One year ago, beach bum brothers Wesley Stromberg, Keaton Sromberg and lifelong friend Drew Chadwick found themselves waiting in an impossibly long line at the San Francisco auditions for The X Factor’s second season.
Today, a lot has changed. The trio has announced a July 30 release date for their debut studio album, Nothing to Lose.
After wowing judges Simon Cowell, Demi Lovato, Britney Spears and L.A. Reid with an original composition during auditions for the series, the Huntington Beach-based group stamped their golden ticket to the show’s Hollywood Hills mansion and charmed their way to the semi-finals, where a surprising elimination found them finishing in fourth place.
“X Factor was a struggle at many times, but that struggle helped you enhance and expand your comfort zone,” says Chadwick, relaxed in his signature tank and with fresh ink on his arms. “If you’re ready for it and you’re prepared for the industry, X Factor is the way to go… it’s like the industry on steroids.”
Cowell, who mentored the group throughout the series, made no secret of his intent to sign them to his Syco Music -- no matter where they finished in the competition. “I’m not going to let anyone else get them,” he told reporters on the red carpet late last year.
And the saucy Brit made good on his promise, setting the boys up with a Syco Music/Columbia Records deal and tasking hit-maker and X Factor vocal coach Savan Kotecha, the driving force behind One Direction’s global success, with executive producing Emblem3’s debut album on his new Mr. Kanani imprint. Other collaborators on the album include Jack Antonoff of fun., Benji and Joel Madden of Good Charlotte and Max Martin (Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Kelly Clarkson).
“One of the fun things about working with X Factor contestants is that you feel like you’re 17 again,” Kotecha told THR in an interview earlier this year. And while admitting that the greenhorns required a bit of guidance in the studio initially, Kotecha -- who has penned such hits as 1D’s “What Makes You Beautiful,” Spears’ “If U Seek Amy” and Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” -- said that the boys ultimately found balance between their beachy, carefree roots and radio-friendly pop beats.
“They’re smart kids and they know that as amazing as Sublime is, they didn’t have monster, world-wide smashes,” said Kotecha. “For them, it’s about hits, but they have to have hits in their own way and their own space.”
Emblem3 often cited Sublime among their favorite bands while competing on The X Factor, and made no secret of their disdain for being pushed into a boy band-like corner on the show. Among their memorable performances on the series: The Monkees’ “I’m a Believer,” The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” a mashup of The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Katy Perry’s “California Gurls.” And while they never got their wish of performing with their own instruments on the X Factor stage, their personalities shone through while covering Matisyahu’s “One Day,” Peter Frampton’s “Baby, I Love Your Way” and OneRepublic’s “Secrets.”
With their first single, “Chloe (You’re the One I Want),” Emblem3 can currently find themselves on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart at No. 11.
Though Emblem3 has yet to break through on Billboard’s coveted Hot 100, social media and digital promotion is undoubtedly where their strength lies. The group’s Vevo channel boasts more than 100,000 subscribers, their official Twitter account has more than 600,000 followers, and their Instagram account has racked up more than 250,000 followers. In the current digital landscape where immediacy and backstage access are of the utmost importance, Emblem3 has embraced their followers’ enthusiasm by maintaining a strong presence online. While touring the country earlier this year, Emblem3 was constantly involved in social media and frequently found themselves the subject of worldwide trending topics through follow sprees, Q&As, contests and by spreading messages of hope and love through their #TeamInspire initiative, which encourages followers to share inspiring messages with one another. In addition to the group’s main account, each of the three members are active on their own personal accounts, as well.
Later this month, Emblem3 will hit the road yet again, this time opening for Selena Gomez. The Stars Dance tour kicks off Aug. 14 in Vancouver, but first the boys will hit The View on Monday, July 29, to perform "Chloe." They'll also present at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards on Sunday, Aug. 11, while vying for a surfboard of their own for Choice Music Breakout Group. They'll face off against Icona Pop, Imagine Dragons, The Lumineers and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for the honor.
“I envision touring being like this crazy, Motley Crue party the whole time,” muses Chadwick, 20, when asked about their latest cross country trek. “In reality, it’s like that sometimes, only instead of girls walking around in leather lingerie outfits, you’ve got Renel, our security guard, eating a bag of chips.”
But they’re still “stoked” to be touring with the former Disney darling. “I can’t wait,” says Keaton Stromberg, the youngest of the bunch, who celebrated his 17th birthday on July 16.
For Wesley Stromberg, 19, the tour will undoubtedly mark the “high point” of their young careers. While performing mostly covers and a few originals on their mini-tours this year, the Gomez tour will allow them the opportunity to promote more of their new tracks.
“The whole year has been a blessing,” says Chadwick. “It would just make us shallow to complain about anything. We give our gratitude, too. Today, I smelled a rose for like 30 seconds.” Interjects Keaton Stromberg: “He does that a lot.”
Jasmine, apparently, is his favorite.
Nothing to Lose will be released in deluxe and standard editions and is currently available for pre-order. The deluxe version will feature four bonus tracks including two live songs ("Jaiden" and "Reason"), which were recorded during the band's winter tour earlier this year.
"Live each day like it's your last and you've got Nothing to Lose," says Keaton Stromberg in a press release.
See THR's recent interview with Emblem3 below.
Email: Sophie.Schillaci@THR.com; Twitter: @SophieSchillaci