The Sword – Riders on the Storm
By: David E. Gehlke
One of the first bands to help usher in the now wishy-washy retro rock/metal sound, Austin, Texas’s The Sword apparently needed to take a few steps back before moving forward for the release of their fourth album, Apocryphon. Reason being, after the release of 2010’s Warp Riders, long-time drummer Trivett Wingo bolted a few days after the album’s release, thus sidelining the band from their scheduled tour dates. Not helping matters was subpar band management, who were apparently too lazy (or simply unwilling) to help the band unleash the massive concept behind Warp Riders in comic book form, losing out on a big cross-promotional chance. Exit Wingo, exit management.
New drummer Santiago “Jimmy” Vela, along with new label Razor & Tie have breathed new life into The Sword, and it’s quite evident the band is enjoying their new lease on life with Apocryphon. It’s a more grounded and relevant body of work than its predecessor, essentially capturing the unified spirit of their debut, Age of Winters. Guitarist Kyle Shutt was more than happy to bask in the glow of Apocryphon with Blistering, and among other topics, we waxed on the band’s once-in-a-lifetime stint as tour support for Metallica. Here’s what went down between the good-natured Shutt and Blistering…
Blistering.com: Did Trivett’s departure prompt any sort of re-evaluation within the band? Since 2004/2005, you have been going non-stop…
Kyle Shutt: It forced us to do things differently, yes. It was time to take stock and do inventory and those kind of things and clean out the garbage and everything. So much is different now – we fired our assbag of a manager, we got an awesome new manager, got a new record label, got a new drummer, although we had an interim drummer that helped us get back on the road for a while. We went hardcore on a lot of tour dates; it took us six months to make up everything we cancelled. It really set us back. There wasn’t a lot of time off, we had to immediately get back on the road and make up everything. It becomes a job at a certain point – if you’re sitting around your house and not doing anything, you’re not making any money.
I guess about a year ago, we knew we probably weren’t going to make an album with the interim guy we had. We thought if we’re going to do this Kyuss tour, the new guy has to be real slick before we go in and start writing an album. We got Jimmy in, did the Kyuss, and in January, we wrote six new songs and it started to flow out. By the time we had booked to play the Orion fest in Atlantic City, the whole record was done. We did what we normally do before we record – we booked a whole week of small shows to test them live and changes things at the last minute that we may not like. We banged it out in six weeks in Baltimore. It all worked pretty fast.
Blistering.com: For Warp Riders, you had all of these great plans for it, like a comic book and more of a visual interpretation behind the concept. Was it the fault of your former management for not seeing those ideas through?
Shutt: It was just…people are only going to work as hard as they can [to] get away with sometimes. People will take the path of least resistance and doing an undertaking like making the comic book was going to be massively expensive. I think the guys didn’t want to do any work that would be actual “work.” It never saw the light of day and it breaks my heart. We’re all huge comic book nerds and we really wanted to see it happen with the story. Maybe it will happen one day. We’re not pulling down big bucks, so it’s hard to gauge how many people would buy the thing. It is a music business so there’s this aspect to it where you have to weigh the benefits versus the cost.
Blistering.com: Back to what we started with: You’re on a new label with Razor & Tie, and you have a new drummer with Jimmy. So did this signal a new beginning for The Sword?
Shutt: Yeah. It feels great. We needed a fresh start. We’ve been doing this for almost ten years and it’s wild to think about it. We’ve gone literally, through so much and learned so much from every mistake along the way. We’ve had so much help from people bigger than us. We’ve worked hard and everything and we know what’s up as far as the music we wrote, but we’ve had a whole lot of help and a whole lot of luck, so we’re totally blessed.
Blistering.com: Warp Riders had a clean sound, at least by The Sword’s standards. With Apocryphon, you’re back to having that rough and natural sound. Was that a point of emphasis when recording the new album?
Shutt: I think so. It wasn’t like we don’t like Warp Riders, it’s just how Matt Bayles records things. I’m happy with the way it came out, especially for the subject matter…it lends itself to a super-clean sound. With this one…when we made Warp Riders, we had just gotten off tour with Metallica, Machine Head, Down, Lamb of God, and Fear Factory; these really fucking gnarly metal bands and you can only hear so many loud guitars without sounding crazy. So we wanted to make a light-sounding album instead of this super-heavy, screaming in your face album [laughs]. On the flipside of it, Trivett quitting five days after it came out and having to overhaul the entire operation and just slaving over the business, it really soured our good time. I think that’s reflected in Apocryphon. It’s dirtier; it’s meaner than anything we’ve put out before. We wanted to make a record how we sound in a club.
Blistering.com: James [Robbins, producer] has done a lot of stuff with Clutch, who are more raw and ragged than you. Still, it makes sense for you to work with him.
Shutt: James is tight, man. He’s just the sweetest guy you’ll ever meet. He’s got such a wide range of knowledge. He’s been there and done that; he was playing on a punk rock tour in 1987. He’s been around and has the right attitude. He knows what we’re going for without us having to say it. That’s how we operate – we don’t tend to talk about things or discuss how we want it to sound. We just know. He has that vibe too – he knows what we want and does it.