The Gems band

Interview – Guernica Mancini of The Gems

The Gems band photo

Sometimes when we feel defeated, the easy way out is to surrender and give up. An initial, natural reaction, what we really need to do is pick ourselves up, battle through the pain, and move forward. The more difficult path to take, this is exactly what Guernica Mancini did after being let go from Thundermother in 2023. A hard pill to swallow after years of dedication and hard work, joining her were Drummer Emlee Johansson and Guitarist/Bassist Mona Lindgren, who soon formed something entirely new that they call The Gems. 

The Gems are a fresh Hard Rock band that, while featuring three former members of Thundermother, sound strikingly different in many regards. Harnessing their emotions into the music, they joined together to co-write their 2024 debut album Phoenix… turning a negative into something positive. An album full of energy as well as hope, the trio have taken their past experiences, learned from them, and created something all their own. Inspired and in a very good place personally and artistically, Guernica Mancini recently sat down to talk about the aftermath of Thundermother, the work put into The Gems, plus much more. 

Cryptic Rock – You have had a very interesting career in music to this point. Many know you from your work in Thundermother, but now you have your new band, The Gems. Obviously, there have been ups and downs along this journey, but how would you describe everything to this point?

Guernica Mancini – That’s a good question. I guess it has been a very intense ride. I’m very proud of everything that I’ve accomplished and all the things that I’ve got to do. Mostly, it’s been really interesting and good. I’m excited to continue experiencing things.

Cryptic Rock – And you had a good deal of success with Thundermother through the years; releasing albums, touring, etc. Then your tenure with Thundermother abruptly ended in 2023. However, you have rebounded quite well with The Gems. Without rehashing negative feelings, was it challenging for you with everything that transpired at the end of Thundermother?

Guernica Mancini – It was really challenging. The first six months were incredibly tough. I did have Mona and Emily with me though. Our friendship and us supporting each other meant the world to me. We wouldn’t be able to have created what we did in such a short amount of time if we didn’t have each other’s backs. While we were writing songs, we would have dips of crashing and crying; and all that comes with going through that grief of losing something you worked really hard at. It was really tough. At the same time, now that it’s been a year, I feel I’m in a really good place. I’m in a sense grateful that I did get fired; because it released me from something that was literally killing me from the inside. I would have never been able to release myself, so to say.

I’m happy that I’m free from that now so I could actually have an opportunity to start something healthy, loving, and happy. All the dreams that I’ve had… now I’m actually looking forward to them. Before, I just thought, “Oh, this is the price you have to pay to get to do things.” I don’t believe that anymore. I’m just very happy that I’m out of it.

Cryptic Rock – Right. Sometimes when we are experiencing something in the moment, and it feels like the end of the world, but it really is not… it is the start of something new. That is what The Gems’ Phoenix is really all about. It is a therapeutic release.

Guernica Mancini – That is exactly how it is. I’m one of those people that always, that even when I’m in my darkest place, in my mind, already start thinking of an exit plan, or thinking of the next steps to get out of that hole. It’s no fun being there; even though you do need to cry out and allow yourself to have those feelings.

None of us wanted to stay there. The only way we knew how it got out of there was to try and work towards changing our situation to something better by creating and using the pain for good. I think that was always in our mind – that we don’t want it to be completely weighed down by just all the negatives, but also allowing ourselves to be heartbroken and all that. Then also look towards the future and be positive.

I think it’s an important message; because I believe a little bit in mindfulness, self-fulfilling prophecies, and things like that. If I’m just going to continue writing negative stuff – and it’s all just anger and negativity – I don’t believe that it’s going to turn out great for any of us. It’s an important message to be hopeful. It’s okay to be angry though. We all need to be angry, sad, and all that stuff. However, I think being hopeful and at least trying to get yourself out of the funk is important.

Cryptic Rock – Right. It is okay to be angry, like you said, but use that anger to create something positive. The Gems transformed all of this into a really strong Rock album with Phoenix. So, what was the writing and recording process like for the album?

Guernica Mancini – We started straight away; because instead of dealing with the initial anxiety and everything that came with it, we kind of threw ourselves into writing material. Even before we had shared with the world that we were no longer part of Thundermother, we had already booked a writing session with what would become our producer, Johan Randén. We wrote, “Send Me To The Wolves” and “Phoenix.”

It was a great way for us to deal with the pain… just writing and actually using it to our advantage by creating something new. We did that and we just used all the spring months and beginning of summer to write like crazy. Then we also used some of the songs; for example “Running,” I had written already for my solo project. I had to put that on ice though, because I love being in a band. I wanted to have a band again. So, that song I brought to the girls, and they really liked the song. Then we made it so it would be a Gems song. Emlee put her stamp on it, and Mona did the same thing. It’s quite different from the demo that I showed them. We also did that with “Undiscovered Paths”; which was one of those songs that Mona had written around 10 years ago. She said – “What do you guys think about this?” Then I rewrote the lyrics.

Emlee had written “Like A Phoenix” for Thundermother. Our former colleague did not like anything that has to do with Phoenixes though. I love the song, but I’m really grateful that it was turned down for Thudermother’s Black and Gold album; because it fit our story much better. Emlee brought it to us and we changed the verses so it would fit our current situation. We had a few of those types of songs. Then there was “Send Me To The Wolves,” “Domino,” and a few songs that we just wrote from the beginning to end in a writing session. It was different.

The Gems - Phoenix album artwork
The Gems – Phoenix / Napalm Records (2024)

Cryptic Rock – It all came together for a really great album. There are a few elements of this record different from your work in Thundermother as well. One, it seems heavier. Two, your voice seems to be more upfront. It seems as if they let you out of your cage and you are not holding back. Is this something that you felt with this record as well?

Guernica Mancini – I didn’t think of it like that, but I really like how you put it… because, yeah, I think we all felt creatively freer now. Also, being that we are all very comfortable with our own positions in our instruments, we don’t compete against each other. We just support each other.

It was also very easy for the producer to mix it in a way where my vocals got to shine through more. In Thundermother, my vocals were always competing with the guitar; it was always a struggle. It was like the guitars were made to be the loudest thing in the mix at all times. We wanted to produce it in a more modern way where the vocals are more upfront. While I’m singing a verse, the guitar might be lower in the mixing. We had those things in mind, and it was never a big deal for anyone in the band; because everyone got an opportunity to shine. We also thought a lot about live performances and getting a variety in the vocals; because we’ve been a very heavily touring band.

In Thundermother, most songs were really high register at all times. It became very draining live. I had to accept that you can’t always be 100%, and nobody ever is. It’s something that you have to learn. Now we’ve at least written so I can have some songs where I get to relax a little bit vocally and some places where I can push it. I just like the variety. It’s really nice to be able to showcase that and show people that I can do much more. It gets old for me as a singer.

Cryptic Rock – Well, the diversity shines through and it makes for an enjoyable listen. Obviously, you were a four-piece with Thundermother, but The Gems are a trio. Clearly the three of you have a chemistry/bond to stick together after the events with Thundermother. What is it like working as a three-piece as opposed to a four-piece band?

Guernica Mancini – Much easier now. I just really enjoy it because we have such mutual respect for each other. Everyone is open to hearing everyone’s ideas and we discuss everything. We just have a very loving, respectful communication, friendship, and co-worker situation.

I can’t compare that with any other band I’ve been in; because it’s really rare to find people who work that way. I feel incredibly grateful that I found people where we all work very well together. We balance each other out and we use each other’s strength. Emlee’s cutting all the videos; because she’s really into movies and stuff. Mona is doing a lot of logistics, and I do a lot of social media stuff.  We all help each other out, and it’s a really beautiful dynamic. In our old band, that was impossible, and it would never have been able to happen.

Something I’m going to add about the musical part is that Mona is such a great guitar player. She learned how to play bass just to help us out in Thundermother. She never played bass before joining the band. Now that she picked up the bass, she learned to love the bass. So, we don’t need a bass player for studio recordings; because she does it really well and takes it very seriously. She very quickly became endorsed by EBS amps. So, she wants to take care of those relationships and continue playing the bass on recordings. Live… we have a hired gun.

The Gem band photo 2024
The Gems – Emlee Johansson, Guernica Mancini, Mona Lindgren (L to R)

Cryptic Rock – It seems like everything is working out well. Going back to what you said earlier, it is amazing where you are today as opposed to a year ago. Is it hard to believe how things turned around so wonderfully?

Guernica Mancini – Yeah. It’s really amazing. It’s crazy. It makes me emotional thinking about it because a lot can happen in a year.

Cryptic Rock – These are all very positive things. With the new album out, would The Gems consider touring North America?

Guernica Mancini – We would love to. There’s a lot of people that are still supporting us after seeing us on the Scorpions tour. It seems like we have a nice foundation to build on with fans in North America. We would love to tour there. We talked with our booking agents. I’m hoping that we get to do something; because it’s also a financial thing, and the visa situation takes a while. I’m really hoping that we get to do it in 2025 though.

Cryptic Rock – That would be exciting, because Phoenix has such a lively energy. This album lyrically is saying “I may be down, but I’m not out.” That is inspirational; because we all have feelings of being passed over. There is not a vindictive vibe here, but one that professes that you know your worth.

Guernica Mancini – Exactly. I feel like we’ve had a few interviews where they’ve asked, “Are you vindictive or whatever?” That has never crossed my mind. It’s more about I know my worth, we know our worth, and we feel like we are worth everything. It’s obviously frustrating when you work with people that have been bringing you down and telling you otherwise for a very long time. That’s why it’s also even more important to sing it to make it true… and believe it.

Cryptic Rock – Very inspiring. This is something relatable for listeners too. There is no question you have a powerful voice that is perfect for Rock-N-Roll. That said, there is also a very soulful vibe to your voice. What are some of your inspirations as a vocalist?

Guernica Mancini – There’s so many. I’m a huge Prince fan. I don’t necessarily feel his vocal skills might have inspired me in that way, but I am a fan. It’s hard to pinpoint. When I started singing Rock, I felt very inspired by Sebastian Bach. At the time, I didn’t know of that many bands; I was just figuring out and finding Rock music… I started with the ’80s. (Laughs) I think the combination of Sebastian Bach and Axl Rose’s singing is very inspiring to me.

Growing up, I loved Pop artists. I remember the Motown artists. I’m all over the place. Even Gwen Stefani was a huge influence when I was a teenager; I just thought she was such a badass. Even Janice Joplin was an influence. I like the way that everything she sang, she really meant it; that was in whatever the emotion was that she wanted to convey in whatever song she was singing. That’s something that I always try to have in the back of my mind. For example, if I’m singing “Ease Your Pain,” I really try to get into that sad feeling or whatever. That’s something that I’ve kind of taken from Janice Joplin. I like that raw emotional feeling performance.

Janis Joplin - Pearl
Janis Joplin – Pearl / Columbia (1971)
Skid Row 1989
Skid Row – Skid Row / Atlantic (1989)

Cryptic Rock – It is very interesting to hear some of your influences. It is not enough to know how to sing a song, but you have to feel it. Obviously, you convey that in your songs. You can feel every lyric and note in each song.

Guernica Mancini – That means a lot. That’s very important too. That’s something we struggled quite a lot with in Thundermother; we were always fighting over the lyrics, because I’m the one performing the lyrics. The albums that were before my time, where I didn’t get an opportunity to be part of the writing, it was really hard for me to actually remember the lyrics; because they didn’t make any sense. It was really weird to me.

I’m all for a good Rock song. Obviously, we have “P.S.Y.C.H.O,” which is a silly rock song. Whatever you’re singing, even if it’s silly, there should be some truth and realness to it. It’s not enough to be singing some cheesy tagline. English isn’t our first language, but we do our best to try to make it as right as possible.

I’m aware of some weird stuff that we decided to keep in there just because it fits the melody. I’m okay with sacrificing that sometimes. Although, I’m not down with just singing gibberish because it’s cool. For me, it’s just very strange. The lyrics are important for us, we wrote them all together. When we sat down to do it, to really be like, “What do we mean here? What are we talking about?” I think we managed to do it pretty well.

Cryptic Rock – It sounds like it was a real collaborative effort between the three of you. You mentioned how you wanted to go for a more modern sound. That is present, but this album, unlike many other modern albums, sounds real. Many modern recordings are too polished and there is also the ever-present auto-tuning. This album is raw and full of emotion.

Guernica Mancini – Yeah. Johan is very particular; he has perfect pitch, is like a savant and crazy with music. We had to rein it in. When he gave us the first mix, we were like, “This is way too clean. You need to rough it up, because this is not going to work.” None of us were feeling okay with the first mix of the album that we received. I think he might have used some melodyne somewhere; because he is such a perfectionist. We try to keep it minimal, because we are a Rock band, and we aim to be able to do everything live. I also think that some of the imperfections make it better sometimes. It gives it life!

Obviously the songs are not very long. They’re like three minutes of trying to keep radio edits and the voice being in the forefront. That was never going to happen in Thundermother; because it was always competing with the guitar. (Laughs) 

Cryptic Rock – It all sounds good! A lot of modern recordings are mastered entirely too loud and are too cluttered. Whereas the older record you can turn up the volume and all of the instruments and the vocals will be equal because of separation.

Guernica Mancini – I agree. That’s something that we also listen to. As much as I like a modern track, I don’t like it when it hurts your ears… because it’s so sharp and so loud. We’re still playing Classic Rock; it would be weird if it was mastered as a Pop track. I think it’s a fine balance because, obviously, we’re not like a modern Rock band. We’re not like Måneskin or any of those bands that are very current. It was a lot of Johan, he usually works with Pop acts and stuff like that. I think the combination of Johan, his skills, and then our skills, it became a pretty good mix.

Cryptic Rock – Again, because The Gems is your own, the three of you, you had a lot more say here. Like you said, you could tell him to pull back a little bit here and there. That is probably exciting to have the ability to control the way the music was going to sound.

Guernica Mancini – Yeah. I’m not saying that we were always pulling the same way, but at least we had respectful conversations about different opinions. That’s very important, because I think that’s a key element to being in a good band. In Thundermother, it was always a fight for your opinions in a way that wasn’t healthy. It is really refreshing and just fun with The Gems. Everyone’s opinions were heard. Ultimately, we chose together what was best for whatever song we were working on at the time.

Cryptic Rock –That is the way to go about it. That would resolve a lot of the world’s problems right now. It does not seem like anyone wants to hear anyone else’s opinions or work together right now. 

Guernica Mancini – No, it’s crazy. It’s also weird. It’s okay to have different opinions. You’re allowed to not think the way I think. It’s just about how we are going to get to agreements where we can be respectful, or both be a little dissatisfied, but just find something where we can move forward with. 

Cryptic Rock –That is something which is lost in today’s world. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror, Sci-fi, or Fantasy genre films, do you have any favorites?

Guernica Mancini – I can’t really handle Horror films. I’m scared of the dark, and I’m not a good adult. (Laughs) I love all the Lord of the Rings movies, and I love Sci-Fi. We all like Star Wars in the band. Mona doesn’t really, she’s not very into movies. Emlee has the Darth Vader tattoo on her arm. I have some Star Wars toys. (Laughs) We all have a Baby Yoda; he’s so cute! We watch The Mandalorian, and all the Star Wars-related TV shows.

Star Wars 1977
Star Wars / 20th Century Fox (1977)
Lord of the Rings movie poster
The Lord of the Rings / New Line Cinema (2001)

The Gems 2024 Tour Dates:
4-12-24 SE – Malmö
4-13-24 SE – Helsingborg
5-18-24 SE – Stockholm / Downtown Riot
6-6-24 SE – Sölvesborg / Sweden Rock Festival
7-12 to 7-13-24 DE – Neukirchen / Dong Open Air 2024
8-10-24 SE – Falköping / Nestorfest
8-15 to 8-17-24 DE – Sulingen / Reload Festival
8-31-24 DE – Wisselsheim / Wisselsheim Rockt 24
For more on The Gems: thegems.se | Facebook | Instagram 

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