Here’s how shYbeast inspired Devin Oliver for I See Stars’ next album
Since the release of Treehouse in 2016, fans of electronic-hardcore outfit I See Stars have been patiently waiting for the band’s next full-length. While frontman Devin Oliver has been toiling away on his new solo endeavor shYbeast for the past few years, the singer recently revealed exciting details about the upcoming ISS album.
Oliver has been the lead vocalist for I See Stars since the group’s beginning 14 years ago. With the need to create music that he believes wouldn’t quite fit with his band’s aesthetic, Oliver made his solo debut in 2019 with shYbeast. Over the last year, the singer collaborated with EDM producer Kayzo and drummer Frank Zummo (Sum 41) on the hard-hitting “Cruel Love” and has shared several singles, including his most recent track “Middle Of Love.”
Though he hopes to be able to work with other artists through shYbeast in the future, Oliver says for now, he wants to define what the project is for both himself and his fans. With that said, the vocalist and the rest of the I See Stars crew are focusing on the meaning of their next album. Check out what inspired Oliver to pursue shYbeast and what he’s currently working on with the band below.
Sonically, your shYbeast music is upbeat and technical, especially in your breakdowns, but it still has a dark, moving undertone. When you first thought about pursuing a solo project with shYbeast, were you ever worried that you would have a hard time finding your own sound?
There was a lot of self-discovery before I even put this project out. I can't even tell you how much music I had before I decided I wrote the right song that demonstrated what I felt was a good pathway. When you’re doing a new project, the very first thing you release is going to set the tone of the project.
I definitely started curating this project probably in 2015. I started realizing there was a body of music that wouldn't work for I See Stars, and I didn't want that music to just go unheard. There was a side of me that was starting to form itself. It was probably about two years of exploring before I found the track “no 1 else,” the first standalone single for the project. I really do believe in consistency, [but] trying to be consistent while also remaining interesting is probably one of the hardest things to do with a project. There’s a lot of thought that goes into it, and when you’ve been doing it as long as I have, you want to know that you’re very certain.
In your latest single “Middle Of Love,” the lyrics are focused on love, which is a recurring theme throughout your previous releases. Where do you get your lyrical inspiration from, and are there any other topics you hope to hit on in the future? When writing the lyrics, do you write them to fit around the backtrack, or is it the other way around?
I tend to write what I know. I turn to music when I need an outlet. I'm not the kind of person that necessarily writes music that's happy; I turn to music in my dark times. I think if there’s one thing fans, not just with shYbeast but also I See Stars, can always expect is for me to write emotional, moody stuff. That's just the kind of artist I am.
As far as where it begins, there isn’t really a set pattern in my writing. There have been songs, like “no 1 else,” where it did start with composition, and it started with the music. Then there are songs like “Will Your Heart Have Room” that started with the vocals. With “Cruel Love” with Kayzo, he sent me that track, and I immediately fell in love with the music. The lyrics and the melody just came to me, and in the time span of maybe 24 hours, I had the song fully written. So there are really cool moments like that in my career where a song just writes itself in such a short amount of time. Then there are songs like “Will Your Heart Have Room” that took me months to finish. Every song is its own very unique and special journey.
I know you can’t say too much about it yet, but you’re currently working on a new I See Stars record. Based on what you have so far, what can we expect?
Yeah, definitely can’t talk too much about it, but what I will say is that we have been spending a lot of time really focusing on a couple of things. One, the message we want to send with this record is very important to us. This will be our first record in four years, so the message we send is very important. Also, consistency is very important to us but also keeping things interesting. We’re really focused on embracing our roots and also embracing everything that has inspired us in the last four years. We’re really trying out ways to have those elements shine through our music. We’re never afraid to nod our inspirations through our music. There have been a lot of really great artists that I’ve grown pretty fond of over the last four years that have inspired the hell out of me. It’s definitely leading to a very interesting and exciting new album.
The band last released Treehouse in 2016 and shared the Treehouse acoustic album in 2018. Has your writing process for I See Stars changed over the years, or do you approach it the way you do with shYbeast where you feel out the track? Has the quarantine had any effect on what you write and create?
We are facing a very unprecedented time period in life right now. I think everybody’s traditional writing patterns have been very much modified to contribute remotely, which is where we’re at right now. I have the rest of my band in Detroit while I’m in Los Angeles. A lot of our writing right now is remote. It’s very different from what we’re used to doing. But I will say that we’re really, really focused on the melodic and lyrical concept of this record.
We’re making sure that we have that all figured out before we even enter the musical stages of the record. It’s really great because we usually always write the music first, and then we go to vocals. Granted, we have a lot of music. We have tons of music written, but we’re solidifying the vocals before we even start tracking the drums and guitars. This is a totally new way for us, and I think it’s really going to help deliver the message that we’re trying to convey. Just giving it the attention it needs, making sure every single word that’s spoken and every single lyric that’s sung is good enough. It’s a tough situation, but it’s also paramount for a great record.
I See Stars were one of the first bands in the scene to meld electronic and EDM elements with a harder rock and metal sound. What have you learned from your time with the band that’s helped you in your solo project? When you were first thinking of shYbeast, did you ever think about forming a whole other band, or did you always know this was something you wanted to do by yourself?
Being able to exercise my own identity as an electronic producer as well as a vocalist is very rewarding. I actually believe that because there’s this new entity I have to really push myself as a producer. It really has opened a lot of new doorways for I See Stars, and I feel I have grown as a producer, and I’m able to exercise that within our new record, which is really great.
I barely knew that I wanted to do another project. It wasn't until there was music forming itself that didn't fit the band. I think the purpose of shYbeast is to have my freedom as an artist. Inviting someone else to infiltrate that freedom would defeat the purpose of the project altogether.
As shYbeast, you’ve dropped several singles over the past year. Can we expect an EP, or maybe even a full-length, anytime soon?
I think the overall goal is to have a body of work under one umbrella. I'm just really enjoying focusing and catering to each single right now and growing the project. I think once the Stars record is finished, I will turn to the new shYbeast record and start formulating what that even means. It's not necessarily on my horizon at the moment, but it will be.
We’re at the halfway point of the year, and touring is pretty out of the question right now with the pandemic. Are there any possible releases from shYbeast in the coming months?
I pushed back most of my releases. There was a lot of music that was already supposed to be out. We’re still formulating a game plan for the rest of the singles that have been pushed back. Yes, there’s tons of music that should be put on the calendar before the year is up, but we’ll see. I don’t want to put out music when we should be focusing our attention elsewhere. I’m never one to self-promote during a pandemic or a movement that’s just more important. Hopefully, we can get more music out there before the year is up, but most importantly, I hope that the world continues to heal and change for the better.
We’re in the middle of a lot of chaos, and I really do believe that we all need to find common ground again and seek out love. I think there are a lot of ways to unlock that kind of change, and sometimes that’s music. I just hope that this can resonate in a positive way during such a tough time.