A few days before the release of The Sword's newest album Apocryphon, I caught up with guitarist Kyle Shutt to talk a bit about the album, recording with J. Robbins and the band's upcoming tour.
So the new album Apocryphon comes out on Tuesday.
My bad! [laughs]
Itís kind of strange because Taylor Swiftís new record comes out that week and I think her label or whatever really care about her getting the number one record so they wanted her to get an extra day of SoundScan, so everybody else is jumping on the same boat. So we all get an extra day of SoundScan numbers for our new record that comes out this week. Thanks Taylor!
I stand corrected. First off, tell us a little bit about how this writing process differed from Warp Riders which was more of a concept album.
The music was very much in Sword fashion, but the lyrical content was different. JD had been banging around the Warp Riders story in his brain for awhile so when he finally flushed it all out, thatís when he got the inspiration for that record. This time around, it was mainly different because we had a new drummer. We toured for a year and half after our old drummer quit. We went with a different guy and we just werenít really feeling like we wanted to write new songs with that lineup. So we split with Kevin last Fall, and we wrote with Jimmy [Vela]. That felt great, those six songs just poured out of us. We spent the rest of the Spring writing the other four songs and it all really came pretty natural. JD, all his lyrics are about different things and stuff weíve been through and other real life things and metaphors. It happened real fast. Whenever we get to the writing part, we usually turn the thoughts on and it all just comes pouring out. Iím really happy with how the record came out.
You spoke a bit about bringing Jimmy on board. This is the first album written with him. How did his inclusion in things aid or change the writing process or the final product?
Heís a real good drummer. Heís a different drummer. Heís very funky and very much what we needed, not like a big rock drum sound. It all comes naturally to us, when we write me and JD will come in with like half a song or a whole song and just bang it out. The three of us have been in this for about ten years now, weíve been doing it so long that we donít really talk about it. It just kind of happens. But when that happens you know youíre doing something right. You spend months and months pining over some part and you know you need to move on to something else. I guess to answer your question, he just jumped right in.
You guys went to J. Robbins this time around to record. First off, this is only the second out of four LPs that youíve used an outside producer. After working with Matt Bayles on Warp Riders, what prompted the decision to go ahead with another producer this time around?
We liked working with Bayles and with a producer in general. It takes the pressure off of what youíre doing in there and it just helps to have another set of ears in there to bounce questions and opinions off of people, and they might have some crazy ideas or whatever. I guess itís more important for us to work with a producer that is in bands or used to be in a band. This kind of lifestyle, not a lot of people understand what itís like to live this way. Itís really weird, I wouldnít do anything else, but itís a very bizarre lifestyle. It can be weird. We didnít want to be strangulated with some famous hot-shot dude thatís never spent a day in a van or a bus. J. Robbins was in Jawbox and such. He really knows how to deal with people like us. He did two of the last three Clutch records and that shows what heís capable of with a band like us. Heís done a lot of punk records and shiny guitar sounds, which is fine because I loved Jawbox back in the day and everything he did. But we knew he was also capable of recording a band as they sound and getting the best sound out of all the things we bring in there.
At what moment in the process did you guys know you had made the right decision?
We were in Baltimore for six weeks and I donít want to dog it too much because we have a lot of fans there, but that is a brutal city [laughs]. There was definitely some questions like, ĎCan we survive for five weeks here?í But in the end, to answer your question, the first day of actual tracking, we set up everything and tracked four songs. It was great, we knew like, this was going to be great and right. We evolved in the process and changed different parts. We were just picking stuff up. We knew it was right. He came to a show we played in Baltimore about a week before we loaded into his studio, so he knew what we sounded like live and the type of show that we bring. We just wanted to bring that intensity to the album. We knew we made the write move.
You said that you guys recorded this album in six weeks, how do you think that played into the final product?
Itís really just a work ethic kind of thing. If we really had a year to sit around the studio looking cool, [laughs] if we had the money to pay for that, sure sign me up. These days you gotta streamline and work hard and work fast. Kerry King for Slayer, he records everything for the Slayer records. All the guitars, all the bass, everything, and he does it in ten days. Those guys donít fuck around. Itís all a matter of how much time you have and how much money you want to keep out of the record budget. Itís kind of more of a business decision than a creative decision. I know thatís not a very romantic sounding answer.
How do you feel this album showcases some progression you guys have made as a band, in particular from the musicianship standpoint?
Weíre just going and we just keep trying to stay inspired by bands we tour with and keeping up with new music to get inspired by. I feel like when we started this band almost ten years ago, we were just kind of, me and JD we really liked Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. There wasnít really like a big rock band. At the time everybody was into punk bands, hardcore bands and stuff like that. We just saw a gap, and decided to fill it. We quit our bands and just started writing songs together. The first set we played had Age of Winters stuff in it, and that was two years before that even came out. People just immediately reacted to it and it ended up working out really well. By the time it had been two years and Age of Winters had come out, it was time to start writing another record and that was more collaborative and Warp Riders was even more collaborative. I think this is a culmination of all the things weíve done and all the things weíve been through, we really know what weíre doing now and I think we pulled it off this time.
Lyrically this album speaks draws inspiration from ancient texts that werenít supposed to be seen. How did those ideas translate into the songs youíre writing musically?
The way JD does it, is he always comes up with the lyrics last. The way we did it this time, was in a way so people could find their own meaning instead of writing a song about some sort of rigid fantasy thing. He wrote it a little more openly and I think people are going to find more of their own meanings in it than they were able to in our previous efforts.
Youíll be hitting the road here soon on a headlining run with Gypsyhawk, Eagle Claw and American Sharks, are you guys pretty anxious to play more of the new tracks with an extended set?
Yeah. We went out for a week before we starting recording and played four new songs a night. We like to do that just to try them out live and see if there is anything that needs to be changed last minute before you get in the studio and itís all set in stone. That went great, and I canít wait to get out there and play some new shit. so many people havenít heard it yet. It hasnít leaked. Pretty amazed by that. Itís either a good sign or a bad sign, I really donít know. [laughs] Weíll see what happens. Iím getting pretty tired of sitting around my house waiting for this thing to come out. Weíve been waiting on it for like three months.
I had heard that you will releasing the album on cassette as well. While certainly a re-emerging form of releasing music through some bands in the underground, why in particular did you guys choose to do it?
It was an idea we came up with with our old label Kemado. I really wanted to do a cassette of Age of Winters. I thought it was a cool idea and that people would really dig it because I canít tell you how many people I know that still have massive tape collections. Just sitting there collecting dust and stuff. While it doesnít necessarily sound the best or anything, itís something cool to have. Everybody listens to their iPods today anyways, so itís just a way to get people excited about having something to hold on to and to check. Because nine times out of ten they just go on the shelf anyways just to have in case they have a tape deck in their case or something. It was just an idea that we never followed through on but Razor & Tie was stoked on the idea. I mean, if people are willing to buy it, then make it. Itís that easy. And Razor & Tie has been awesome about that, everything weíve wanted they have given it to us. We want five-color vinyl. Okay. Picture disc. Okay. Well, we want a cassette. Well, okay. Weíre doing a giveaway the first week it comes out, the first thousand copies sold get a cassette. But the cassette will be available with a download card if thatís the way you wanna buy it.