Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Jonathan Elmaleh Of Napoleon

Photo courtesy of Auteur Research.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

“You can’t change my mind, no matter who you think you are.”

More than just a song lyric, it’s practically a mindset for Canadian alternative quartet Napoleon, who dropped the “newsy” video for “Carve Another Scar” earlier last month, taken from their EP ‘Enemy Within,’ which features appearances from the likes of Corbin Giroux (Rarity) and Shane Told (Silverstein) throughout.

Composed of members Jonathan Elmaleh, Nick Mokrzewski, Michael Mihalić and Eitan Garazi, Napoleon’s sound relies on heaviness, melody, speed and anger, much akin to bands like Billy Talent, Alexisonfire and Beartooth and easily fit right in on a playlist with those same names.

The Music Bugle had the chance to to talk with Elmaleh about ‘Enemy Within’ and more.

Music Bugle – How was the band name decided?

Jonathan Elmaleh – Well, the band formed when I was in high school, when our former bassist and I became friends after finding out that we both liked the band At The Drive-In. We went to the Toronto stop on their reunion tour that year and they have a song called “Napoleon Solo,” so we got the name from there!

Music Bugle – What was your goal for your newest music?

Jonathan Elmaleh – On the ‘Enemy Within’ EP, I really wanted to take my songwriting to the next level. Over the last couple years since we’ve been a band, I’ve learned where my strengths and weaknesses are as a songwriter. One strength that I personally find I have is my ability to write catchy hooks, which I really wanted to emphasize on all five songs. The way I wrote the songs for ‘Enemy Within’ – and have been continuing to write music – is that the song is essentially a build up to the chorus, which happens multiple times and then I always try to make the last chorus a little bit different, whether it repeats, has new melodies, just goes a little harder, etc.. It just needs to take it to the next level and that is sort of like the climax of the song.

Music Bugle – You’ve previously mentioned that “Can’t Forget” was stylistically inspired by Billy Talent. We hear hints of “Devil In A Midnight Mass,” but we will leave it up to you. Was there a specific song of theirs that sparked this idea for that song?

Jonathan Elmaleh – Actually, yes! That first riff you hear on the song is very similar to the main riff of their song called “River Below.” I really liked the riff, but thought it was a little too close to their song, so when writing the rest of the song, I made sure to make it as far away as possible from that track.

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Jonathan Elmaleh – We’re still a young band and at this point, the best way for us to reach new fans is playing live, which obviously had been put on pause. With that said, we definitely spent a lot of time in the studio. We also did a few live-streamed concerts to try and connect with current fans. We were also fortunate enough to get to work with Shane from Silverstein, as well as Corbin from Rarity, who were both absolute pleasures to work with and we are extremely grateful to have had the opportunity.

Music Bugle – What makes you the most proud about where you come from?

Jonathan Elmaleh – Toronto – and Ontario in general – has one of the best music scenes in the world. A very large chunk of the bands I look up to come from around here! Bands like Billy Talent, Alexisonfire, Silverstein, PUP, The Dirty Nil, Sum 41, The Flatliners, Counterparts, Chastity, Attack in Black, Single Mothers, our manager Scott’s band Cancer Bats, Bearings, Death From Above and honestly, the list goes on forever!

Music Bugle – What’s something that people might be surprised to know about the band?

Jonathan Elmaleh – That’s a tough one. We don’t really keep secrets! (Laughs) I guess people seem to be surprised when they find out how old we are. Nick and Eitan are both 21 and I’m only 20. People tend to think we’re in our mid-to late-twenties, which is actually true for Michael, who is a little bit older than the rest of us!

Music Bugle – What do you hope for by the end of 2021?

Jonathan Elmaleh – I definitely hope that we are able to play some normal shows and things are looking good! We don’t have too much planned other than a few Canadian shows in November and December, but we’re very excited to get back to it!

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break?

Jonathan Elmaleh – Honestly, I really like to listen to music. When I just want to relax, I listen to some of my favorite records!

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

Jonathan Elmaleh – I don’t remember what the exact quote was, but one of my biggest inspirations as a musician is Caleb Shomo from the band Beartooth and he once said something along the lines of that the best music is honest music and that all people want is honesty. I always try to keep that in mind when writing music. I try to always write songs that I think are genuinely sick, not something that I think may get placed on some Spotify playlist, or something another band’s fans will enjoy.

Music Bugle – What has been your proudest accomplishment?

Jonathan Elmaleh – Personally, I think getting to work with some of the artists that we have has been absolutely incredible. In addition to both Shane and Corbin who I mentioned earlier, Luke Bentham from The Dirty Nil sang on one of our songs called “Amends” and that was the first time we had a vocal feature. I’m really proud of those because not only do I think they are great songs and the vocal features take them to the next level, but I also think it says a lot that these artists who have well-established careers were willing to put their names on our songs. If they were crappy songs, they would not do that…

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