There a few who do it quite like Beartooth. Their heart-on-sleeve attitude and bleeding heart honesty, coupled with their endless source of energy and adrenaline live, has thrown them into the forefront of the music scene. When they dropped their first song, ‘I Have a Problem’, Beartooth had no intention of becoming the giant they are now. Yet the Ohio boys have taken it all in their stride and never backed down from anything. No crowd too big to engage, no band too different to tour with and no balcony too high for them to jump from. These mental musicians are not slowing down and, by the looks of it, no one want them to. No stranger to big tours, the post-hardcore quintet will be venturing to our humble island this May and June to play a string of shows with In Hearts Wake. So before Beartooth hit our shores, Matty Sievers chatted with guitarist Taylor Lumley in the lead up to the tour.
INTERVIEW CREDIT: Matty Sievers.
Hey Taylor, how are you?
I’m well man! How are you, Matty?
I’m well too. Where about in the world are you at the moment?
I’m sitting outside my house, just doing these interviews.
How did you find the Silverstein tour earlier in the year, ‘cause I know it was a huge, mixed and frankly awesome bill?
Oh yeah man. Probably one of my favourite tours we’ve ever done to be honest! So much fun!
I take it you’re like most and love a good mixed bag of bands?
Yes I am. I love it! It’s great to hear different types of bands every single night when you play and every person on that tour were just fantastic people and musicians. So it was so much fun to just be around such a variety and number of bands all having a great time.
So you’re heading down under pretty soon. What ran through your head when you got the offer to play the Skydancer Tour?
Oh, we were just beyond stoked to do it. Like, when we got the offer, we checked it all out and looked over it to make sure all the bands were cool guys and not complete jerks that we didn’t want to hang around with. When we finally saw it all, we were in. Japan and Australia are two places we’ve always wanted to play so to finally get to do that is beyond awesome.
‘Disgusting’, Beartooth’s debut, came out almost a year ago so will these shows be wrapping up this album cycle?
Not quite. We’ve got a few more shows to do throughout this year, then in [spring] we’ll be wrapping it up I think.
Will we be seeing a new record taking shape after that?
Yeah, I mean that’s probably when we’ll be doing it and I hope we get to start working on it and do this all over again.
Awesome, can’t wait! Now, I’m quite interested in the history of Beartooth as I’ve heard that it’s mainly Caleb [Shomo] who does most of the writing for Beartooth.
Yeah, Caleb wrote all (and still writes) all the songs. Originally when Attack! Attack! were still around and Caleb was in it, Brandon [drums] and I were working for them. And when they broke up, we left around the same time. We had all different stuff going on but we knew them and Caleb before we worked as techs for them and that’s how we got the job; just by knowing them and knowing our instruments. Caleb messaged us and asked us to check out a few songs and jam and maybe play a few shows. The songs were great and we were really happy to just play a few shows around Ohio, release the songs online and have some fun. There was never any intention of full tours or albums or labels. We put out ‘I Have a Problem’ as the first song and it just blew up and now we’re here! (Laughs) Our whole career has just been built off us going with the flow! If an awesome opportunity presents itself, then we’re just gonna take it because like…why not!
I like that. I think that comes across in your live sets too. I remember seeing footage from one of your early shows and you all, the crowd included, just went nuts! That kind of ‘don’t-give-a-fuck-attitude’ and a ceiling fan broke, I believe?
(Laughs) I remember that show. It was epic!
It looked it. I’m betting none of that was ever a conscious thought? It’s just how you guys play naturally?
Pretty much man. We don’t like to go on stage and just throw it in and play. When I get on stage, I leave on [the stage] everything that’s leaking out of me. For us, everything we’ve got goes into those gigs. It can make it tough as after ten shows you start to feel it a fair bit. That make some shows better than others. Stuff gets broken, including ourselves and it’s just wild and unpredictable. It makes the shows a lot better I find and we like being loud and angry and just playing shows. We love connecting with the kids so we love no barrier gigs and we do whatever it takes to connect. If we gotta jump off some crazy stuff then we will or if we gotta get on peoples shoulders then we will! Some odd stuff happens like ceiling fans getting ripped out and garbage cans getting kicked around or venues getting broken. We’ve had some funny times, I can say that much.
What’s the funniest or weirdest thing?
Whenever I see people wearing costumes or shit, I love taking that shit and finishing the song with just half a costume on. Kam’s [guitar] a big fan of finding the highest thing you can get on top of and jumping off of it. We love getting people from the other bands to play bits of songs so we can get in the crowd and do crazy stuff. Like in Montreal earlier this year, I gave my guitar to Tony from The Word Alive and climbed a high as fuck balcony and jumped into the crowd!
Well if there’s a balcony there why wouldn’t you jump off of it?
Exactly! Like, during sound-check, Kam and I are just walking around the venue seeing what stuff we can climb and jump off and like, where we can get on each other’s shoulders and jump the barricade we hate. Shit like that is just fun to do and it makes you stay engaged with the show.
You or the crowd?
(Laughs) Both! You are like preparing yourself for what to come and what to expect and what to do.
It’s very reminiscent of bands like letlive. and The Dillinger Escape Plan who have all been banned from a few venues. Has that happened to you guys?
(Laughs) Okay, yeah we’ve gotten in trouble a few times before…okay maybe quite a few but like when the venue manager comes up to us, there’s not much we can do but kind of just say ‘Sorry, you didn’t really tell us we can’t so it’s a little your fault’. (Laughs) We’ve had a few run ins but we haven’t been banned yet.
Who knows, maybe you can make two firsts when you come to Australia.
(Laughs) I hope not, I would love to come back there.
Oh there’s plenty of venues! (Laughs)
Well, we’ll still try and behave ourselves. (Laughs)
So kind of closing off with a similar topic of connection, I want to talk a bit more in terms of lyrics and musicality and how that connects with the fans.
So there’s a bit of a religious, kind of faith based vibe I get from your music. Do you guys personally have that faith and do you associate the band with that?
I mean, on a personal, spiritual level, yeah sure, but it’s not something we identify the band with. For us, we identify about being honest with who we are. Caleb’s like that as a person so it’s gonna come across like that in the lyrics. It doesn’t mean that’s who you are as a band no matter what you sing about. Religious bands we don’t sort of agree with. If you believe that then that is awesome but Jesus isn’t going to come down and play my guitar for me so I can’t really call it Christian. We just be ourselves and who we are spiritually has nothing to do with my stage dives. So we try and keep that separate. We’re not gonna try and represent something we’re not.
That’s a good outlook to have. Now, I’ve never asked this question before and I mean no disrespect, but is it ever awkward or bothering to be playing in Beartooth, where Caleb sings and screams about some heavy shit like abuse and depression and drinking? Do you ever think, “As his friend, should I have helped him more so he doesn’t have to sing about this stuff in such a revealing way?”
For me personally, no. I don’t find it awkward or bothersome. I’ve known him for a long time and I was with him when he went through the things he writes about and I know the stories to a lot of them. Like where it’s coming from inside him and I know the best way to deal with it for him is to put it in a song and sing about it. The only bit that’s awkward for me is that the final song on the record, ‘Sick and Disgusting’ I have only listened to one time. I think it is an amazing, very powerful and very awkward song. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to put it on the record and we just said to him ‘Dude, this is the most honest, fantastic and brilliant thing we’ve pretty much ever heard.’ It was clear that people were gonna love it. It was so much so in fact, it would be dishonest to not put it on. If we wanted to be the kind of band we wanted to be then this song had to go on the record and be heard, no…experienced by the fans. So for me that was the only awkward bit involving the lyrics and message
In other ways, we’ve all kind of experienced similar things to him and what he writes about. We all kind of understand that when we get up on stage, that’s our place to get it out. Whatever has happened in that day, or that week or month, we know that playing shows is where we can all leave it behind and in that half an hour, just detach from it. Not one single time has any of us walked off stage and still been bummed about something. So it’s not awkward, it’s more so freeing than anything.
Uh, just going back to ‘Sick and Disgusting’, I’ll tell you the story behind that for a bit more explanation. It was like two in the morning when he put it on Dropbox where we put all the demos and stuff. He also gave me a call and just said, “I think I just recorded the craziest thing ever. I blacked out at one point and had a breakdown.’ So I said, “Well let’s listen to it!’ (Laughs) And I just remember being blown away. It stirs so many different things in me and more than any other song has never done. It’s amazing. It’s something I might never hear again. Ever.
I know exactly what you mean. I was at work when I heard the album and was going about my day and then that part comes on and he starts just crying out and I had to stop in my tracks and listen to it. It felt so…real.
Exactly, man, exactly!
So I know what you mean when you say it’s “awkward” but at the same time it’s so honest and, excuse the shitty, overused rock-journo term, but it was so raw.
(Laughs) Like, I think after we recorded we said: “We can never ever play that song live.” (Laughs) The only time we will ever do that and ever play that is if it is our last show ever. If you hear that live it means it’s the end for us because I think that song captures perfectly a specific and honest moment in time that we will be lucky and blessed if we can ever recreate it. I think that’s this affect it has on everyone. Something that can capture all your senses in one go is so special and it’s lightning in a bottle. It’s electric and it’s brilliant.
I wholeheartedly agree with you. Well, Taylor that’s all we’ve got time for but thank you so much for your honesty and actually talking with me.
No worries, man. Thank you so much for actually asking real shit too. Everyone today has been super and this was a nice topic, a little sad, but a nice topic to finish the day on. Oh and uh, man, just to let you know, that question before wasn’t disrespectful at all. I actually really liked that one to be honest.
Thanks, Taylor. Just didn’t want to tread on any toes, you know?
Nah, it was great man! You coming out to the shows?
I think everyone and their mum is…
(Laughs) See you then, Matty.
See you, Taylor.