Musicscan: Did the feedback and the reactions on Reach Beyond The Sun already meet your expectations? What has it been like so far? What do people notice?
Shai Hulud: My hopes and expectations were surpassed and exceeded. Everything I have seen has been overwhelmingly positive. I do take that with a grain of salt, however, because I stick to Shai Hulud's small, isolated corner of the internet. Very few "haters" or "trolls" make their way to our corner, thankfully, so of course the feedback I've seen has been very complimentary. It's nice and comfortable here in my own online backyard.
People seem to be noticing and commenting on the high energy of the song, and making claims that it sounds fresh and new, but very clearly Shai Hulud. That's comforting to hear. Also, the harmonized breakdown seems do be getting some attention, which is awesome. I really love that part, myself. It's nice to see others appreciating it as well. The lyrics have also garnered some kind comments, and that means just as much, if not more, than comments about the music. We, as a band, love when we know our thoughts and feelings have been taken in and processed, and if they make any type of positive impact, that's truly priceless.
Musicscan: Due to the involvement of Chad Gilbert i guess people will compare Reach Beyond The Sun mostly to Hearts Once Nourished… - Out of your view: Is this a fair comparison, and what is different between those two records (except date of origin ;-)?
Shai Hulud: Nice question! I think it's a fair comparison - or I should say I understand the comparison, anyway. The main difference in the two, in a nutshell, is knowledge and maturity. We took generally the same approach in writing the two: Hearts Once Nourished was not over-thought in the least (truthfully, a lot of it was a thoughtless rush job), and we made a very conscious decision not to over-think Reach Beyond The Sun too much - more so to let things flow naturally, and keep the energy raw, organic, and visceral. The two are very similar in that aspect. Then you add the years of experience of song-writing and structuring (not that we really know any better now), and maturation in both our "craft" and personalities, and the result is simply a finer product cut from the same original cloth. At least I like to think so.
Musicscan: I was very impressed of the emotional depth of the new record. Reach Beyond The Sun goes deeper again and seems to have a more intuitional songwriting again. Would you agree, and what caused this development?
Shai Hulud: Thanks so much for your kind words. Yes, I would agree with that assessment. After Hearts Once Nourished, speaking for myself, I had a musical awakening - I came to understand the definition of true melody, and how to work with harmonization to create emotion. That Within Blood Ill-tempered was written in the wake of those realizations which is why it's a more matured album than it's predecessor. On Misanthropy Pure we took that knowledge and aimed to make the harshest, most pissed off Shai Hulud album to date. In doing so everything was deliberately made darker and more technical in hope of achieving a "smarter" and angrier album. Though I believe we accomplished that mission, the songs on Ms. Pure were sapped of a lot of their original essence; the conscious motions taken to create "intelligence" and intensify anger replaced the inherent emotion. Shai Hulud is more of a feeling band than a thinking band, and on Misanthropy Pure thought overshadowed emotion.
Answering your question directly, that's what caused this development. Understanding what we had done versus what we've always meant to be. Reach Beyond The Sun was left more to intuition and instinct, probably more than I am comfortable with, but the end exult speaks for itself. I have re-learned that often times, less IS more, and over-thinking has the potential to leave a song emotionally underwhelming. For Shai Hulud, emotion is paramount.
All the above stated, I do need to state that I do love Misanthropy Pure. It truly is an incredibly pissed off album.
Musicscan: And Reach Beyond The Sun seems far more straightforward than Misanthropy Pure was. Why did you go this way for the new album?
Shai Hulud: For the same reason as I stated above. We simply refused to over-think or over-write Reach Beyond The Sun. After Misanthropy Pure came out, our bass player, Mad Matt Fletcher made sure he shared how he felt about the approach he wanted us to take on the next album, this more organic, intuitive approach. I can admit, when left to my own devices, I can be easily temped to over-complicate our songs to try to simply make them sound different than what other bands are doing. I have proven in the past to sometimes take that idea too far. Both Fletcher and Chad wanted the opposite, and we met at a compromise that satisfied all of our goals for this newest record.
Musicscan: You made an album that displays diversity, honesty and true character. It seems like Reach Beyond The Sun is a whole new start for you guys while staying true to the sound Shai Hulud became known for with Hearts Once Nourished… - Did you feel more change once you hit the studio, or did everything come to you while writing for the album?
Shai Hulud: Most of the riffs and the primary approach was decided prior to entering the studio. Like I mentioned above, the approach to this album was to be unpredictable and progressive, but emotional first and foremost - to maintain that organic aspect we sapped from the songs on Misanthropy Pure. This pleased Chad, as his priority was to also keep us focused in this realm.
Musicscan: A lot of bands change their core sound over time, but much to your credit Shai Hulud has kept the sound your fans have grown to love. Concerning the new album – has it been hard to stay true to that sound or do you guys just play what feels right again? Looking back Misanthropy Pure seemed far more planned and less intuitive...
Shai Hulud: I don't believe the core of our sound, or our original intention has ever changed, sometimes it just became misdirected in making attempts to progress the songs further, and sometimes too far. If the songs on Misanthropy Pure were left mostly how they were initially written, before so many nuances and details were added, I think the album would sound less calculated than it does.
So, no, it's not hard to stay true to what we feel is our sound. That comes naturally. Speaking for myself, what I find difficult is fighting the instinct to make things more progressive and less predictable, to let the genuine essences of the songs take flight.
Musicscan: What type of mood/feeling are you trying to convey sonically with Reach Beyond The Sun?
Shai Hulud: Regarding it's sound and overall production we wanted a less produced sound, and again, to overuse the word, keeping it sonically organic was an intended focus.
Emotionally, within the songs on Reach Beyond we meant convey many different moods: Sadness to rage, glory to violence, and everything in between. As always, like within each of us, the songs display various, contradictory thoughts and emotions.
Musicscan: Words like energy-sapping or cathartic are used a lot when people describe what Shai Hulud are doing. Is that what you're going for? What do the terms mean to you, and what are the feelings you get out of writing and playing the songs?
Shai Hulud: We never go for energy-sapping, at least not intentionally. Cathartic, always. Catharsis, as I understand it, can not be misinterpreted, meaning attaining relief through expressing strong emotion.
"Energy-sapping" could have a negative connotation to it. We do not have the goal of being "energy-sapping," rather, emotionally intense - being so heavy in content that one is left exhausted, emotionally. Depleted. We have sometimes gone for that in a specific song, or a particular part of a song. I prefer "emotionally intense" to "energy-sapping," as I do believe they are two separate experiences.
In writing you often experience a creative "high." when something s coming along really well and there are plenty of ideas to sift through, all of which have varying degrees of satisfying results. That's when things go well. Writing also invariably comes with a great amount of frustration. Ultimately, the writing and creative thinking is probably what excites me most.
Playing the songs is more often than not is pure catharsis. Especially when the crowd is interacting and responding. That's easily one of my favorite life experiences.
Musicscan: Are there any songs on Reach Beyond The Sun that stand out in your mind, or songs that have the most value or inner meaning to you?
Shai Hulud: There are always songs on every album that stand out to you more than others, though band members rarely like to list them - you know, the concept of 'they are all my children.' That acknowledged, three of the standout songs on the album for me are "I, Saturnine," "Reach Beyond The Sun," and "To Suffer Fools," but I should clarify that I do indeed love all the songs. And what's really cool is that people who have heard the album all come back to me with different favorite songs. That I love because it's not an obvious choice as to certain songs being better than others. I feel a sense of accomplishment in that.
Speaking of inner-meaning, that would relate more to the lyrics than music. The first song that comes to mind with deeper inner-meaning would be "The Mean Spirits, Breathing," a song inspired by the death of one of Shai Hulud's biggest supporters, and one of our best friends, Daniel Bobis. That song really had no lyrical direction until we learned of his death. Daniel's life versus others' lives, our feelings about him compared to our feelings about a lot of other people, and our desire to have him back even for one more moment became the driving force of the song. Ironically, Daniel's death gave life to "The Mean Spirits, Breathing."
I'd gladly relinquish the song to have Danny back.
Musicscan: Having all the former Shai Hulud singer on the album again: I was wondering if the process of creating the new album brought back any specific memories? What moments in the bands history for you sum up the whole experience of Shai Hulud?
Shai Hulud: I can't say creating this album brought back any specific memories of working with prior vocalists. Hearing all their voices come together did make me smile, however. We all had intense experiences together, both positive and negative, but upon hearing everyone's guest spot I felt nothing but a warm nostalgic feeling. Having everyone together on "Medicine To The Dead" is fundamentally awesome, and in others ways, important and rewarding.
The moments that sum up everything that Shai Hulud has ever intended to be are any of the shows where the entire crowd is passionately screaming every word, to the point of being brought to tears. We're fortunate to have had many of those shows, it would be impossible to pick just one. Some were big, some were small, but the underlying emotion is always the same: the songs mean more than anything, they're bigger than any of the members of the band, and the audience becomes one within them, united with the players, a beautiful moment of song and passion. Those shows sum up our entirety, no question. That is the essence of who we are and why we are.
Musicscan: What type of success did you hope to gain with Reach Beyond The Sun?
Shai Hulud: Any type of success would be nice (Ha!). Ultimately, a gratifying success would simply be to have crowds embrace these new songs, share them with us entirely, sincerely through the power of music, and focus less on who we have singing.
We'd also be thrilled for anyone who supports Shai Hulud to purchase the album whether digitally or physically, especially anyone who likes the album. Believe it or not, buying the album does help the bands in more ways than one. We thank you advance for supporting us, and allowing us to continue.
Musicscan: And what do you expect to be Beyond The Sun?
Shai Hulud: In context of the song, hope. Hope, and positive individual change.
Musicscan: Will there be the chance to see Shai Hulud playing live with Chad Gilbert in Europe?
Shai Hulud: There's always a chance. Unfortunately, it's difficult to speculate any further than that.
Musicscan: Two last questions:
1st one: There are so many guests on the album: What is the story behind this? How did it happen? ,-)
Shai Hulud: We've always loved having friends and guests contribute to the album - it adds a colorful dynamic, and it's always great fun for everyone involved, including the listener.
Chad, himself, brought in the Terror guys and Luis from Alpha & Omega. Living in California, he's close friends with all of them. One night they all came in and handled most of the gang vocals, as well as grabbing a few solo guest spots. They all killed, and the gang vocals on this album are strongest we've ever had.
Having all the former officially recorded Shai Hulud vocalists come together had been an idea since Misanthropy Pure. Damien, Geert, and Matt were contacted well over two years ago, before the album was even completely written, about contributing a featured guest vocal spot. Every one of them emphatically agreed, and had just waited for us to get to the point where they could lay their vocals down. The fact they're all featured in "Medicine" is one of my favorite aspects of the record.
I also brought in Jay Pepito of Reign Supreme and John Vigil of The Ghost Inside because above all they have incredible voices. After that, I also have great respect for them both as people. I love how they think, what they care about, and what they have to say. Their bands have great merit, and having them agree to be on our album was an honor for us. We've been friends for some time now, and they were also both asked over a year ago about joining us on the record. They signed on immediately and patiently waited to finally see things through.
You may have already heard Jay's spot in "A Human Failing" already. He tore into that track with a ferocity we couldn't have anticipated. It gives me chills every time I hear it.
John has featured spots throughout our song "If A Mountain Be My Obstacle." The depth of his voice is astounding, and it fit perfectly. He had a specific vocal approach in mind, one he said he actually learned from listening to Shai Hulud, and he nailed it flawlessly. He sounded so good, we had him do scattered vocal parts throughout. I'm sure people will love John's contributions to the song. We sure do.
Musicscan: 2nd one: Speaking about the feeling of community: Do you feel that the sense of unity in hardcore is still as strong as it was a decade ago? A lot of bands claim to not be interested in the scene as such anymore. Do you still stick to that scene or the ideals?
Shai Hulud: I do sense a strong feeling a community in modern Hardcore, but it's more elite and exclusionary now. The current "communities' are divisive, not conducive to maintaining any type of unified scene. It's almost like a tacit (and sometimes not so tacit) civil war of sorts, factions of Hardcore at odds with other factions for no merited reason. It's not the community I felt when I was younger, when if you just knew someone who was also into Hardcore, you automatically had a bond, a kinship. Maybe it's because Hardcore has grown larger these days, but now just because two people are both into Hardcore, you could still very easily be divided, and sometimes resentfully so.
Myself, I have never been interested in any "scene." I am interested in ideas, integrity, and music. I don't give a shit about being cool or accepted. I'll never take any steps to gain anyone's approval, and will certainly never adopt an aloof, macho attitude or stop caring just to fit in with any certain sect that lays claims to the entire community. I've existed on the fringes in my personal life my entire life. Now, my band follows suit existing on the fringes of the current Hardcore scene. Proudly. The fringes are becoming more populated every year. As it always does, the tide will soon change, and the spirit of compassionate Hardcore blazed by bands like 7 Seconds, Dead Kennedys, Youth Of Today, Uniform Choice, Chain Of Strength, Inside Out, Burn, and countless others will return to the forefront. It's only a matter of time.