real plan” refers to the music style. We feel like, in past bands and musical projects, we’ve had to stay within the confines of the genre. In Survival Guide, we want to be able to write music that we like, whether our songs have opposing musical styles or not.

AK: How different has it been being a two-piece compared to your previous projects, has that changed the process of writing songs?

EW: It’s extremely different! In other projects, we both tended to be less involved  in writing the bodies of songs. I usually would write vocals last, and Jaycen would sprinkle fancy guitars over whatever was already written. In this project, we are both involved from beginning to end, which makes each song so much more meaningful to both of us.

AK: Your songs are very dense sonically, is that something you and Jaycen consciously set out to do? How big a part does recording play in writing songs?

EW: We definitely do not set out to make sonically dense songs. We follow that ethos you asked about in the first question! However, for some songs, we do like to make them as full as they can be for a 2-piece band. Recording and writing are practically one and the same for us. We record everything as we go along, and for us it’s a great way to be able to listen back on what we’re doing to decide whether we like it or not.

AK: How easy or difficult has it been to translate songs to the stage?

EW: It’s been pretty easy, actually! When we’re writing, we keep the live show in the back of our minds. We don’t want to add too many layers of instruments that we won’t be able to play all at once live.

AK: You’ve already put out a 7 inch and have another coming out soon, why have you chosen that route as opposed to an EP or a full-length?

EW: Firstly, we both love vinyl! We’re so glad to already have 2 vinyl releases in the works — for us, the vinyl/download combo is ideal. We teamed up with Side With Us Records, and we had a few songs ready for Hot Lather Machine, so we decided to put songs out into the world as soon as we could instead of keeping them for a larger collection. We loved the way the first 7″ worked out, so we decided to do it again for Wildcat. Currently, we’re hoping to get enough material together for a full-length next… but we do love releasing new songs… so we’ll see!

AK: The download for Hot Lather Machine included a bonus track, and a digital booklet which included a couple of recipes. I thought that was a nice touch, how did that idea come about?

EW: We thought it would be nice to include lots of extra bonus stuff with the vinyl. We know not everyone uses a turntable, so we figured if we were going to force people to buy a medium they don’t use, we should at least compensate them for it in some way. You only get the bonus materials (song included) if you order a vinyl, so that makes the purchase extra special. The idea for the recipes in particular came about because our favorite thing besides music is food and cooking/baking! We decided to share recipes and thought some people might enjoy trying them out.

AK: Forum is a literary magazine so what do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors, poets?

EW: I love reading different types of fiction — I usually try and switch it up between classic and contemporary. My favorite books are Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” series, and I also love Kurt Vonnegut, Amy Tan, Mark Twain, Isabel Allende… any authors who write about adventure, foreign lands, and impossible situations. (I’m generally not into murder mysteries, war stories, or “chick-lit” type books, but I like pretty much everything else!)

AK: What is it in particular about His Dark Materials that draws you to that series?

EW: I love how the subject matter is so grandiose. People tend to categorize it as a Young Adult series, and it IS entertaining, but I love the way Pullman writes about such taboo subjects — science vs. religion, physical existence of the soul, what happens after death — all through the eyes and journey of a young girl. To me, he’s very brave. I think it will always be my favorite.

AK: How do you write lyrics? As there any particular method you use? Do you write with an eye to verses and choruses or is that something you work out later?

EW: My method starts with free writing. I take a feeling and write as much about it as I can in one giant paragraph. Then I go back through it and pick out what sounds either the most poetic or the most important to my theme. From there, I start building verses and choruses.

AK: When it comes to writing lyrics, do you think you are influenced particularly by other songwriters? Are you influenced by other types of writing?

EW: Usually, each song is influenced (at least a little) by whatever I’m listening to at the time. I can’t say I have a particular lyricist that I always look to for guidance. My writing style isn’t usually influenced by other types of writing, but sometimes my content is! I’ve written a few songs that draw imagery or subject matter from books I’m reading.

AK: Do you do any other kind of creative writing?

EW: No, not at the moment, but my husband and I are going to attempt to write a short screenplay soon. Wish me luck!

AK: Good luck! can you tell us anything about it?

EW: It’s a post-apocalyptic monologue. Pretty depressing!

AK: Anything else you’d like to share?

EW: If anyone is interested in following us online, just search “srvvlgd”.  We figured there are a lot of different survival guides in the world, but so far there’s only one srvvlgd.  And please come see us at a show!  Thank you!

One thought on “Several Questions With Survival Guide’s Emily Whitehurst

  1. You know, I could have sworn I’ve visited this blog before on but upon checking at some of the material I realized it’s new to me.
    Still, I’m going to bookmark this blog and begin following it frequently.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s