Beartooth: "How do I describe the last two years? Holy. Shit."
Three years ago, Beartooth’s Caleb Shomo retired from music’s frontlines to live life behind the scenes. Now he’s back on the road 24/7, fronting a band on a collision course with greatness.
“How do I describe the last two years of my life? Holy. Shit.”
Life is pretty damn swell for Caleb Shomo right now. Swell, and fucking crazy. Up front and centre as singer and commander-in-chief of Beartooth – a band that has captured the hearts and minds of outcasts around the world in a manner not seen since Andy Biersack decided to pick up a microphone and a can of hairspray – he and his crew are riding a tsunami-sized wave of fanaticism and critical acclaim that has been rolling for more than two years now. Kicked off by their decent 2013 debut EP, Sick, and compounded by a rabidly received full-length, Disgusting, the following year, the hype machine currently carrying the Ohio natives around the world remains in fifth gear, and shows little sign of slowing down any time soon. This month, they’re retuning to the UK for the seventh time.
“Dude, I did not expect things to be going as fast as they are,” laughs the frontman. “We take weeks off here and there, but other than that we’re literally just going all the time – and it’s awesome! I don’t really care about if we’re ‘gaining success’ or whether people ‘know who I am’ or whatever, but I’m not naive; we wouldn’t be touring if people weren’t interested. So yeah, we’re doing well for ourselves.”
That statement’s backed up by the reactions the quintet have been getting at their live shows since Disgusting landed. For the uninitiated, Beartooth gigs fall somewhere between the lines of a thousand-strong group therapy session and a full-blown riot, and since we last caught up with Caleb at the tail-end of 2014, they’ve trekked across the US on ecstatically received Warped showings, supported Slipknot in the States, and are currently buddying up with Bring Me The Horizon across mainland Europe, meaning that they’ve literally been playing to hundreds of thousands. Given the small army they were already carrying behind them heading into this year, it bodes well for the future.
“Dude, I’m just happy that we get to do what we do, you know?” offers Caleb – seemingly hellbent on being the most modest man in music – of Beartooth’s impressive ascent. “Hopefully, people care because they know it’s honest music. There’s no bullshit behind it, no ‘ifs’, ‘whens’ and ‘buts’; Disgusting is exactly what I was feeling on the inside when I wrote those songs. If people feel what I was feeling at that time, that sucks in a way, because so much of the material on that record is so dark, and that’s what people are relating to, but it’s a reality. And it helped me deal with it.”
Filled with big, catchy riffs and choruses and the kind of raw, undiluted emotion that made Korn’s debut such a sharp and shocking kick to metal’s bloated, swaggering nuts, Disgusting has evidently struck a chord with a hell of a lot of young people, which perhaps makes it all the more surprising that it nearly didn’t come into being.
Three years ago, at just 19 years old, Caleb had quit rising metalcore mob Attack Attack! under a cloud of depression and anxiety – a battle he told Hammer last year he’ll “always be dealing with”, and that influenced the pure desperation sewn through Disgusting’s impassioned lyrics (‘When I tell you I’ll be fine/I still want you by my side/Please just try to read between the lines’ he cries on The Lines). While he posted new song I Have A Problem under the Beartooth moniker soon after leaving Attack Attack!, alongside the promise that he’d be playing shows at some point, the declaration that he’d be working first and foremost on simply writing and producing music suggested he would be stepping away from the spotlight for quite some time.
“Originally, I thought I was just gonna sit at home and produce records full-time,” he insists. “I thought I was done with touring, dude. I basically thought that stuff I put up was just gonna be some music that I wrote – it wasn’t gonna be, ‘Here’s the new project!’ or whatever. It was just, ‘Here’s some stuff, maybe I’ll do some shows here and there, do some touring two or three weeks out of the year if I get the itch to go back out on the road’, but other than that I just thought I was gonna be a music producer. I was happy to just be at home.”
Apparently on a one-man mission to cram in as many “dudes” as he can into every other sentence, Caleb is a disarmingly chilled individual, happy to talk at length about the journey that’s lead to this maddening yet satisfying point in his life, and evidently used to opening up about his feelings. Given the environment he found himself in post-Attack Attack!, he’s gone through a fair few extremes in getting there.