Beartooth: Fighting Tooth And Nail
Prodigious one-man-band and studio wizard Caleb Shomo continues to steer his own ship on Beartooth’s debut LP.
Caleb Shomo grew up fast. Having joined crab-dancing former synthcore giants Attack Attack! on keyboard duty at a very green 14 years old, he had no choice but to learn about life on the road and in the studio while most of his peers were still awkwardly testipopping their way through high school. But not long after graduating to lead vocals and engineering duties for the band’s final release in 2012, Shomo split from the group (“It was a very destructive part of my life and I needed it out of my life to get my head on straight”) and briefly stepped out of the spotlight – or so he thought.
Rather than go stir-crazy, the bandless Shomo put his many talents to use writing and recording all instruments and vocals in a series of viciously personal post-hardcore/punk crossover tracks, and it wasn’t long before opportunity came a-knockin’.
“Why I even wrote them in the first place was because I was in a period in my life where I was completely miserable and a whole lot of things that were going on in my life were really negative,” explains Shomo. “These were songs I wrote by myself, for myself for therapeutic reasons. I was showing them to my friends, some managers and booking agents and stuff, and they kind of said, ‘We think we could do something with this if you want to.’ I’d been at home for a while doing nothing, but I love touring and being on the road, so here we are again!”
With their fresh-off-the-press debut LP Disgusting now catapulting off the hype generated by 2012’s Sick EP, things are certainly in full swing for Beartooth. And while one might think that going from headlining sold-out theatres in Attack Attack! to starting from the bottom all over again would be a drag, it’s something that Shomo happily takes in his stride.
“It was a very destructive part of my life and I needed it out of my life to get my head on straight.”
“I love it, honestly. It’s cool that we’re opening tours and thankfully there have been a lot of bands that are helping us out, and we’re very blessed. And I love playing in small bars. I think in a lot of ways Beartooth will still always be playing smaller scale shows like that no matter how big it gets. It’s kind of comforting and it feels like home.”
It’s a mentality that harks back to the origins of Beartooth’s sound, vibe and feel: “In no way did I grow up a punk rock kid or a hardcore kid or anything like that, but I was going through heaps of bands like The Ramones or Minor Threat, and feeling how much I loved the whole thing of smaller venues, no barricades and everyone’s just jumping on the stage. For me those were always my favourite kind of shows, and I wanted to make a band around that vibe. That and the idea of having raw guitars, lots of feedback and having them mess up so you get that emotion you get from that punk rock background.”
While it’s tempting to think of Shomo as the Dave Grohl of post-hardcore, he’s quick to dispel the idea of the touring members of Beartooth becoming full-time partners in the band.
“It’s not in any way a reflection of the guys I play with, but I just feel way more comfortable when writing a song knowing that if it fails or if nobody likes it then I can deal with that,” he shrugs. “It gives me a lot more peace of mind knowing that I don’t have to be thinking, ‘If we don’t sell this many records then our record was a flop, and I’m screwing all the people in my band.’”
With that said, it ain’t easy being a one-man band – in fact for most of us mere mortals it’s damn near unfathomable. So how the bejeezus is this singer/screamer/drummer/guitarist/producer extraordinaire so widely accomplished at only 21 years old?
“A lot of time and effort!” he laughs. “I’m the kind of person that just locks myself away. I have the worst ADD in the world, but if I like something, I will literally spend every waking moment doing that. When I first got my recording gear – and I didn’t even want to be a producer, I just bought some stuff to make demos – I just sat and made songs for like two or three days without sleep. My brain just works like that.”