Survival Guide
Photo by Mike Carey

Emily Whitehurst strives to be a better musician in every way. Now based in Texas, the former member of Tsunami Bomb and The Action Design and current solo creative force behind Survival Guide has been pushing herself to new heights as an artist, producer, and vocalist and the results speak for themselves.

With her latest Survival Guide release, Request Hotline, Vol. 2 – and the accompanying Limited Edition 7-inch RHV1.5 – she returns to her punk rock roots sharing unique covers of fan favorites of the genre. She reinvents such hits as “Cherry Bomb” (The Runaways), “Still Breathing” (Green Day), and “Turn It On” (Sleater-Kinney) while venturing into new vocal territory and challenging compositions.

“When I sit down to work on a new cover, I think about the ways I stretch the song and myself, make it unique, and do something new with it,” Whitehurst said via Zoom earlier this month.

There’s nothing Whitehurst loves more than connecting with fans via Patreon. In fact, that’s where the entire Request Hotline project was originated.

“One of the rewards that I had going on Patreon was that people could request that I record them a cover song,” explained Whitehurst. “AFI and the Misfits are the only ones where I had two requests for songs from the same band.”

Getting two song requests for two bands sparked the idea to pair AFI and the Misfits for a special Request Hotline, Vol. 2 spin-off, the 7” release, RHV1.5. On the AFI tracks, Whitehurst is at her sparkly best, sharing synth-dance takes on “Totalimmortal” and “Girl’s Not Grey.” She went in the opposite direction when approaching the Misfits, stripping down “Skulls” and “Hybrid Moments” to their bare bones.

“The idea was forming early on. I love both AFI and the Misfits and I thought it would be so cool to do a punk split-seven-inch between these two bands that probably should have a split-seven-inch anyway,” she said with a laugh. “It’s two versions, two styles, all Survival Guide. The Misfits songs are basically piano covers and then the AFI songs are my attempt at dance club reworkings.”

She continued, “’Skulls’ is actually one that I bent the rules a little bit – my own rules – that being a song that I covered and recorded a few years back. I think the [stripped-down] concept came because it just seems like the opposite of the nature of the Misfits in general. It’s as far as I could get from what they are doing already so it just seemed like a really fun juxtaposition of the sound of the music with the words and what’s being said.”

On “Hybrid Moments,” a song she previously covered with The Action Design, Whitehurst – also the producer of this record – added a layer of cheers to enhance the live feel that took over in the recording booth.

“When I recorded the vocals, it was a song that I was already so familiar with that I basically went in there and did it in one take like it was a live performance,” she said. “I was just so ready for it. As I was in there recording that, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t take longer because I love singing it. Then I thought why don’t I add another slight concept layer to this song and make it as if it was live. Just for fun.”

One of the stand-out Vol. 2 tracks is The Distillers’ “For Tonight You’re Only Here to Know.” On it, Whitehurst stretches her vocal range and production chops adding a full scope of sonic qualities to enhance the listening experience.

“I turned it into an orchestral song and spent a lot of time trying to make this sweeping, dynamic thing. I’ve never done anything like that before, imagining what a real orchestra would do,” She said, adding with a laugh. “Also, the bridge of that song is the lowest notes that I’ve ever attempted in any recorded song and I just left it. This is ridiculously low but that just how it is.”

Whitehurst is the sole musician in Survival Guide, but she got a little help from her friends to add instrumentation to a few tracks. Matt Molchany plays guitar on “Cherry Bomb,” originally by The Runaways, and Navid Manoochehri added a punk-fueled guitar track to Avril Lavigne’s “My Happy Ending.”

“Navid is a friend of mine who is in a band with my brother and I’ve also worked with him in musical capacities before. When the request came to do Avril Lavigne, I decided that her music is not as punky as people remember it,” said Whitehurst noting her desire to add a true guitar sound to her cover. “I sent Navid my drum track and my bass track. I was hoping for some major pick slides and, tapping into that early 2000s pop punk, a tone that would have been from that era. He did an awesome job on it.”

Whether its through social media, Patreon, or Twitch, Whitehurst takes every opportunity to break down the wall between artist and audience.

“I love getting to connect with fans. It’s so much fun to get to build a community on Patreon and also to get to communicate directly with people on Twitch. It’s a ton of fun. I have a short list of songs that people can come request, a lot are my own songs that I have written from the various bands that I’ve been in over the years. People can come hang out and request songs from me and it can be really magical. Sometimes there are people who stumble upon my Twitch as someone who was a Tsunami Bomb fan and never got to see us play back in the day. They can request one of those old songs from me and they’re pretty excited about it. It’s really cool,” she said adding that she loves how fans informed the song selection on Request Hotline, Vol. 2 and she’s already looking forward to the next one.

Whitehurst confirmed that not only is Request Hotline, Vol. 3 already in the works, but she is also gearing up to release a new Survival Guide album, the project’s first as a solo endeavor, this fall.

“I’m super excited about it. It’s been a huge, huge goal of mine to write my own album and to prove to myself that I can do it. I am happy to say that I did it and now I just have to wait for it to come out,” said Whitehurst.

Fans don’t have to wait to listen to Request Hotline, Vol. 2 as it is currently available for streaming and RHV1.5 can be purchased via Keep up with Emily Whitehurst and all things Survival Guide by following her on Instagram, Twitch, and Patreon.

Laurie Fanelli is a Chicago-based writer and photographer who specializes in live entertainment coverage. She is at home at major music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and, of course, Lollapalooza and...