Written by Jubilee Vega
This week, we were lucky enough to speak with the frontman of Toronto four-piece Napoleon, Jonathan Elmaleh. The band has already made a name for themselves and gotten to perform alongside notable names like Single Mothers and Michale Graves of Misfits.
Formed in 2018, the group has continued to showcase their loud and thrilling tracks despite the COVID-19 pandemic, performing on live streams and even donating their profits to the Black Lives Matter Toronto organization. We had the pleasure of speaking to Elmaleh about Napoleon’s music, their motivations, and more!
When was the moment that you decided to form Napoleon?
There wasn’t really a specific moment that I can pinpoint. The band was originally
formed by myself and our former bassist Uri. We became friends in high school after attending an At The Drive-In show together, which is also where our band name comes from, they have a song called "Napoleon Solo."
I had been writing music for a while and wanted to start a band, and he was interested in starting one too so it just kinda worked out. By January 2018 we had formed our first full lineup and played our first show only a month later on February 25; from then on I knew I wanted to stick with it.
Do any musical influences inspire Napoleon's sound? If so, who?
Well, at the start I kind of envisioned the band as being a more punk/heavier version of Queens of the Stone Age, cause that was one of the bands that united us all. I also take a ton of inspiration from Canadian punk/post-hardcore bands like Billy Talent, Alexisonfire, PUP, The Dirty Nil, Silverstein, and so on.
I find it kind of tough to [describe] what we sound like, to be honest. We kind of just want to have our own sound without being too weird. (laughs)
How has the Canadian music scene treated Napoleon so far?
Canadians are awesome! Especially in Toronto where we're from, there's no shortage of really cool bands to play with, and people here are very receptive to new music.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been difficulty gaining exposure since it isn't safe to perform live shows right now. What has Napoleon done to combat during this time?
COVID-19 obviously affected us heavily; we had[a lot of] touring plans for both the spring and summer of 2020, but we found ways to adapt.
The first thing we did was [go] into the studio and re-record some of our favorite older songs that we felt the original recordings did not do justice, as well as a cover of "Little Sister" by Queens of the Stone Age.
We’ve also done multiple live-streamed concerts, and over the summer when COVID-19
cases were under 100 per day in Ontario, we even did a socially distant concert for a
small "sold-out" crowd. That felt huge because everyone was so far apart. (laughs)
Speaking of quarantine, what has Napoleon been doing with all of this free time?
We have just not stopped writing music. We were working on our first full length at the time that [the pandemic] started. Because of COVID-19 we’ve decided to shorten it to an EP and push the full length to a more normal time.
I can truly say that this EP is the greatest thing we have done as a band to date. We’ve just had so much time to truly perfect the songs and cannot wait for people to hear it.
What has motivated you to continue to push forward even in our current environment?
It’s really hard, to be completely honest with you. I’ve seen so many bands I really like
call it quits, which is a shame, but I’ve also seen so many bands evolve and find ways to
absolutely crush it during this time.
Our fellow Canadians Silverstein have released an album of updated versions of their older songs, have done live streams, a drive-in concert, weekly online hangouts, lots of that stuff. I know that when they come back after COVID-19, they will be stronger than ever.
The other thing is a lot of people seem to be forgetting that this is temporary, even though it is taking longer than we were all hoping. We will get back to normal at some point, and right now we’re just trying to set ourselves up for success when it does.
When fans listen to Napoleon's music, what do you hope they can take from it?
I just always hope that the songs resonate with someone in a way that brings them joy. At the end of the day, that’s what music is all about.
Where do you see Napoleon in the next five years?
I definitely hope that we are still kicking around! We have no intentions of slowing down anytime soon.
What plans does Napoleon have in store for 2021?
Well, we are going to be releasing a bunch of new music, probably some more livestream shows, and we are hoping that towards the end of the year we are gonna be able to play some normal shows at least in Canada!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Is there anything else you would like to
My pleasure, thanks for having me! I hope everyone is staying safe during these difficult times, and feel free to visit our website for any updates on what we’re doing.
Thank you again to Jonathan and the rest of Napoleon for doing this! You can support them by streaming their discography wherever you listen to music and checking out their merch store! Let us know who you want to see us interview next by tweeting us @lgndsoftmrw !