Shane Told of Silverstein has created a podcast called Lead Singer Syndrome. The show is about lead singers in the alternative music scene and their life and struggles as told by themselves. The first episode is an interview with Caleb Shomo of Beartooth, formerly Attack! Attack!, and was recorded during Warped Tour 2015. As a huge fan of Beartooth, I was excited to listen to Shomo's first hand account of his career and the path he's taken.
Shomo started touring when he was 15 as a keyboardist with the band Attack! Attack!, eventually making his way to lead singer. I never was really into A!A! and after listening to the interview, I realize I wasn't the only one (it seems comparable to how people feel about Black Veil Brides, you love them or hate them). Shomo talks about the depression and ADHD that he dealt with prior to being a musician and those same health issues coupled with eating disorders and alcoholism that surfaced fully while working in A!A!
I found Shomo very relatable. While I may not be a professional musician, I'm also in my early 20s and have dealt with many of these things, too: depression, ADHD, eating disorders, alcoholism, being with people who aren't good for me, etc. And to hear one of my favorite musicians talk about their personal experiences and considering how that translates to their music is almost cathartic. I feel like I really connect to Beartooth on a deeper level than before.
I was surprised to learn that all the recording for Beartooth's album was done by Shomo. He wrote all the lyrics and recorded all the instruments for the album Sick. The four other members are featured for touring and live music in general. Beartooth has been astonishingly well received and for that all to be based on the experiences and the talent of one person is incredible. Sick comes straight from Shomo's heart and is his truth. While musing over being a highly metaphorical writer, Shomo says in his songs he alludes to his struggles with Attack! Attack! and his depression and suicidal thoughts that come from them. The day after he wrote the song "I Have a Problem" he quit A!A!
Most people that have listened to the album would assume that he wrote a lot about alcoholism and substance abuse issues, but that was all metaphorical, although he has dealt with alcoholism. He says it's easier for people to understand and accept that musicians deal with substance abuse issues rather than mental issues such as depression, which can be argued about most people with mental health issues.
The primary focus in this podcast is Shomo's journey with Attack! Attack! which Shomo hasn't spoken very much about, so it's very illuminating for folks that have been following him for the last seven years. Originally Shomo was the keyboardist and transitioned to guitar then to lead (clean and unclean) vocalist. After being signed to Rise Records via myspace, A!A! began recording their first album shortly after. Someday Came Suddenly, A!A!'s first recorded album after being signed, sold approximately 150,000 in the first year of sales which came as a huge surprise to most people considering the amount of criticism they received.
Told is an excellent interviewer, and is able to ask very perceptive questions because he's been an active musician for well over a decade. He's able to relate to his guest on a very personal level. Told is very astute and able to draw out some wonderfully insightful observations and stories. New episodes are released every Monday for the foreseeable future and I plan on listening to every single one.
Hey! Remember how we used to have a podcast? Well, we have a podcast again! This episode, we talk about gifts, chat about upcoming events and interview author Isabel Allende!
Check it out!
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One way to view Todd Christensen’s very personal art installation “Observing the Withdrawn” (Art.i.fact, 930 Baca St., Santa Fe) is as a psychological game of hide-and-seek. The artist’s social anxieties inform this sprawling network of vintage decommissioned library textbooks, mostly stamped as "withdrawn” and shorn of their inner pages. Confessional journal entries and offbeat self-portraits riddle every spare surface.
By withdrawing into the shadows, Christensen steps back to observe society at large. Yet his work is so intimate: a spilling of secrets. As Christensen explained to me, the exhibit consists of standalone hard covers that he calls “pathways” to the more densely constructed patches of artwork that symbolize “groupings, social interactions, and conversation,” as if to contrast solitude with community.
How must it feel for such an introvert to have his first solo show in Santa Fe teeming with fearful memories from his childhood and raw musings on his inner turmoil? He says it does not bother him. I would argue that just as he removes his mask, he is hiding in plain sight.
According to the magazine Psychology Today, those who suffer from Social phobia (also known as Social Anxiety Disorder) deal with “overwhelming anxiety and excessive self-consciousness in everyday social situations.” What’s more, “People with social phobia have a persistent, intense, and chronic fear of being watched and judged by others and of being embarrassed or humiliated by their own actions.”
For extremely shy people, every social situation is an exercise in being more of an observer than a participant. It’s daily performance anxiety. One “self-monitors” with every move taken and every word spoken like an actor on a stage. When that shy person is an artist, whose job it is to tell some sort of truth from a somewhat removed perspective, the alienation from both self and others must become even more pronounced.
Christensen’s beholder witnesses a lot of despair. In one of his self-portraits, thickets of hair cover his face to the point of self-erasure. Then, there are even more negative portrayals of him with cactus pods sprouting out of his head—drawings that he hinted deal with a period of unhappiness and illness. As for his spacemen—mummified astronauts straight out of early science fiction—they are his “social alter egos.” The spacemen are the party people.
In his work, Christensen reckons with his most intimate, lonely side. There is a lot of self-analysis. In one panel, he lists the seven deadly sins as if outlining a possible scorecard. Also on display is a lot of talk of food and body image, including a humorous self-rebuke for hankering after “a big juicy pork chop” that he displays near a book with the title Let’s Eat Right to Keep Fit. He clearly battles his demons with a touch of grim lightheartedness. Two great quotes from his exhibit: “Pain is essential” and “Sink or sink.”
But just what is private and what is public? Even as he opens the curtains, Christensen disguises himself behind a more straightforward persona. For example, he scolds the viewer for feeding on his secrets. Peering up into the guts of the busier sections of his installation is like looking up a woman’s skirts. Furthermore, he has booby-trapped those interiors of his work with hidden rebukes such as: “My pain is my pain, my business is yours it seems, you peeping Tom.”
Author, actor and comedian Stephen Fry once said about his social anxiety: ‘It’s not all bad. Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.”
In Christensen’s work, we are blessed with all of his mad intensities.
Visit the installation at Art.i.fact now through January 4.
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Previous generations have screwed the current one. Let's try and break the cycle.