It’s risky business trying to fit North Carolina’s favourite sons He Is Legend into a box. As their latest album few shows, the band refuses to stay in one spot long enough, hyperactively jumping from low and lazy southern hardcore to intense moments of meticulous crescendo.
The record is not for the sonically conservative. Riffs are downright dangerous, beats are threatening and the band show little regard for regulatory time signatures. That said, if you appreciate the unpredictable, dark and confronting, well…you have an album you really need to get onto.
To unfurl the many layers of few, we spoke with vocalist Schuylar Croom.
The Neversphere: You were initially hesitant about entering into the Crowdfunding game for few, now that you’re on the other side of the process, how did you find it?
Schuylar: It was great. Obviously there were some speed bumps but I think this were only due to the fact we dove off blind into doing this. We did a lot of research into trying to figure out the best ways to do it but obviously, coming into it blind, we did our best as musicians who I wouldn’t call businessmen by any stretch of the imagination. We were meticulous as to where the money would go and tried to really make a budget that made sense to what we did on the last album.
I think for a band with a cult following in any capacity, it’s a rewarding thing to do. Your fans feel like they’re apart of it which made it more important to us in the long run because we were able to give them a taste of what was going on from the beginning. Obviously some of the things we over looked were how to make a worldwide release, things that jumped out at us after a while.
Obviously it takes a lot of work but if you have the wherewithal and the work ethic, I think crowdfunding is a really new, interesting way to involve your fans in the making of an album. It’s kind of a one-time thing…but we can’t say enough about how well it turned out. The music we produced, ultimately took on a much larger importance in our eyes at the end of the day.
The Neversphere: There’s so many layers to the album, the ebb and flow between Air Raid and The Garden is extreme. What’s it like to listen back to it now; are there moments within the album that you weren’t even aware you created?
Schuylar: Personally, that’s probably more of a question for [Bassist] Matty Williams but I tend to cringe at my own voice a lot but that’s only because I have that ‘you’re your own worst critic’ type mentality. I love the album; I think it’s the best thing we’ve done in ages but I can’t say I’ve given it any full-on spins more than five times on my own. But yeah, I do hear things that happened in the studio and I’m like ‘Well, yeah, that’s cool.’
It’s such a personal album for me and the boys. Listening back to it, it brings back a lot of dark memories for me. I put myself in a dark spot to write lyrics and do vocals. You kind of have you put yourself in a position where you’re watching this fake crowd in your head, and you fill that crowd up with friends, family and people who are alive or not, so it’s very personal. So, many for the strings, I’m sure if you asked Adam [Tanbouz, Guitar], Matt of Denis [Desloge, Guitar] they have that in their own way, but for me personally, I think I went into it with a clear mind and ended up making myself crazy in this cabin that we stayed at.
I rewrote, nixed somethings, changed somethings…I’m very proud of this record but I’m not the kind of person to go back and jam the record just to hear it.
The Neversphere: So, you’re not Kanye, basically…
Schuylar: Pfft. Yeah, I mean who is? Kanye isn’t even Kanye. Though I do like The Life Of Pablo, that was my number one record last year. I like Kanye, I’m not gonna hate on anything. We really get down with hip hop, a lot. We’re up on all of it, real early; we get up on what’s dropped pretty quickly.
The Neversphere: In songs like The Garden you can hear a big hip hop influence.
Schuylar: That’s awesome to hear. I won’t hate on Kanye because I understand the character he created. Fade is such a cool song on that album. It’s got a dark wave, dance, kind of Daft Punk vibe that I love. We jam those records; the new Drake, the new Kendrick, we’re on that shit the day it drops. We don’t mess around. We’re from the south, y’know? We can’t be slipping on those things.
The Neversphere: Do you listen to more hip hop than you do stuff from, I guess ‘your world’?
Schuylar: Oh absolutely. 95% of the music that we’re playing in our van is trap/hip hop. Future, Yung Thug…we stay really heavy on that. We were raised in the south, I was on the drum line my whole life; I was raised as a small black child. I was in marching band, playing drums with all my friends on the weekend, that’s just what we did. It’s easy for us to relate to because if we’re being honest, Hip Hop is the most punk rock shit out there at the moment.
They’re doing it anti-establishment, for themselves, making 100% of their dough, and they’re balling on purpose. They’re spending money cos they got it. You don’t make money in rock n’ roll. Hip hop is where you make money right now so it’s admirable to see these young dudes killing the game. Especially people like Kendrick, who’s not only a poet…I would relate him to more of a Jack Kerouac to more of a Kanye West. He’s speaking a truth, for his people, to his people and telling them to be positive.
On Kendrick’s new album where he says things like “I’m a Israelite, don’t call me Black no mo“…those things are truths that are being said, you’re not allowed to do that in rock n’ roll. You have to have some sort of veil to what you’re saying. Hip hop is the only music that can really be so forward and upfront.
The Neversphere: The message never has as much impact in rock if you just lay it out, it usually has to be woven into some greater metaphor, usually within a developing narrative.
Schuylar: I like being a storyteller as a lyricist in a band. My favourite artists are storytellers like Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and people who really went for it. I’m lucky enough to have musicians in my band that leave me a blank slate to create imagery and paint a picture to this moody, dark, music. It shows their talents before mine.
It’s an interesting situation right now because the world is changing. We’re all seeing it. As of now, we realise that there’s a lot of fucked up things going on, and what do you do with that? You don’t have to be political, but you should get your point across, speak your mind and not hide that things are terrible. That’s why art exists, right? To give people a release.
For us, the most political we’ve ever been was Air Raid. I think that all came from somewhere, you can’t hide that. I think rock n roll is turning a corner right now. Maybe, five, six years ago when EDM started taking control, you’d see people dancing harder at a Skrillex show than they’d mosh at a Metallica show; we noticed that and that’s why we, and I think all bands had to back up, re-group and think…Maybe now is the time that bands are going to shine.
The Neversphere: That’s an interesting point, that would have been around the 2009 ear when dubstep came in, and the rock scene was internationally bloated. Did these things drive you guys to the hiatus?
Schuylar: That’s exactly why there was a hiatus. We had to take a break because that was that time. That was when EDM was the hottest shit. Everybody was banding to Steve Aoki and that was rock n’ roll. That was punk rock, or whatever at that point in time. For us, we were being pigeonholed to ‘hardcore’ – whatever that means – so it took a moment for us to sit there and think wait, this is wrong, we need to calm down for a second and realise that shit is just not working right now. There’s over saturation of bands – everybody’ sin a fucking band, everybody’s in tour.
Not only are you playing these shows but the kids aren’t interested. They want those 808 sounds, or they want something like Girltalk. Everybody thought it was the end for us. We all knew we were going to play music together we just knew it couldn’t be there. So, when we had songs written, and started recording for Heavy Fruit, we toured for the better part of two and a half years. It was the same old grind, but therein lies the rub, we’re out working again because we took time to recognises we had a talent that couldn’t be stopped. We found this wave we were riding on and it kind of just took over, or as we say, ridin’ the snake…just seeing where it takes us.
The Neversphere: When will the snake be bringing you guys Down Under for an Australian tour?
Schuylar: When you bring us! We’re just waiting for the call. I’m damn near positive that things are going to shake loose this year for us. We can’t say enough about Australia. You guys have treated us so well every time we’ve come over…
We can’t wait to get back, it’s just a matter of time for sure.