Songwriter Interviews

Caleb Shomo of Beartooth

by Trevor Morelli

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When Caleb Shomo first started Beartooth, it was just something he worked on in his basement to help him cope with his depression and anxiety. At the time, he was lead singer of the metalcore band Attack Attack!, and never imagined the side project would develop into something the entire world might actually hear. But when Shomo left Attack Attack! in 2012 to focus on healing in his personal life, he completely threw himself into Beartooth, and to his surprise, it blossomed into its own full-time gig.

In June of 2016, the hardcore punk band released their sophomore album, Aggressive. Continuing to follow the blueprint laid out on their first record, Aggressive is full of heavy mosh pit-inducing, fist-pumping anthems.

The day before the release of Aggressive, Shomo spoke with Songfacts about the writing dynamic within the group, playing all the instruments on the record, and his renewed love of radio.
Trevor Morelli (Songfacts): It's the day before your album release. How exactly are you feeling?

Caleb Shomo: A little bit nervous. I'm excited but at the same time it's just a bit of a nerve-racking experience. But the record comes out and we get to play a show tomorrow, so everything's pretty good, man.

Songfacts: How do you prepare yourself for the feedback? Do you read the blogs and reviews and things like that?

Caleb: I occasionally do. I just see what people who are fans of our band have to say about it for the most part. I've never been too worried about all the music critics and stuff. I just try and focus on having fun on the road and making the best music I can.

Songfacts: What songs on Aggressive feel like they best define who you are today?

Caleb: Musically, it's hard to say. The record as a whole pretty much does the speaking for itself, but one of my favorite songs on the album right now is "Burnout." It's a cool track. It's just got a little bit of everything. It's got some fun riffs and some good singalong parts. It's my jam right now.

Songfacts: Would you say that the title, Aggressive, more describes the heaviness, or is it more about the lyrics? Why did you pick that adjective for this record this time?

Caleb: I thought it was just the best word to describe the whole album in one word. The song "Aggressive" is kind of like an all-encompassing song of what's to come on the record. It's got the heavy parts. It's got all the choruses, and lyrically it's a bit more pissed off and in your face. I'm really happy with how it turned out. I think "Aggressive" is just the best way to sum it up.

Songfacts: Can you talk a bit about the song "Loser," because that one, I saw in your press release, is talking about how that's a little more in the Foo Fighters or Rise Against vein. Do you feel like that about that song?

Caleb: Yeah, I love a little more driving rock and roll vibe and that kind of music has always spoke to me. I guess it just rubs off when I'm writing music.

I love the song "Loser." I love that kind of straightforward rock and roll. It really speaks to me.

Songfacts: And then on the contrary you've got a song called "Rock Is Dead." It almost feels like in 2016, rock is coming back a little bit where in the last couple of years it's sort of faded away. Do you feel like that as well? What would that song be about?

Caleb: It's just about my love for rock and roll and how I don't know what I would be doing in my life without it. When there are rock festivals where there are sometimes 120,000 people and they're all sold out and they're epic, I think rock is alive and well, and hopefully it stays that way.

Songfacts: On this record, you played all the instruments yourself. Does that make it more challenging when you're getting a band together to go out on the road? Is it harder to get people on the same page?

Caleb: No, not really. We've been together as a band for long enough that everybody knows generally how the songs are going to end up. Me doing all the instruments and writing all the songs is just how I've started with Beartooth songs. That's how it was from the beginning, so I want the esthetic to stay the same. That's where I feel comfortable and where I feel like I can write the best shit: When I'm just alone doing my thing and I'm pretty stoked on it.

Songfacts: So as Beartooth, you've really only been doing that for two years, and it rose really fast. What would you tell somebody that's just starting out and is feeling the same sort of emotions trying to start a band?

Caleb: Just do what you love. Be honest in your music. Make music that you truly enjoy and it shows. There are a lot of bands that will just bullshit their way through it and I think it's pretty obvious when that happens.

People just want honest music. If you end up becoming a pretty big band and you have to tour for five or six years playing those songs, you better hope that you like them. Make sure you write stuff you really enjoy.

Songfacts: What's that like when you get out into those big festivals and you're opening for Slipknot? Describe the feeling of doing that and playing for that many people.

Caleb: It's hard to describe just the sheer volume of people. When you're looking at a sea of people there ready for a band, it is an unbelievable feeling. You've just got to seize the moment and put on the best show you can and make sure everybody's having a good time by the end of it.

Songfacts: I'm jumping around a bit here, but going back to the record, you worked a little bit with John Feldmann, who I'm a big fan of because of his work with The Used and bands like Good Charlotte. How did that collaboration come up?

Caleb: We've worked a lot together over many, many years and various projects. We did "In Between" on the first album together, and that was such a great song. I think he really brings a bit of brightness to a Beartooth record, so it's something that I want to keep around. He's just a blast to work with.

Songfacts: Which songs do you think he helped you change the most and he really put his stamp on?

Caleb: "Sick of Me" we wrote from scratch at his place. The last song on the record, "King of Anything," we did from scratch at his place. "Burnout" was a song that I'd had for a while, like an older song, and we kind of re-wrote the chorus and just doctored it up, and there you have it.

Songfacts: Another thing that changed on this record was the mixing. Your press release mentioned you weren't entirely happy with how your previous records were mixed. What changed this time?

Caleb: I personally mixed the first EP and record. The thing that I wanted after hearing somebody like David Bendeth's mixes is for it to be better. The problem is when you write the album, you record all the instruments, you edit the whole thing and then you have to mix it. You start to get out of touch with the songs and it becomes math. Like, how do I get the vocals louder? It's just trying to get everything to sit right. But working with somebody like Bendeth, he really brought clarity and just a whole new element to the whole thing. He's the man.

Songfacts: What do you think is going to happen with Beartooth? Obviously you're going to be touring a lot. Let's say over the next year, what do you think you'll be doing mostly?

Caleb: You hit the nail on the head: touring non-stop. A ton of tours. We're going to try and travel a bit more of the world if we can. We want to go everywhere that's possible to play a show and get it out to the whole world. Sounds like a plan.

Songfacts: In a digital age, people have more access to buy your CDs, download what they want. Do you see that being a good way of getting everything out there, even if you don't have radio singles or anything like that?

Caleb: I still love the radio. I think the radio is still an important thing in music. Even with our first record, being able to get involved with a lot of radio stations rekindled my love for the radio. Now when I'm home, I listen to the radio a lot more.

I think it's a really cool place, but there is a reality that this day and age is the digital era. Anybody can find anything they want, so I think it's a bit of both: the combination of hearing something on the radio and then people going out and finding the album and listening to the whole thing. I think it's a pretty perfect combo.

Songfacts: And when you're playing the shows, which of the new songs have resonated with people so far?

Caleb: We've only played "Aggressive," "Loser" and "Always Dead" off of the new record so far. Tomorrow we're going to be playing a few more but "Aggressive" is probably my favorite song that we've ever played live. I just have so much fun with it and it's awesome.

Songfacts: Do you think you're going to be spending any more time writing or do you need to relax on that part for a bit?

Caleb: I am going to take some serious time off from songwriting for a while.

Songfacts: Yeah, no doubt.

Caleb: I'm all good, man. I definitely burned myself out a little bit making this album, but I think it's worth it.

October 27, 2016. Find out more about Beartooth by visiting beartoothband.com.
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