By Amaris Pollinger
East coast progressive rock band, The Uneasy, has a logo that might look familiar to some. It’s a clash of three swords stabbed into a heart and sporting an eye. The Three of Swords is a tarot card whose symbology resonated with The Uneasy’s singer/songwriter/ founding member, Emily Jean. Like all tarot cards, The Three of Swords has a double meaning. Right side up, it represents heartache, loneliness, depression, separation, confusion, ill-health, trauma, and alienation. Reversed, the card is representative of compromise, forgiveness, overcoming grief and sorrow, and reconciliation. The card inspired Emily Jean to press on through the pain and discomfort she experienced while overcoming addiction.
The Uneasy delivered itself to her on a figurative platter of words—streams of them. Jean had vanished for a long time to cope with her addiction and emerged out the other side with a flood of musical prose pouring out of her. After drafting five or six songs in one day, Jean realized that there was more going on than emotional purging.
“I reached out to some musicians I had played with in the past and attempted to assemble a band,” Jean says of the project’s early days. “This turned out to be fairly difficult since I had already burned most of my bridges and had strained relationships with people I used to work with.” [sic].
Eventually Emily Jean enlisted the help of Zac Silva (guitars/production), AJ Dumm (drums), and Kevin Grewen (bass) to record the songs she had penned—one week before 2020’s infamous lockdown. This brought much of The Uneasy’s progress to a halt, but Jean continued to write and finished the framework for Time to Kill, The Uneasy’s upcoming album.
“Because of the selective nature of socialization and gathering during this time [lockdown], we became very close,” Jean says. The nature of social distancing allowed the band to bond through the music. As lockdown receded, they went full speed ahead into the recording studio. In March of 2022, The Uneasy released their first single, “SLAVE.” Shortly after its release Silva and Dumm went their separate ways and were replaced with Johnny V (lead guitar), Travis Smith (rhythm guitar), and Max Yassky (drums) who are now permanent members of the band.
Upon hearing “SLAVE,” the track can be misinterpreted as sexual—but that’s not the case. In fact, there’s nothing sexual about it. Rather the song is about being completely overpowered by addiction. “It’s about losing all control over your life and allowing a substance to control your every move,” Jean says. “SLAVE” is about how powerless addiction can make you feel, and how quickly it can consume your entire life. The Uneasy is complete with Emily Jean’s intense vocals, reminiscent of the likes of PJ Harvey and the Nymphs singer, Inger Lorre.
For Emily Jean, The Uneasy’s most memorable show recently took place at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park, New Jersey. After their set, a woman ran up to Jean, talking breathlessly about how she had always wanted to sing but was too afraid to do it before an audience. When Jean encouraged her that, yes, she absolutely could do it, the woman smiled, beaming, and hugged her.
“The thought that maybe, just maybe, you had a lasting, positive effect on someone else’s life; no matter how small, [and] simply by doing what you love, is the most amazing part for me,” comments the singer on creating music and performing live. “Music is all about connection.”
That same connection is rooted deep in Emily Jean’s ancestry. Jean’s inspiration sprouts from her ancestors, who were also performers. Jean’s grandmothers were dancers, singers, and actresses and both of her parents are musicians. “I was immersed in it [performing] from a young age. Art, in all forms, is my safe space.”
The Uneasy. Photo by Christian Boho, courtesy of Emily Jean.
The Uneasy’s sound is powerful, moving, and emotionally provocative. Their overall message is one of personal growth and determination. “Our album, Time to Kill, is about the absolute darkest time in my life,” Jean confesses. “I feel the music matches that emotional heaviness.”
With The Uneasy, Emily Jean wanted to talk about all the things that she’d never heard spoken about regarding addiction. She was insistent on forging songs that she wished someone had sung to her when she was at her lowest; when she was confused, alone, and trying to navigate a very stigmatized ordeal.
When people listen to The Uneasy, she wants them to feel seen for their experiences with addiction and to know that their emotions are validated. In her eyes, if The Uneasy can help just one person or their loved ones approach addiction from an empathetic perspective, Jean feels that the band has done its job.
The Uneasy is aptly named, and just as carefully chosen by Emily Jean as the band’s logo. Knowing early on that the subject matter would be anything but roses, Jean made it clear just how uncomfortable it would be. At the same time, she was confident that she needed to face her painful past, and speaking (and singing) about those trying times was key to her spiritual growth.
“If I never went through what I went through…I don’t believe this project would exist. We are here and doing this for a purpose…I’m sure of it.” After all, the only way out of anything is to go through it. “That’s how we end up on the other side. Stronger, wiser, and more empathetic.”
For Fans of : Nymphs, PJ Harvey, L7
*Cover photo by Christian Boho, courtesy of Emily Jean.