"It's our mission to keep the rock alive. It's important to keep the torch burning": The Gems were born out of solidarity, and now they want to invigorate classic rock

The Gems studio portrait
(Image credit: Gustaf Sandholm Andersson)

Until last spring, trio The Gems – vocalist Guernica Mancini, drummer Emlee Johansson and bassist Mona Lindgren – were close to a breakthrough with Swedish classic rockers Thundermother, having toured with Scorpions and Whitesnake and built up a solid fan base. But in an act of extraordinary solidarity, when Mancini was fired, Johansson and Lindgren followed her out of the door. Now the three of them are back as The Gems, brandishing their debut album Phoenix, a defiant, riff-stuffed stomper that acknowledges the hard times and celebrates true friendship and determination. 

“Filippa [Nässil, Thundermother guitarist and founder member] decided that she wanted to fire me, from out of the blue,” Mancini explains. “We’ve had issues for many, many years. It’s been tough when it felt like we were this close to really doing big things with the band. I’m forever grateful that Mona and Emlee decided to leave that amazing career opportunity and take a chance on us doing something that we feel good about. 

"I would have never taken myself out of the situation – and it was never a good one, it was always toxic. But now we’re in something where we’re finding happiness in music again, and we have a true friendship, loyalty and a sisterhood that only a traumatising experience like this can give you. We’ll have that bond for ever."

This strong feeling of having each others’ back provides the foundation of songs like barnstorming single P.S.Y.C.H.O, along with a sheer joy in performing them. 

“Our shows are a good time, with fun, positive energy,” says Mancini. “It is a high-energy rock show. We have a lot of fun on stage.” A recent cruise with Sabaton saw them reconnecting with old fans and building a new fan base, something they’re set to build on this summer. 

“People have been super-happy and supportive,” Mancini says of their rise from the ashes. “People seeing us not giving up, it seems like a very powerful message and something very beautiful.” 

Classic rock is audibly close to their hearts, but they say they’re not content with covering old ground – they’re looking to move it on. 

“It’s our mission to keep the rock alive,” says Lindgren. “It’s important to keep the torch burning."

“Classic rock has been very stagnant, everyone just keeps repeating what everyone has already done,” Mancini adds. “It gets so old. So part of keeping that legacy alive is also refreshing it and daring to mix it up, like all our favourite artists did. We did a show this weekend and there were a lot of females in the audience, which we really appreciate. Mixing it up the way we’re doing, I think it’s more approachable for a lot of women. We want to get more women into rock, we want to get a younger audience. Maybe through us they could find all these legends that we all love."

Phoenix is out now via Napalm Records.

Emma has been writing about music for 25 years, and is a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog and Louder. During that time her words have also appeared in publications including Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Select, The Blues Magazine and many more. She is also a professional pedant and grammar nerd and has worked as a copy editor on everything from film titles through to high-end property magazines. In her spare time, when not at gigs, you’ll find her at her local stables hanging out with a bunch of extremely characterful horses.