Red Bull Records recording artist Beartooth were one of the many performers slated for this year's "Welcome to Rockville" festival in Jacksonville, FL. The event, now in its fifth year, sold out once again with 50,000 paid attendees over the April 25th and 26th weekend. While Saturday's planned festivities included performances from Fozzy, Exodus, Upon a Burning Body, The Devil Wears Prada and Beartooth, rain delays forced those bands from the main card.
Maximum Metal's Eric Compton was able to catch up with Beartooth's vocalist Caleb Shomo and guitarist Kamron Bradbury before the showers came. The two elaborated on the band's debut album, 'Disgusting', which landed at No. 6 on the Billboard's US Hard Rock chart upon its release in June of last year. The album's punk intensity and screaming vocal runs are a poignant statement on regret, physical abuse and depression. The band's solid writing, arrangements and intense touring schedule led to the band's nomination as Best New Band by Metalhammer's Golden Gods and Best International Newcomer by Kerrang!
Eric Compton: Beartooth, welcome to Rockville. Obviously you guys are playing huge festivals this year like Rockville, Download, Reading, Rock on the Range…this weekend alone we have 50,000 sold out here. With these big festivals, am I losing intimacy as a fan and vice versa, are you losing intimacy as an artist?
Caleb Shomo: I think it depends on the band. Obviously if you are at a small show with no barricade or in a house where you are just right up there, it is a completely different level of intimacy. But something interesting about a show like this is that it has a great PA, the sound is really good. It is just different, you are going to see the band perform their art a little more than at a house show where it's just about the energy and the chaos and it isn't really about the sound or necessarily listening to it, it's about the moment. I think you can still be intimate at a show like this but it just depends on the band. Some bands probably get up there and they just don't even care and check out and just go through the motions. I know for us…we love every second of getting up there and playing our music.
EC: You guys recently announced you are playing a lot of smaller shows this year as well, smaller house shows and do it yourself venues. Is that to oppose the bigger festivals? Can you tell me a little bit about why you chose to do that?
"We have literally showed up at kids' houses and hung out with them for like an hour and then we played." --Kamron Bradbury
CS: Just because those are shows that we grew up going to and grew up playing. They are just really fun. Especially with the kind of music we play, it is just a really cool way of experiencing it.
Kamron Bradbury: It is just cool hanging out with everyone. Like here…there are security gates, you can't get in. We have literally showed up at kids' houses and hung out with them for like an hour and then we played.
EC: Do you have to do these bigger shows 4-5 times a year financially? Is it a burden to do these bigger shows or would you rather feel more connected doing house shows?
CS: Oh no, it isn't a burden, it's definitely fun. But it is just completely different. This is just a chance for us to play to new people and to kind of show them what we have and I'm sure a lot of people here haven't heard our music and don't really know much about us and it is like that with a majority of the bands on these shows other than the headliners and really big acts. For smaller bands like ourselves it is really cool to play a show like this.
EC: You have a lot of diversity at these bigger fests. You have the thrashers like Testament and Exodus and Slayer obviously. You have the hard rock stuff with The Pretty Reckless and Slash. You get the progressive stuff with Queensryche. Typically when you play these types of festivals what is the feedback that you get from people who have never heard Beartooth at all who maybe showed up to see Slayer or The Pretty Reckless.
CS: We do decent I think with the older crowd and the thrashers. Our music is pretty fast and heavy. I don't know, it isn't as pretty as some of the stuff people are hearing here today. Hopefully people can get into it.
KB: There are a lot of older fans that kind of sit there and nod their head and then by the end of the set they are more into it. It just takes them a little longer to get into what we are doing.
EC: 'Disgusting' was released last summer. It was your debut album and you touched on a lot of serious issues from regret to physical violence to self-esteem. Were you pulling these experiences from personal things or observations that you have made with others?
CS: A lot of it is just personal stuff that I have gone through and just kind of writing about it and a bunch of stuff like that. There are things that I've witnessed playing shows and just talking to people and the struggles that people…a lot of show goers and music fans deal with and just writing about that. Just my perspective on a lot of things.
EC: Yeah it is a lot of darker things…
"I really wrote that album in a really dark time and I don't think the next record will be as dark as that." --Caleb Shomo
CS: Yeah, yeah…I really wrote that album in a really dark time and I don't think the next record will be as dark as that *laughs*. But it was very therapeutic to get that out.
EC: When you talk about it being therapeutic, how difficult is it to sing this stuff now?
CS: It is not as difficult now because it is something I have pushed through. It's almost like looking back at an older part of my life now. I'm not reliving those moments so much, its stuff I have overcome and it isn't on the forefront of my mind anymore so it's not difficult to get through.
EC: When you sing it now, is it like a triumph or victory?
CS: Yeah, in a lot of ways absolutely.
EC: What can we expect from the follow-up album?
CS: So far, just another Beartooth record. It isn't preconceived to be more progressive or more thrash or anything like that. I really don't think about that going into writing. It is normally just whatever I am feeling that day is what I'm writing about and hopefully it turns out cool.
EC: Have you written the album yet?
CS: I have wrote two songs. I think it is going to be awhile before I sit down and start writing.
EC: Is there pressure writing the new album?
CS: Yeah, well not really pressure. People that received the first album so well ask all the time how are you gonna follow that up? I don't know, hopefully well *laughs*.
EC: The age old question, are streaming services like Spotify and Soundclound hurting or helping you?
CS: When it comes to record sales these days it is obviously nothing like the 90s or that whole era of rock and roll. We aren't concerned about making money from record sales. I mean we just want to make a living and play. From playing shows and merchandise…I think we do okay.
Look for Beartooth on tour this spring throughout Europe and Australia. The band joins the Vans Warped Tour this summer with the likes of Escape the Fate, Asking Alexandria, August Burns Red and Miss May I.
--Eric Compton 5/2/15
Caleb Shomo – lead vocals (2012–present) guitars, bass guitar, drums, percussion (2012–2013)
Taylor Lumley – lead guitar, backing vocals (2012–present)
Brandon Mullins – drums, percussion (2012–present)
Kamron Bradbury – rhythm guitar, backing vocals (2014–present)
Oshie Bichar – bass guitar, vocals (2014–present)
Listen to the Beartooth interview with Eric Compton of Maximum Metal: