I wasn’t there to see it, but this past weekend, Miami outfit Shroud Eater reportedly devastated their hometown with Kings Destroy, Junior Bruce and Hollow Leg. As the trio is also to embark on a week-long tour with Hollow Leg starting March 22, now seemed as appropriate a time as any to post the recent conversation I had with guitarist/vocalist Jeannie Saiz about the band and their self-released debut full-length, ThunderNoise.
Now, about that album. I said in my review (and, I think, rightly) the recording of drummer Felipe Torres was unfortunate. I hope, more than that, what carried across is that Shroud Eater, while still in the earlier stages of discovering who they want to be as songwriters, are nonetheless concocting a righteous brew of sludge aggression and bastardly groove. In fact, part of my reason for scheduling the phoner with Ms. Saiz at all was to give myself another chance to underscore that very point. So consider it underscored.
What’s most striking about ThunderNoise post-review is the immediacy of it. It’s such a cliché to talk about unsigned acts as “hungry,” and I don’t think what’s driving Shroud Eater at this point is aspirations for big-time commercial success, but the impatience (perhaps brought on by the reportedly extreme heat in which the album was recorded) of the material on ThunderNoise is palpable. I included a Bandcamp player at the end of the interview, which is short by the standards of some done around here, and I hope you’ll take the time to listen to at least some of the tracks on the album.
The purpose here is basically to introduce Shroud Eater to anyone who might be interested in what they’re doing, because I am. In the conversation that follows, Saiz discusses her writing process with bassist Janette Valentine, how Shroud Eater got together, what inspired her cover art for ThunderNoise, recording the album, and perhaps most importantly, where that badass title came from.
Complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.
Okay. First question. The big one: Who came up with the title ThunderNoise?
That was Janette, actually. Basically, I found a scrap of paper with words on it and she had scrawled “Thundernoise,” and I thought it was fucking awesome. It was kind of like, “Yeah, that works. Great.”
When was that? I could see that being a decision made before the album is even written.
Yeah, it was one of those situations. It wasn’t really something that was like… Obviously, we were planning to record the album anyway, but once that was discovered – I found the paper, she had forgotten about it, and I was like, “What’s this? It’s fucking gold.” You gotta use that.
And you did the art for the record as well, right?
You forgot to give yourself credit.
It doesn’t say it anywhere on the release.
Shit (laughs). You know, I had been doing the album art since probably about last May. I started working on it, and what I started working on was not even remotely close to what’s on there now. I went through so many thousands of variations and sketches, and I was really into this one idea for a long time, and I kept drawing it and referencing it, and I liked what it stood behind, and I just couldn’t get it right. You just kind of look at something and it doesn’t jive with me. I know it didn’t settle well. Everyone else was like, “Yeah, it’s great!” and I was like, “Egh. I don’t know.” You have to work instinctually.
How did you finally settle on the cover for it?
We basically had no more time, that was it. I guess at that point, I was like, “Alright.” I kind of started falling more into – I don’t know, skeletons are so overused, skulls and all that, but there’s something that’s grim and somber about it, and it ties into the name of the band and all that bullshit. Suddenly it became, I realized I wanted to somehow illustrate the idea of the word “thundernoise” and with that, some sort of dark force. We live in Florida, we’re in Miami, so there’s all these storms and I’m always seeing them come in from the beach. That imagery is really impactful to me.
Looking at it, I can see the storm stuff, definitely, with the background of the eyes in the clouds. It’s all very manic.
Exactly. I kind of envisioned it like some sort of monster/storm. A storm with a million eyes. Just stuff that I wrote down for myself as something to go with.
How did you guys decide on doing the limited run, DIY physical release?
It’s just really a matter of being practical (laughs). We’re not some huge band or anything. It takes long enough to sell 100 CDs, let alone if we print 1,000 or something. I was just thinking in the short run and see how things happen. We’ll take it from there. I’ll probably end up sending it out. I’m sure at some point we’re gonna run out, but not anytime soon, so I’m not worried about it just yet. It seemed like a cool way to get a small amount of CDs out there, and I personally like handmade cardboard-type of stuff anyway. I like to hold books, and I like having that experience, so I wanted it to convey that as well, and I thought doing it in a small run of 100 is the best way to go. At least for now.
Would you see yourself rereleasing it, or would you want to just record something else?
I don’t know. We’ve gotten such slag with this whole garbage-can-recording sound that I’m like, “Alright, that’s it. It’s gone. Let’s just move onto the next thing.” I think we’ll probably just go for another release.
Tell me about how the songs came together for the album. It seems like on some of the tracks, there are themes running through. Animals, hunting.
Yeah, definitely. I would say maybe six of the tracks are stuff that we had written, me and Janette, in the interim between our old band and this band now. Stuff that we had for a while that was brewing. We really liked the songs and didn’t want to put them to waste, and once we started jamming with Felipe, they changed organically from there. He plays a different style than what we were playing with before, so we kind of tweaked to accommodate that, a middle ground that still held the central integrity of the song, but had his style. That’s important. The newer stuff: Generally for songwriting, I’ll just jam with my acoustic at home, and I’ll come up with riffs. I always have tons of papers with random words and thoughts or whatever, and I just piece everything together from there and present it to everybody. Janette I’ll usually show at home, and we’ll just play it softly, figure it out from there, and then we’ll take it to band practice and play it with Felipe, and then once the three of us start playing, we just figure out, “Maybe this is too long,” or, “This part doesn’t make sense,” or “Let’s change this, let’s change that.” It’s collaborative, but I guess for the most part, I’ve been doing a lot of it.
Is there a difference for you, in your own writing process, between writing instrumentals and songs with lyrics?
It really just depends on whether or not I can sing and play the riff at the same time. If I can’t sing it and play it, it’s an instrumental. Everything I’ve written has had lyrics, but some stuff I just can’t pull it off. I’m more of a guitar player anyway. This whole singing thing is new for me. Now it’s two years old, so whatever. It’s relatively new for me. So I’m not really too keen on singing all throughout a song or whatever. To me, I get a break (laughs), which is nice, and I like instrumentals anyway. It lets the mind wander a little bit more.
Keeps the record from getting redundant too. I noticed in listening that a lot of the instrumentals are more out there structurally.
Yeah, definitely. Before we played “Oubliette,” for example, I think 95 percent of the song is in 5/4, an odd time signature. That gets tricky to play and sing at the same time for me. It definitely gives us a little bit more room to get a little more technical or just have more fun with it, jam out. We usually get stoned and let it happen from there (laughs).
I’ve heard of that approach, yeah.
Seems to work sometimes (laughs).
And what about the lyrics? You mentioned six songs had those themes. Was that just what was on the piece of paper you grabbed?
Pretty much. Some stuff had themes, I guess. Sometimes I name a song before I write lyrics or before I even have a song. That’s the theme, whatever it is, and I try to think about and develop it from there. As far as the lyrics, it’s a combination of scraps and random thoughts and stories, but still trying to relay my own personal experiences and things that I go through and feel or whatever, taken to a more universal approach. I like mythology and stuff like that. Joseph Campbell. He’s the man.
Aside from the general sound and the differences recording-wise, how do you feel ThunderNoise is different from the EP?
The EP was just a way to get a couple songs out there and get people to listen to us, or at least get our name out there and whatever. That was more of that. The album, I would say, is a complete piece. What we would have liked to have put out, but didn’t have the time or the resources or whatever.
How long were you in the studio for it?
It was probably about a month that we were in there, mostly just really late at night when we all got off of work, and maybe a couple of weekend days. It was really hot. We recorded in July, and it’s pretty insanely hot down here at that time, and the warehouse that we recorded in – our friends built a studio room and a control room and all that bullshit – but they had this one tiny A/C, and we had to turn it off because you could pick up some of the sound from it on the mics. So it was being inside a room within a room within a room, and it was just ridiculously hot, and breathing each other’s oxygen, it was pretty intense. I might have gotten kicked out of the bass-tracking sessions, you know… (laughs). It was pretty intense. But it was definitely good, and we still had fun with it. Sometimes you gotta suffer for your art (laughs), and it was definitely one of those situations.
Wait a second. You might have gotten kicked out of the bass-tracking sessions?
Yeah. You know (laughs). It could have happened, possibly. I might have had to sit outside, have a few cigarettes, just leave. Like I said, we were all breathing each other’s air. Pretty hot. Things happen when people are put into intense temperatures like that.
What are you guys going to do show-wise?
In March we’re going out with Hollow Leg, and we’re going to go up through Atlanta and Louisiana. We’re really excited about that because Hollow Leg is fuckin’ awesome and they’re really good friends, so it’s going to be a blast.
Are you working on new songs too?
We have one song that’s new that’s pretty much wrapped up. We have a couple other things that have been brewing. After March, we’re just gonna chill out for a bit and work on writing some new songs. We wanted to put out maybe a five-song EP in the next year. That’s our goal or whatever, so we’re gonna try and focus on that and see if we can get some new songs written and wrapped up and hopefully put something else out there. It builds from there. There’s so many bands. It’s good. I don’t want to say there’s an over-saturation or anything, but there’s a lot of people out there doing a lot of great shit, so all you can do is keep going (laughs).Florida, Miami, Shroud Eater, Unsigned bands