Interview: He Is Legend’s Schuylar Croom on “White Bat”, the band’s longevity and the last year for the band
In times like these, I’m really grateful I made it a point to go to as many shows as I could, speak to a lot of really great bands in the early part of 2020! Considering in Boston June is the earliest we think we could see shows right now, with most venues closing their doors and canceling or postponing any shows up until then, it makes this time a little more palatable. Back in late February, I headed out to a favorite venue in town, Once, to sit down with the frontman of long time metal act He Is Legend, Schuylar Croom, about a week into their tour with UK’s While She Sleeps. On the docket was the last few months of touring for the band, their latest release “White Bat”, and a little bit of a look into the way the band has maintained their career longevity. While I’m sure Covid-19 threw a wrench in their touring plans as it did for the majority of touring musicians, let this interview potentially hold you over until the band is able to make their return to the road.
You did the fall tour with Atreyu and Whitechapel and you’re about a week into this tour with “White Bat” only coming out in June. Now you’re opening for While She Sleeps, they’ve toured the US but I believe that it’s their first headlining run. How have these tours been going in particular?
Schuylar Croom: I think with Atreyu, we knew kind of what to expect. We’ve toured with them before, we’re all really good friends, so that was nice. And with this tour, it’s a little different. It’s different places. Some of these places we’ve never even played before and it’s been fun. The turnouts are crazy and all the bands are really great and fun to watch. So we’re happy.
The turnouts have been good so far. You’ve been out here doing it for quite a few years, I’m sure people are really coming out.
Yeah, they’ve been really good shows. We’re having a really good time.
Then you’ve been doing the band so long. Obviously there was a break of several years but you guys have been back full force for almost ten years now.
For a while yeah.
Since 2010 I think in looking at it. So you’ve put out so many records, maybe looking at the newest record, “White Bat”, do you feel that the writing process still changes? I know there’s one unoriginal member in the band but he’s been in the band since 2016.
Obviously Adam and Matt and I are the core members that have been there. I feel like Jesse’s been there just as long in spirit. I mean he listened to every album that was put out even though he was like six when they came out. That’s not true, close though! He’s my fastest friend, I’ve never felt more at home with someone, in tune with someone, and I love watching him play drums. It’s amazing. I’m happy about the band and that’s all it really takes whether you have new members or the same old members. We act like brothers, we live like brothers, it’s one of those things. We feel very kindred spiritually.
Then I’m sure he was writing with you guys before but do you feel that there’s still something that changes in the writing process or is it a pretty steady rhythm that you guys have kind of gotten into?
No, I mean you have three different modes or different angles to look at it by. When we write, the format is always the same as far as Adam coming in with these ideas and fleshing them out with Jesse. Then teaching Matt what he thinks it is, and Matt tweaks it and everybody works together on the skeleton. Then we get into the studio and the sound goes from this garage rock vibe to the way we normally produce records. Then I’m given the opportunity to re-work my ideas after hearing the final product and taking that into the studio and working with Mitch to kind of create these lyrical like little Grimm’s fairy tales kind of. But that’s been our process since day one. Drums, guitars and then vocals, that’s when everything is said and done. We’ve never really changed that format. We like the music we make.
Then I’ve said it earlier but you started the band in 2003, I know unfortunately you lost a member, but All That Remains in losing a member, they were a unit up until that point, despite losing him in such a tragic way.
Yeah, that was crazy.
It was insane. I interviewed the guy that filled in for him, Jason Richardson, from Chelsea Grin, and he was like you can’t even step into someone else’s shoes like that.
Yeah, we had just seen him on the boat. Him and I got along. I did a tour with another band and opened an All That Remains tour. They were great dudes and just reunited with them. Reconnected on the Shipwrecked cruise a few months before he passed. It was surreal. Obviously we don’t have any tragic stories like that but I can’t imagine what it would be like. I don’t think anybody can.
Yeah, I meant it in a way of saying that a lot of bands have been doing this for so long in the same units. There are some younger bands like Asking Alexandria that have remained in the same lineup, but how do you think that’s helped you as a group? Three out of the four of you guys.
Yeah, Jesse’s really good friends with Steve and Sam. There’s never really been any hard feelings on that account, it’s just got to go the way it’s got to go. And some people hate being on the road, some people loathe that. I think we have as a band of dudes just grown up doing this. So when we’re not on the road for any amount of time, it feels like we’re doing something wrong. If we’re not writing and recording, we want to be touring and traveling. Just moving forward.
So yeah, I can’t imagine how it would affect us in any way other than we’re just very good at being in a van in close quarters for sixty, seventy hours at a time without cracking. It’s an art.
You’ve figured out each other’s buttons.
Definitely, but we do push them. Well, you know! Everybody has a tense moment, when you want to say something, and that’s your own challenge. Whether or not you let it get to you. If somebody else has a hang up, that’s their thing. Your hang-ups are what you are dealing with and you fly off the handle. We all love each other. That’s the key to keeping a band successful or at least keeping them on the road. You’ve got to like each other. It just doesn’t work if you don’t. Any amount of tension is amplified in a van and trailer in the freezing cold driving thru Boston.
Just Boston. I know you come from the South.
Most places. Most places that are cold or too hot, you know. We’re all whiny little bitches.
What’s like the hottest it gets in North Carolina?
We get all the weather. I mean it gets into the 100’s, it gets really nasty during the summer. Gets really humid, but it snowed the other night. We run the gambit on the weather but it’s a beautiful place to live. We really like being on the beach. We’re like ten to fifteen minutes from the coast by car but yeah we try to go to the beach every day during the summer. We’re beach boys. You’re maybe five hours from the mountains. So Carolina really has it all. I grew up on the beach so obviously I’m biased but I would put Wilmington beaches against any North Carolina beaches against all the beaches in the United States. Maybe not Hawaii but the Continental United States. The Outer banks are cool, still have that North Carolina vibe. They would stand up to Mexican beaches, clear water, beautiful. Paradise, it’s great.
Then they get wrecked by hurricanes.
Well, the beach doesn’t really get wrecked by the hurricanes. It’s the inland that gets fucked. It’s the people that built their houses on swampy inland near the rivers. We have the Cape Fear that flows right through. The flooding can happen two hours inland. A lot of that is terrible and gets bad, but that low tide always helps and then the rivers crest inland two hours and then you have places where people don’t even go back and check on their stuff because they know it’s underwater. It’s crazy. With Hurricane Florence, we had it really bad in Wilmington, when it came through. I-40 was shut down for weeks. I’m being very regional when I’m talking right now, but an hour down I-40 was just, you couldn’t go anywhere. If you were on the beach, you could get in and out, but no trucks were coming in. We live literally at the end of I-40 which stretches the length of the United States. It’s Barstow, California and then Wilmington, North Carolina. There’s signs on either end, 2,900 and something odd miles. But yeah, hurricanes, if you know how to prepare for them, then you’re good. At least in North Carolina, we know how to live through them. We throw parties.
You throw parties. Are you born and raised in North Carolina?
Yeah hurricane parties, it’s a thing. I work in a bar, and unless it’s flooded inside, then we’re open. So I usually work those. Come out, hang out, have a good time. Matt, I, and Adam obviously grew up in North Carolina. Zach who’s playing guitar for us now, he’s also from North Carolina. And Jesse, our Merch guy and our drummer, he’s from Indiana. Jesse is a Wilmingtonian now basically. He’s been there long enough. We’ve adopted him, he’s in.
He’s not going anywhere.
Oh no, he’s not going anywhere. There he is right there (as he walks past us backstage).
Then considering this journey that you’ve been on, maybe for newer bands that are just getting started on this, like advice to them just to keep at it? It is quite an arduous thing.
I’d say for any band that is trying to get exposure and find that exposure, play every show. Play as far away from home as you can and try to book your own touring. Find places. You have the wealth of the internet at your fingertips. So book some shows, talk to people, you got to play as much as you can. Always carry a flashlight, that is the most essential tour thing that people miss out on. I also think, don’t always think to sleep in your van and sleep in shitty hotels. Look towards nature, plan it out, stay at a state park. Pitch a fucking tent. Get your feet back on the ground. Pet somebody’s dog, wander around, go to KOA, Yogi Bear, any of those places. You can pull in, right now especially in the wintertime, you can get a spot to pull into, rent a cabin for thirty dollars. You can use the bathhouse, it’s warm, carry your own towel, carry your own flashlight, start a fire. Those are things when I was growing up I wish I would have known. And I did, because I kind of grew up spending summers at campgrounds but I never correlated the two. Now doing it on tour, it gives your band a chance to unwind. A fire is so ethereal. It makes everything feel good, everyone feels good, you can cook over it. Have warmth, you’re not looking at your phone constantly. And if you are, who cares. But I’d say those are my top three things. Just play as much as you can, try to put your feet on the ground, look at some water, be in some nature, stare at a tree and carry a flashlight for sure. The one on your phone is not a real flashlight just so we can get that clear. You need a Nebo, I’ll give a shout out to Nebo. They make these little flashlights, they’re the best, it’s in my bag right now. Tiny little guy.
You see so many people pulling like the Walmart parking lot sleeps.
I hate that. It doesn’t feel safe to me. Obviously I’m very into True Crime, so I feel like the people that you meet at a Walmart in the middle of the night are either criminals or people in a band probably. Or crazy insomniacs. I used to wander around Walmart’s, I don’t recommend it. I know some bands are struggling and don’t have the thirty dollars to spend so by all means, use the truck stop. But if you think everyone is going to pay the $11 dollars to shower at the truck stop, you could have just paid for the KOA and used their bathroom facilities. Gotten a decent sleep, warm four walls. It’s important, very important for your sanity, for your health.
Have you already been scoping out some places?
I’m a master of navigating the roads. I have a million different apps that I use and I’ll cross-reference things and we find what’s best. The cold is a little harder, especially up here, because some of those places just close down and they’re like, we’ll see you in May. State parks usually don’t unless it’s dangerous, you can find some good spots. Usually pretty easily and that’s better than just sleeping under a Halogen light at a Walmart. Makes me want to kill myself.
Especially in the summertime it’s brutal I’m sure.
I mean I can’t say I haven’t done it a million times. It hurts, it hurts your soul. Especially after three or four nights, then you’re kind of promoting this bullshit commerce era. I read somewhere the other day, it was something where it was like name something that isn’t illegal but feels illegal. And the answer was leaving a store without buying anything. Because it does, it feels wrong. You’re looked at like you stole something because you didn’t actually go through and buy something. I feel like that’s how I feel at Walmart because I try not to ever shop there. I’m just in and out. Using their bathroom, brushing my teeth, and walking out and I get the worst looks. It’s hard not to go in there and be like ‘Ooh I’ll buy an apple and a pair of socks’.
To kind of end it off, that record is not even a year old but you guys have put out so many albums. So I’m sure it’s something where you’re always working, where you’re always writing something. But once you get through this tour, you’re only a week in, maybe focuses or goals for the rest of 2020?
We wanted to make 2020 the year of “White Bat”. I think kids want to see it. We’ll probably end up headlining I would imagine at some point. Then hopefully do some crazy tours. We’ve got a few big festivals that are coming up. Writing for our own obviously, we’re going to do that, but I don’t think “White Bat” is something we’re over yet. We’re still jamming on this.
You’re not even a year into it.
Yeah we’re riding the wave for a little while.