Emma Simons-Araya, singer and guitarist with The Potential Lunatics. Photo by Sander Roscoe Wolff.
The National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) hosts the largest convention to be held at the Anaheim Convention Center. Companies and individuals from all over the world converge to share new products, new technologies, and to connect with retailers and music professionals. Long Beach has always been well-represented at the NAMM Show. The first installment featured a video interview with Steve McNeil, owner and founder of Mambo Sound and Recording.
For the second installment in the series, I spoke with Emma Simons-Araya. Simons-Araya is the singer and guitarist for The Potential Lunatics, a band she started with her brother Isaac when she was 12. She was also invited to present a TEDxYouth talk, which has more than 14,000 views. More recently, she’s been studying acting and musical theater, and was involved in creating original music for a production of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. She’s also endorsed by Daisy Rock Guitars, and will be at their NAMM booth during the convention.
Simons-Araya grew up in a very musical family. Her mom’s parents and siblings were jazz musicians, and her dad’s brother, Tom, is the bassist and singer for the thrash metal band, Slayer. Surrounded by musicians, playing and writing felt natural for her.
“I’ve been songwriting since I can remember talking so, when I was eight, I decided to learn an instrument and try to be a performer,” Simons-Araya said. “I learned bass when I was eight, and wrote personal songs, songs that I kept to myself and recorded for myself. I was pretty shy when I was eight.”
She loves revisiting the work she created as a child because it helps her to see how her perspective has changed.
“I love having really solid work that represents who I was at that time,” said Simons-Araya. “It helps me understand myself now. What’s strange about it is just how absurd it seems, the older I get, that an eight-year-old would be writing songs that were so reflective.”
Simons-Araya thinks that most children are capable of deep self-reflection.
“All my songs came from deep feelings I had. I think everyone has those deep feelings in them as kids,” she said. “It is just a matter of being taught techniques of identifying them with words. My mom studied child development, and was a teacher. She home-schooled Isaac and I, and did a lot of intentional things to help us identify our feelings.”
Simons-Araya credits home schooling, in part, for her success as an adult, and as a performer.
“I had the chance to make friends of all ages and backgrounds, and to communicate and find joy from everyone I met,” she said. “I got to travel, make art, learn about art, and learn about myself. Also, I learned piano, violin, bass, music theory, and voice formally. My dad taught me guitar.”
The Potential Lunatics were on a hiatus last year while Simons-Araya worked full time at Knotts Berry Farm as a stitcher and dresser. She and Isaac are both studying theater in college, but they’re planning to return to performing as a band.
“We’re planning on recording a new EP and doing a small tour, along with a lot of local shows,” Simons-Araya said. “We’re just having a lot of fun right now, and spending a little more time acting. We actually wrote a new song a few days ago. It’s very different from our other stuff. We’re getting more into the indie-alternative style and further from punk, but we’re still screamy, though.”
Acting and performing music are a perfect fit for her, Simons-Araya said.
“I am acting when I perform, and I’m pretty interested in performing musical theatre,” she said. “That’s funny because my mom hates musical theatre. She’s always loved our punk music but hates musicals, so it’s sort of a late way of rebelling against her, I suppose. It takes your whole body to perform musicals, and that’s what appeals to me. I like musicals because they’re the only type of theatre that still gets mainstream recognition nowadays.”
Simons-Araya’s relationship with Daisy Rock Guitars began when she was 14, and won one of their instruments in a raffle. The relationship allows her to get, “free or discounted guitars from them, and be put on their website” as long as she works with them, plays their guitars, and promotes them at events. “They also help to get us industry shows and auditions,” she said.
The relationship has led to her attending the NAMM Show, where she said she hangs out at the Daisy Rock booth, “checking out amps, probably going to some meet and greets, and going to some private parties. Also dressing pretty ridiculous.”
“NAMM is fun because I can go in my biggest fake fur coat and be completely normal looking,” said Simons-Araya.
To learn more about The Potential Lunatics, visit ThePotentialLunatics.com.