Collaborative creativity can produce brilliant results, but theres something almost otherworldly about what emerges from the minds of remarkably talented artists, the types whove lived many lifetimes in a short period, left to his/her own devices.
As much as Nine Inch Nails, Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure or Foo Fighters (particularly on that first album) are considered bands, they brazenly exhibit the precision focused passion of a specific person; often a person bursting at the seams with something to say. BEARTOOTH began and in many ways continues to be such an artist, bubbling forth from the psyche, soul and complex emotions buried in multitalented instrumentalist and songwriter, Caleb Shomo.
Beartooth shares equal inspiration with brutal metalcore as with old-school punk like The Ramones and the bombastic theatricality of Queen. The end result is a back-to-basics hardcore stomp that would get the crowd moving at a Hatebreed or Terror show, interspersed with a steadfast determination to give equal importance to anthemic choruses.
I made the whole thing by myself, Shomo says of Beartooths debut album, Disgusting. The entire record, front to back, is literally a reflection of my thoughts and my mental well-being at the time. The album captures every end of the spectrum musically and lyrically. I know this may sound strange, but I didnt write these songs for anyone. I wrote just to write. All of the songs came about because I love writing Beartooth songs. Thats it. I wont record a song unless I love it, unless I believe in it. I wont do it any other way.
Beartooth began as a way to blow off steam and add another dimension to Shomos genre-hopping creative output. He and his hometown friends started jamming; hanging out in his Columbus, OH basement studio and playing music for fun. They released an EP, Sick, and then hit the road, touring North America and Europe with genre titans August Burns Red, Memphis May Fire, The Word Alive and Of Mice & Men, among others. In between support slots the five-piece headlined everything from basements to club shows, building a strong and devoted following. The EPs accompanying music videos for Go Be the Voice and I Have a Problem (both live and traditional) quickly accumulated over 1 million views, and set the stage for the bands next endeavor, Disgusting.
While hes still a very young guy, Shomo has lived a lifetime in music already. He had already dabbled in a project with Escape The Fate cofounder Max Green and Craig Mabbit (Blessthefall/The World Alive/Escape The Fate) when he was called up to play keyboards for Attack Attack! at the tender age of 15. The band incited polarizing dialogue around the world, as some jaded critics mocked the groups crabcore while a new generation of fans followed the bands every move. Shomo found himself thrust into the front man role following a series of lineup changes. The bands self-titled sophomore effort debuted at #1 on Billboards independent chart.
Shomo was handling all of the vocals, programming and production duties by the time the third Attack Attack! album, This Means War, broke into the Top 10. The record sold 17,000 copies in its first week, debuting at #8 on the Billboard Top 200.
Battling the same type of depression, anxiety and overindulgence as many of his fans, Shomo bowed out of Attack Attack! to get himself together, and the songs on Disgusting reflect that struggle.
The closing track, Sick and Disgusting, is so personal that Shomo has trouble listening to it. It an intense exploration of the mental health issues hes struggled with, not dissimilar from the raw truth found on Korns eponymous debut, or Reznors open confessions of drug addiction scattered throughout NIN. Its a song where Shomo just hit record and let it all pour out.
I almost didnt put it on the record because I felt embarrassed about people hearing it, Shomo confesses. It is really intense for me personally. Its hard to explain but suffice it to say, its a song about a lot of mental health things Ive dealt with. If people listen to it and understand where Im coming from and respect it, great. If other people think I sound like an idiot because I start crying in a song, I really dont care. I know how much I put into that song emotionally. Its one straight take, all the way through. I realized Id be shorting myself if I didnt put it on the record.
Alternatively, a track like Beaten in Lips is written from Calebs experiences outside his own world: he wrote it from the perspective of abused kids with nowhere to turn. I was just thinking about it one day, about how absolutely ridiculous it is that some parents abuse their children, he explains.
The albums opening track, The Lines, hits a lighter note. We have been playing that song live before the record comes out. Its just a fun jam. I wanted to write riffs that people can jump around and get wild to. People can sing at shows and have fun. I want people to sing along so they feel as much a part of the show as we are. I love doing house shows, shows without barricades, floor shows.
Theres a beautiful authenticity in Beartooths music, which is the result of Shomos simple intention: to write songs for the sake of writing songs. There is nothing calculated, nothing crafted for mass appeal. Its simply the truth of his experiences and emotions.
Red Bull has been backing whatever I want to do musically which has been really refreshing, Shomo says. There isnt any pressure to write certain types of songs or to have a certain sound. I dont go into my basement thinking, 'OK, Ive got to write a pop song or 'Ive got to write a heavy song. The songs are what they are and are allowed to be whatever comes out of me. Beartooth ends up having a lot of dynamics that way, a lot of diversity. I never want to make a record that becomes boring.
-Ryan J. Downey