It’s all smiles and excitement from Beartooth’s creative mastermind Caleb Shomo, as he reels from last night’s show in Corpus Christi, Texas, as they roll around the US with Stray From The Path in tow. “It’s amazing! We’re playing a lot of places that I don’t know if we’ve ever played before. They’ve been really cool shows, really wild.” Yet that excitement is quickly modulated by his affirmation, “I just want that record to get out now.”
This US tour appears as a limbo period for the Ohio-based metalcore mob, who are out on the road playing these crazy shows with the omnipresent knowledge that their upcoming second record, ‘Aggressive’ is just sitting there finished – but their wait is almost over.
You might think that the pressure’s off Beartooth. They’ve proven they’re worth their salt with the hook-laden, emotionally heavy and impossibly catchy debut album, ‘Disgusting’; and their follow-up is done and dusted. Caleb doesn’t hesitate to say that “from the beginning I’ve been writing this music alone in my basement” – it doesn’t come from a place of ambition for acclaim, but Caleb doesn’t see it that way.
“I think it’s actually a little more nerve-wracking,” he confesses. “The first EP and the first album; I didn’t have any pressure. It wasn’t like people knew anything about us. It was just me writing songs alone to get my head on straight. Then, you know, it gets signed and starts touring and records come out. I think there is a little more of a sense of pressure.
“I try not to focus on it when I’m writing, but now that the writing’s all done and the album’s done, mastered, waiting to go live, it’s a bit more of an intense feeling. It seems like a part of band’s careers where things really take off or things really flop,” Caleb admits freely, without fear of possibly jinxing his efforts up to this point.
Of course, Caleb has more reason than most to feel tense at this point than anyone else in camp Beartooth. He is, after all, Beartooth incarnate; all-star writer, recorder and producer who takes his months of hard work to his committed touring band to hit the road with. But why? “That’s just how it started and, I guess, just the way it is. It really helps me to feel more comfortable. I can get kind of stressed out if there’s a ton of people in a room and at least for Beartooth, because it’s such personal stuff, it’s just a lot easier for me to write alone in my own basement, you know?”
Caleb’s very measured when he tries to explain this decision over the band’s dynamic, although it doesn’t seem like that much of a conscious decision. During his days in Attack Attack!, Caleb moved from his keyboard duties in the background, to taking on the role of frontman before being tasked with the role of producer as well. His angle on Beartooth is just an extension of that trajectory.
“Although the writing process is just me, it’s not really a solo venture. It is a band, but the one thing I do myself is make the music and record it,” Caleb affirms before tempering his statement with another. “I’ve been making records for a little while and I just like doing it myself to capture the right sound. I know how it should sound, so it makes it a little easier that way. But live, we’re a band, we’re all up there and doing our thing; everybody’s playing the parts in their own way and going nuts. It’s kind of like two different experiences.”
The live environment is where Beartooth really come alive; when Caleb’s inner turmoil and isolated labours meet with the collaborative effort of the band, but it’s an approach that is necessitated. “There’s an EP and two records done with this dynamic, it’s just the way that Beartooth songs are written. I just want to keep it authentic and keep it the way it started which was just writing songs alone in my basement, you know?”
It’s all well and good justifying Caleb’s remote work ethic in Beartooth, but will it restrict the band’s progression going into ‘Aggressive’? “I will say that the thing that I don’t like sometimes is when people make a record that all these people fall in love with and then they get a taste of success and then they write an entirely different sounding album.
“I’m definitely not against progression as a band, of course,” he affirms, “but I think it should be progression. With ‘Aggressive’ I just wanted it to be a ‘Part 2’. I really like playing Beartooth songs and I just didn’t feel like changing it up with some crazy sound. I just tried to push myself as a songwriter and write better songs, but, you know, it’s still just two guitars, drums, bass and vocals; keep it simple.”
His improvement as songwriter is coupled with a slight transgression in tone as Caleb explains that “even though there’s a bit more singing, I still think this record is way more pissed off than the first one. The first record was very sad and self-deprecating, this one’s a little angrier but hopeful.”
This direction is clearly evident in the lyrics on ‘Aggressive’, as Caleb shrieks “I tried to fit in, I got sick of it” on ‘Loser’, which shows his conscious effort to stick his feet in the ground and spit his feelings back. It’s a theme that continues on tracks like ‘Burnout’ as Caleb storms in with “you won’t get the best of me”, accentuating his newly found self-confidence.
“The bottom line is that I really love the album, I’m extremely proud of it and I think that real Beartooth fans are going to love it – and hopefully new people start to jam out as well,” he says in closing.
‘Aggressive’ is the sound of a man accepting the vulnerabilities that he’s so publicly exorcised, and moving on with his band. All the while, answering only to himself and, this time, with his middle finger up.
Taken from the June issue of Upset, out now – order your copy here. Beartooth’s album ‘Aggressive’ is out now.