A conversation with Beartooth's Caleb Shomo

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On the evening of the band’s show at Milan’s Legend Club, Radio Bocconi had the opportunity to sit down with the multi-talented musician behind one of the hottest rock groups at the moment, Caleb Shomo. Having been a full-time touring musician since the tender age of 15, he has had his fair share of ups and downs. Despite the evident struggles this lifestyle has thrown at him, he has persevered, found an outlet for his frustrations, and turned it into a raging success, landing a No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Albums Chart with his latest effort, “Aggressive”.

That outlet is called Beartooth.

 

… About the Current Tour

RB: Hi! Thanks for sitting down with us - we’re from a university Radio Station called Radio Bocconi.

CS: Hey! Cool!
RB: First of all, thanks for coming to Italy! It’s your first time here, right?

CS: Yeah, first time that Beartooth has been in Italy. I’ve been here once when I was younger with “Attack Attack!” [Shomo’s previous band] a long time ago. But I’m really excited to be here! It’s just really rainy, but it’s beautiful. The architecture is crazy!

RB: Right! Well, welcome! We’re super happy to have you. You’ve already had a couple of shows on this European run. How have they been? Especially since they’re the first shows after “Aggressive” has come out.

CS [visibly excited]: Yeah! They’ve been amazing. People have really been digging the new album, and that’s about all we can ask for. It’s going really smooth!

RB: You played Download Festival as well... On the Lemmy stage!

CS: That was insane. It was an honour, man! To get to play to that many people, and at such a legendary show… Very cool.

RB: You played the Paris edition of Download this year as well. Was that a bit weird, somehow?

CS: Uhh, it was different. It was the first year they’ve done it, and we played up against Gojira, who are enormous over there. So most of the people were watching Gojira… But we still had a lot of fun.

RB: I was thinking – would you guys be up for moving that second edition of Download around Europe from country to country?

CS: Yeah! Man, I would do literally ANY show.

RB: And looking forward, you’re pretty much covering half the planet over the next few months!

CS: We’re going all over the place, yeah. We’ve got another headliner in the UK, then Australia, Japan... We’re playing in Hawaii. We want to cover a lot more ground around the world this time.

RB: You’re playing the 2016 Alt Press Awards and you’re nominated for a couple of awards as well! [Best Vocalist, Best Live Band, Artist of the Year].

CS: That’s pretty crazy. There are some killer people in those categories… Hopefully it works out though.

RB: On a little aside, favourite band you’ve ever toured with, and who would you like to tour with?

CS: Favourite band I’ve toured with… Probably Slipknot. The way the tour was run, it was incredible. But from a standpoint of our friends, We Came as Romans are honestly some of our best friends. And Hands Like Houses, Silverstein… And who would I want to tour with? Maybe Deftones. I’m not super deep into them, but I’ve been getting into them a bit lately. Download was the first time I’ve ever seen them, and they were incredible.

 … About the Latest Album: “Aggressive”

RB: Let’s move on to the reason for going on these extensive tours – your new album “Aggressive”. Congratulations on putting out another epic record.
CS: Thank you! It’s going really well, and I’m really happy with the record. People seem to like it!

RB: Just today, the Billboard chart results came out, right?

CS: Yeah, we’re doing really well all over the world… It’s an exciting time!

RB: And this is all written in your basement again!

CS: Yep! All of it followed the same process as always, except for a couple of songs I wrote with John Feldman and one with David Bendeth.

RB: And is that all you, or is there some input from the rest of the band?

CS: Nope. Musically and lyrically that’s all me. Played all the instruments and recorded it all. That’s just kind of how it’s been from the beginning. Don’t want to change up the formula, and it’s working. I just want to keep it... Like, straightforward Beartooth songs!

RB: Do you have a set process for writing a song?

CS: Usually it starts with a guitar riff… Sometimes the lyrics. It changes every time! I don’t really write on tour, the bulk of this album was written in about two months at home.

RB: One thing that people like about Beartooth is that it’s just that straightforward rock sound. There’s no messing around with synths or keyboards…

CS: Yeah! And I want to keep it that way. I’ve tried that stuff before in life, and… Beartooth is just a really heavy rock band, and I want to keep it that way.

RB: And the gear you’ve been using to record all the Beartooth songs has consisted of a single guitar and amp, right?

CS: It’s just the magic guitar, man. The Beartooth sound really comes from that old Gibson SG. A 1976 Gibson SG… I really don’t know too much about it. I got it through a really weird series of events, but it’s just my favourite guitar! Don’t even have a clue about what the pickups are… I just set it up and it sounded awesome!

RB: Let’s move on to the meaning behind the album. Not wanting to delve too deeply into your private life, there’s obviously quite a personal progression to be discovered. How has your life changed since the beginning of Beartooth with the “Sick” EP?

CS: It’s changed a ton! The “Sick” EP… I was struggling with a lot mentally, and I was very unhappy with my life. And then from there we had “Disgusting”, which was me delving further into that. And now… Things are a lot better, and a lot more smooth. But at the same time, I’m a lot angrier for almost wasting so many years with so much depression and anxiety. So that’s what “Aggressive” is about – about persevering.

RB: You’re super honest about this kind of stuff!

CS: Yeah, you have to be! The whole point of Beartooth is for me to get my emotions out as honestly as I can.

 … About Beartooth’s growth, and the music community

RB: Going way back to when you were a kid, what made you pick up a guitar or start singing?

CS: I’ve always just loved Rock’n’Roll! I was raised in a very musical family. I don’t even know… I just started playing guitar when I was around 11 years old, and couldn’t ever put it down.

RB: Then, fast forward to last week, you received a Golden Gods Award for “Breakthrough Artist” in London…

CS: That’s incredible, man… It’s such an honour. When I was told that I was getting the award I was genuinely pretty shocked. But yeah, things are going really well and growing very smoothly. We’re really happy with it. It is a lot of work, because from the first record, we’ve been trying to tour all over the world, and it takes a lot of time!

RB: One thing that perhaps has helped you grow so quickly is Red Bull Records. It’s an unusual label to be on in this scene!

CS: The thing about them that’s great is that they just love all things extreme. We’re the first metal band that they’ve worked with, and it’s been going really well. We have a really solid team, and we’re all really into it together. John Feldman, actually, was working with them, and got the ball rolling for us.

RB: I’d like to move on from something really cool, your award and recent success, to something quite shocking and sad – the shootings in Orlando last week. Could you tell us a bit about your initiative to support the Victims’ Fund?

CS: Yeah, it’s pretty much just exactly how you see it. It’s an absolute tragedy. It’s a hate crime. We hate discrimination – whether it be against sexual orientation, race… Anything like that is absolutely unacceptable. And to see something so tragic happen… We just wanted to do all we could to help. So we have a t-shirt and all the proceeds go to helping out that whole cause. It’s really sad, but I guess everyone just needs to pitch in and help do their part.

RB: So, what part does music play in something like this?

CS: In situations like this, it’s about having people to reach out to in our fan base. I think everyone who listens to Beartooth will know when it’s time to act and to really kick in following an event like this.

RB: And more in general, how do you think music can help with overcoming struggle, both as listener and musician, since you’ve seen both sides?

CS: It can help you understand what you’re going through, and realize that there are a ton of other people who are going through it as well. And from there, you have a community of people that all rally around and can help you out. And even if not, listening to music on your own – being able to help yourself like that, I think is really important.

RB: That’s a fantastic note to finish on. I just want to congratulate you on all you’ve accomplished to far!

CS: Thanks man, really appreciate it.

RB: Thanks for chatting with us and see you in the pit tonight!

CS: Right on!

 

After a conversation with Caleb Shomo, you’re left with a sense of a humble, almost shy, and down-to-earth musician, who doesn’t want to keep talking about what he’s already accomplished, but is always focused on what’s coming next. You get an idea that he’s set himself one goal and one goal alone: Rocking and riffing as loud as he can, and making the most of his life following what he sees as his ‘wasted years’.

 

The chaos Shomo and his bandmates brought to the Legend Club later that night was testament to the one lyric that sums this band up better than any other: “If Rock’n’Roll is dead, you can kill me right now.” If any band is keeping Rock’n’Roll alive, in spirit and in sound, it’s Beartooth.

 

 

Interview conducted by Cedric Hille for Radio Bocconi.

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