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Emblem3 Opens Up About Breaking Up – and Then Reuniting for a New Era: 'We're in Control Now'

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Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty

Emblem3 is back together and stronger than ever.

With their Waking Up world tour (click here for show dates) launching in April and a self-titled app that allows fans to stream their new music, the guys – Drew Chadwick, 23, and brothers Wesley, 22, and Keaton Stromberg, 19 – are ready to show the world what they’re made of.

“We’re in full control now,” Keaton tells PEOPLE. “We’re going to be as creative as we want to be.”

It’s an exciting chapter that almost didn’t happen. The Washington natives formed their band in middle school and quickly grew into “starving musicians,” playing as many gigs as they could up and down the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. But they were hungry for much more.

Producers for the U.S. version of The X Factor came calling in 2012, offering the group a spot on the show’s second season. They jumped at the opportunity of a lifetime.

After filming their audition in front of a line of the high-profile judges – Simon Cowell, Britney Spears, Demi Lovato and L.A. Reed – the stars seemed perfectly aligned for Emblem3.

“We did our audition and that was the first validation that we had something special,” recalls Chadwick. “Simon was like, ‘You guys are going to be huge.’ L.A. Reed was like, ‘You guys can win Grammys.’ We got everything that we would ever want to hear.”

The trio, who eventually placed fourth, were signed to SYCO/Columbia Records following the show.

“We immediately went into the studio after being off the show and started recording our next album with all of the biggest writers,” says Wes.

However, E3 had their differences and decided to take a break, leaving fans heartbroken. In the process, their ties with SYCO and X Factor were also cut.

“Just want to let you know that we are always here for you,” Keaton tweeted in June 2014. “Emblem3 will always continue! No matter what #E3Forever.”

Keaton kept his promise and the band eventually reunited after a long hiatus.

Though E3’s time on The X Factor was short, they describe working with Cowell as “amazing” and say they learned a lot from the experience.

“Basically the knowledge that we learned from that is everything that we’d ever need to know about the industry, about songwriting, about touring,” says Wes.

Adds Keaton: “Working with major songwriters gave us the capability to do everything on our own.”