Interview: A Different Plan Of Attack: Caleb Shomo Shows His BeartoothJanuary 25, 2013
For four years, CALEB SHOMO ascended the ranks of electrostatic metalcore outfit Attack Attack!. The former laptop jockey turned frontman resigned from the band last summer, but both Shomo and the remaining members of AA! chose to keep the split private. Since leaving, the triple-threat multi-instrumentalist/singer/producer hasn’t been sitting on the couch, watching television while eating bowls of Count Chocula, wondering what his next move is going to be. These days, he spends his time producing bands in his home studio (he recently oversaw recordings by Tear Out The Heart and Come The Dawn), creating electronic dance music under the handle Class and has
now started a new outfit called BEARTOOTH, which ramps up his love for extreme metalcore. Although he sings, plays all the instruments and produced the songs, Shomo has put together a band made up of friends and former Attack Attack! associates including guitarist Taylor Lumley, bassist Nick Reed and drummer Brandon Mullins. Beartooth are entertaining offers from labels in the hopes of having a six-song EP or a full-length debut out by late spring: In the meantime, fans may “fear the tooth” and discover their new favorite band by checking out such tracks as “Pick Your Poison,” “Set Me On Fire” (streaming right, above) and the vibrant “I Have A Problem.”
Jason Pettigrew caught up with Shomo being the perfect husband, carrying his wife’s purchases during a trip to H&M. He spoke candidly about his intentions with Beartooth, the mental health issues that plagued him during the end of his tenure in Attack Attack! and how his awesome wife puts up with his racket.
You started Beartooth simply because you wanted to play in a band. There was no looking for players on message boards or cattle calls—just dudes you were friends with. Was that intentional?
CALEB SHOMO: They’re all good old friends. A lot of them were part of the Attack Attack! crew at one point. Beartooth originally started as a joke band with members of My Ticket Home and some random people. Then I started another band called Noise, but that name was taken and I didn’t want any confusion, so I just used Beartooth. They’re rad dudes and old friends. We just want to make fun, punk-rock, hardcore, wild music, play crazy shows and have a good time without any pressure from anything.
Given your time in the heavy-rock trenches, do you think the kind of camaraderie you’re talking about is a rare thing these days?
I think generally, there are a lot of attempts to fit an image or make music that pleases people but has no integrity or passion behind it. I think it’s sad that some [musicians] think they have to fit a mold to have people like them. Music is an art form and it is an expression of your emotions—which I think is what you should be doing, whatever way you see fit. The way I see it, there’s no bad song if it’s honest. Obviously, you may not prefer it, but if the band are being honest about it, you should be able to understand what the band are trying to get across. I don’t understand people who do whatever they can to get signed and they sacrifice any integrity they may have.
So what’s your intention with Beartooth?
I do everything musically—I write it, do all the vocals and record it. It started out as a studio project at first; I was just writing these songs and then it turned into me asking my buddies if they wanted to do it. We’re still figuring out who’s going to put it out. Honestly, it’s been snowballing lately: It’s been getting a lot more intense than I expected. We just started working with The Artery Foundation with management and things are happening. I just wanted this to be a fun project; I didn’t want to play a ton of shows and plan on doing it all too intensely. I sent some songs to a good friend of mine, Dave Shapiro [of the Agency Group], and asked him if I got the itch to tour, would he throw me on some tour opening for two weeks. After he played the songs a while, he really liked it and wanted to book the band and see what we could do with it. After time off the road and just hanging out, I figured, “Why not?” It’s definitely going to be a different touring situation than when I was in Attack Attack!. This is going to be punk-rock touring: four dudes, three [guitar] cabs and a tiny little drum kit, opening tours, hanging out and having a good time.
Did you put your EDM project Class on the back burner to focus on Beartooth?
Oh, no! I’m ready to go full-force with that. A few of the deals we’re working on are addressing the whole thing. I want to go for it all. I’ve always loved electronic music—I had been doing it since before I joined Attack Attack!—and now I think is the time to go for it. I’m working on getting some cool people behind it so I can go into clubs, make dance music and go crazy. [Laughs.]
You were the laptop electronics guy in Attack Attack! before becoming the lead singer. I noticed there are no synthesizers or sequencers on the Beartooth material. Was that a conscious decision?
It’s straight guitar, bass and drums. I don’t want any electronics [in Beartooth]. It’s very hardcore and punk roots sounding. I have my electronic thing and I have this more hardcore thing, and I don’t want those things to bleed into each other musically.
When did you officially resign from Attack Attack!?
[Pauses to think.] July 2012, maybe? I had technically been out of the band for three or four months before we had announced anything.
Everybody has been saying it’s all been good vibes with no beef or anything negative. What was it that made you walk away from a successful band?
Honestly, as we were touring, I had really bad depression issues. I started getting into this weird slump mentally. It’s hard to explain, as there’s a whole lot that went into it. I essentially hit this wall where I was suicidal, drinking a whole bunch and just being a lot more out of my character. I needed to take a step back in my life and calm things down. That wasn’t because of the guys in the band—this was my own stuff. Obviously, John [Holgado, bassist] left as well, coming from a similar thing. Touring can get to you, and just being in a big band like that… It’s hard to explain, as there are tons of factors. Things were slowing down: In 2011, we weren’t touring very much and in 2012 we did a good bit of touring. It was after that summer tour, I had just hit rock bottom. Anybody who knows me can definitely vouch for that. I talked to all of the guys about it, and they were all cool about it and supportive. [The two bands] aren’t going to write stupid “you suck” songs about each other. I’m happy for them—we’re just going in different directions.
Sum up Caleb’s 2013.
I’m figuring it out! Some Beartooth shows and a record. Way, way more Class music. I just want the year to be relaxed, enjoyable and low pressure. I’ve been producing records, so I don’t need to tour. I have the freedom to not tour if I don’t want to. Touring is a passion of mine though, and I want to give it a whirl. I’m very curious to see if the Beartooth set can capture the energy that is in the songs and that the fans have as much fun as we do.
The studio is in your house?
You must have a really cool, understanding wife that lets you do all that crazy stuff at home.
Yes, I do. And I could not be more thankful for her. She couldn’t be more amazing.
Is the studio soundproofed?
To a point. [Laughs.] When we’re tracking drums, I’m sure it gets a little loud. She’s a champ and she loves me through it.
Has there been a time when she went into your studio while you were working and said, “Dude, are you kidding me? I’m trying to think out there?”
There hasn’t been a time. I guess she’s that understanding—or I have a well-soundproofed basement. [Laughs.] alt