Beartooth is not yet a household name, but scan the pages of Alternative Press or the aisles of Hot Topic and they certainly appear to be a band on the precipice of something big within the time-honored confluence of teen angst and post-metal counter-culture. “Post” because Aggressive, Beartooth’s 2016 debut, is a motley hybrid of everything from hardcore and mall-punk, to industrial and emo pop. In the new millennium, nothing from the past is too sacred to be off-limits.
Vocalist Caleb Shomo is no stranger to this world. At 14, he found himself playing keyboards for the then nascent Attack Attack!, a band that became famous as the reluctant progenitors of “crabcore.” After a handful of personal setbacks, and reflecting on the lessons learned in a nationally recognized act, Shomo re-emerged with Beartooth, a project that was already in the making during his stint with Attack Attack!. Beartooth is Shomo all grown-up, but still spiritedly youthful in execution. To say that Aggressive has universal appeal is an understatement, as Beartooth has been invited to both Warped Tour and Rock on the Range as major breakout players. I recently spoke with Shomo about his origins, and Beartooth’s rising star in Columbus and beyond.
What’s the record that inspired you to play music and why?There were a lot of records, but one of the most important was AC/DC’s Back in Black. That, I think was the first record I went and bought with my own money, and it is one of the most bad ass rock n’ roll records of all time.
Fill in the blanks: In 10th grade, I was listening to ______ in ______ with ______ doing ______ and wishing I was ___. Well, in 10th grade I was on tour, so I’m just gonna say 9th grade! In 9th grade I was listening to Underoath in Study Hall with nobody doing nothing and was wishing I was rocking!
I was picking up my girlfriend from the John Glenn International Airport last week, and you guys are on a huge billboard welcoming arrivals to Columbus. How did that come about and how do you feel about that distinction and responsibility? I had no idea it was happening! That was purely our manager Thomas—he’s a maniac in the best way possible—and I just remember landing at the airport and seeing it and being blown away. Hopefully we hold up to our end of the bargain, and provide all the rock that Columbus needs.
When you welcome someone to Columbus, where’s the first place you send them? That’s tough. I’d say just go to the Short North and walk around, and try to stop in all the bars and restaurants and have a good time. Definitely a fun area.
Beartooth is a big departure from Attack Attack!. Most noticeably, it’s more melodic and poppy. Where does that influence come from? I joined Attack Attack! when I was 14 years old, and when you grow up your taste in music changes, and I think Beartooth was just a natural progression of what I like. Also, Beartooth is just me writing the music and not writing with other people so I have complete and creative control, so the sound is going to be a little more straightforward
Beartooth also feels more aggressive and pointed. Is there a certain message of rebellion you want to pass on to your listeners? The only message I really want to pass on is to press forward toward your goals, and do whatever you want to do and don’t let anybody or anything stop you. It sounds super generic, but it’s probably the most important thing to think about in your life.
You guys are regulars on the Warped Tour and are playing again this year. What’s the best part about a long day on that circuit? Warped Tour is the best summer you could ever have. Everybody is really cool, all the bands are rad, and all the people behind the scenes that run it are awesome. The day in general is: you wake up, you get some food, you go rock out, then you hang out and have some beers around a campfire with your friends; and you do it every night. It’s perfect.
What’s one national act and one local act you recommend people see this month in Columbus? I do not know the Columbus schedule of who is coming around, so I can’t really tell you, but a local act I’d say I love are Heavy Things. Their singer Will is my pal and he’s a great songwriter. National act? If Acceptance is coming around anywhere near here, go see them.
Beartooth is a big name at this year’s Rock on the Range, so: Kill, F*ck, Marry—Metallica, Soundgarden, Korn? I’d probably marry Metallica because they’re sweet; I’d f*ck Korn because they’re also really sweet; and no offense, but kill Soundgarden because I genuinely just don’t know much about Soundgarden. But they’re probably still sweet though.
Beartooth is playing this year’s Rock on the Range on Friday, May 19. Visit rockontherange.com for more information.