Interviews : Beyond The Embrace

Beyond The Embrace
With Shawn Gallagher, vocals
Interviewed by

I entered the Omaha club Beyond The Embrace where opening at in May of 2004 (on tour supporting Prong's return, along with Dog Fashion Disco and All That Remains), only to be kindly greeted by a few of the guys in the New England band.

After being led through a smoky bar to the pool tables a few of the band members where playing at, I met up with Shawn Gallagher, Beyond The Embrace's vocalist. Dressed in modest clothes with a full beard (much like a few of his bandmates), and long, wavy hair, Gallagher embodied the 'everyman' attitude of anyone in a working man's band.

We started out talking about the band's last major tour, supporting Opeth and Lacuna Coil, and ran through a list of our favorite records and bands, a conversation sparked by Gallagher's brightly illustrated upper arm tattoo: A picture-perfect reproduction of the cover from In Flames' masterpiece "The Jester Race." After talking about the legacy of In Flames, Megadeth, and other bands that have influenced Beyond The Embrace's American rock meets Gothenburg guitars approach to music, I talked with Gallagher about Beyond The Embrace's past, present, and future.

You're out on the road with Prong now, and we were just talking about the Opeth tour last summer (May 2003), how does this tour compare with that one...you know, a band from Italy, one from Sweden... How does it compare? Is there any difference when you've got all American bands?

Well, as far as just crowd response, the Opeth and Lacuna Coil tour was amazing for us. I think we blended well with them and I think the fans really appreciated, and we get along really well. This tour is a little bit different, the bands are amazingly cool, we're having a good time drinking every night and whatnot, you know. But the crowd response has been weird... I mean, you've got Prong which is ... how do you even describe it, kinda sluggy, doomy, rocky band, and then you've got Dog Fashion Disco, a kind of a Faith No More band, so we've had a little bit of a tough time getting across to the fans, I think they've kind of expected something different...

Well, obviously you guys are one of the opening bands, so not everyone will have heard of you, but has repsonse to you been hit or miss, or pretty good the whole time?

I guess it's 50 / 50. We've had a couple shows that were amazing for us, and a couple shows that I would call blotted...But it's fun, you know.

Obviously you guys aren't really the mainstream rock radio kind of sound, so do you notice from bigger markets to smaller markets, like if you swing through the East Coast, you've got a bigger following, but is it a little more giving in the applause in Minneapolis or Chicago compared to here in Omaha?

That's a hard one. The last show we played was in Denver, we've done really good in Denver, but the night before that we played in Portland, and that was a crowd that was NOT having it. It was really strange.

The thing is, though, that we haven't toured enough, we've had some really weird tours. We went out once for a month, then we did Opeth which was two weeks, then we did Helloween which was two weeks, and we never really repeat the same places, so it's so hard to build a fanbase.

I think it helps depending on how many people you're playing in front of. For Helloween, we played in front of like 500 people, and out of that, you're always gonna get someone that's into it. So far, those kind of shows are all pretty good...Give or take.

Chicago hasn't really been good for us, we played there a few times, but they didn't seem to get into it. Maybe 'cause we're different styles of bands. But, I don't think we really hit our niche yet...our tour, I guess.

We're actually heading out with Iced Earth June 1st.

Oh, are you?

Yeah, we start in Vegas and work our way north from that area. And I think that's gonna be good, I think our sound is more like that, the old thrashy kinda stuff, so we'll see.

You mentioned the Opeth tour and the Helloween tour... I, personally, couldn't believe you guys were playing with Helloween, I love them. Did any of you guys grow up with them? When you were approached with it, what was your reaction like?

Well, actually for me and our drummer, that was soooo amazing, 'cause I've been a Helloween fan forever. And our drummer, Kevin, he's like the elder statesman...he grew up with that even more than I did.

To me, I know all their songs and I had a great time, but some of the other guys, they're a little bit iffy, they like the heavier stuff like Metallica and Sepultura. They all grew into it, 'cause how can you deny a band like Helloween. Plus we all love Iron Maiden, and if you Maiden, and you can't like Helloween, then you should just disappear.

I've been fortunate to tour with bands I really love, with Helloween and Opeth, it's awesome.

You said something about going on tour Iced Earth, I had no idea that was even going down...Are you excited for it, cause they're kind of one of the forerunners of underground metal here in America. Is it gonna be an awe-inspiring event, or are you going to have to one-up them every show, or what?

I'm just excited because I know there's gonna be people there, and I know anyone who's into Iced Earth will definately be into some of our stuff, you know. I always dug their stuff, and I know they're really huge in Europe, but it seems that everything is changing a bit, 'cause Blind Guardian came over to America, and we got to open for them in our hometown, and it was almost a sold-out crowd, 1500...1600 people for Blind Guardian. They kind of go hand in hand with Iced Earth over there in Europe, so I'm psyched.

I'm looking forward to it, 'cause this tour has been fun, but we need a few pick-me-ups. We're still trying to build a fanbase out of nothing, and a show like Iced Earth, just about everyone has a chance to dig what we're doing, especially our new stuff, which is more thrashy and less death metally.

That's something that I want to talk about, I heard one of the new songs ["Fleshengine Breakdown"] and the two new songs you guys played on the Opeth tour last year, are they good indicators of what's on the new album ['Insect Song']?

To be honest, that's a funny thing, because "Fleshengine Breakdown" is a really experimental tune... and I feel bad 'cause....well, Metal Blade really likes it, and I really like it too, I'm a big fan of rock, stoner rock, Clutch and all that. And we wrote that song just riffing, it sounds like a Pantera, old-school kinda tune. It's really straight forward, there's like four riffs, lots of solos and bluesy stuff. And Metal Blade loves the song, they put it on their website, and we've gotten a few responses from fans in our website's guestbook that think we're selling out and all this bad stuff.

I feel bad, 'cause that should be like eighth on the record, it shouldn't be first song at all. It's an experimental song...I think we're defining our sound a little bit more. I've been doing more of the cleaner vocals, less of the screaming stuff. I want to try and set us apart from the other bands we're always grouped in with. It gets hard to find your own sound, and after a while we just went back to our roots: bands like Megadeth, Metallica, the glory days in the 80s. Our record has a lot of that with a little twist.

But, yeah, those songs we played on tour last time ["My Fall," and "Plague"] will be on the record, and tonight we're playing mostly new stuff. And it's going over pretty well. There's always going to be the fans that love the old stuff and never appreciate the new stuff, but you have to stay creative. And I think you'll find the same elements on the new record as on the last one, just maybe a little more refined, a little catchier.

You mentioned Iced Earth this summer, what other promotional stuff is there? Is Metal Blade going to front you half a million dollars for an epic video, or just hit the road, or what?

Well, right now, this is the best thing we've done so far. The last record came out two years ago in May, and we only toured three times. The new album hasn't even come out and we're already on this tour for a month, then it's Iced Earth for three weeks, then I think we'll definately do something after that....

We're supposed to shoot a video, Metal Blade is supposed to give us some cash and we're gonna shoot that. We did one last time, on our own budget and it was wicked cheesy . But it's cool now that Headbanger's Ball is big, and if we can get a good video and get on that, anything helps. And even Ozzfest is gonna be good this year. We're gonna keep doing it, and we really want to get into the studio right away. We're starting to write stuff on the road...we don't want to have another two year hiatus or anything like that.

Some people might have sort of a backlash with the popularity of metal...Are you excited for it, or are you afraid of overexposure like the situation with the 80s hairbands?

It's a good question, because there's a lot of that fashion-core that's going along with metal, and I don't like that stuff personally...there's a lot of hardcore influence, and they have the Gothenburg thing, too. I think that's becoming oversaturated, I mean if you look the spearheaders of that movement, Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Soilwork...those bands are all changing and almost fitting an Americanized sound, just because maybe they feel they have to do that to be successful in this market. And now, everybody's kind of copying that.

I got the new record, and it's not really like the old stuff, but it's still In Flames. They'll always redefine the sound. And now its saturated, and every band's got harmony, like Avenged Sevenfolds and all those bands I've been hearing. Nothing against it, but when fashion comes into play, then it's almost like a hair band thing. I've noticed a lot of the guys are so handsome and all this stuff .

We're just a bunch of long-haired idiots, we don't really fit into that mold. There's guys in the band, like Jeff [Saude, guitars], who, if it became fashionable to like metal, he would be so mad. But if popularity comes back...I just like to think of Judas Priest playing Ozzfest, as an example. At Ozzfest, it's mostly kids going, and I hope people respect Judas Priest for what they are, and they're not going because all of a sudden it's cool to wear a Judas Priest "Screaming For Vengeance" shirt they can get at Hot Topic, when guys like us have shirts like that. I would have killed for an Iron Maiden "Aces High" shirt years ago, and now we can get them at Hot Topic. We'll see what happens, but I'm psyched

To be honest, I'd love to be able to make some cash. It's not all about the money, but we're all losing our jobs, and we don't make money on the road, and we don't make money off record sales, so if we could get some popularity in the scene, and have some kind of a guarantee every night of people and we could make some cash, I'm all for it. That's not really what it's about, but we'll see.

That brings me to another question, what is it like for you guys to tour? Do you have day jobs when you get home, or is it just touring, touring, touring? Some guys stay on the road just so they don't have to go home and pay bills. When there's a hiatus, do you guys have to get day jobs? For you guys, is it a tour bus lifestyle or are you driving around in a van?

Well, we drive around in a van and we do have day jobs, all of us. Unfortunately, though, it's really tough to have jobs that keep your job for you. I was lucky and held a job the first couple years of the band, but now that we're going out two months at a time, my job got rid of me. Two other guys lost their jobs, so four out of the six of us are going home and have nothing, no jobs, just a pile of bills to look forward to.

That's kinda disconcerning, it's tough...it makes you wonder, and you have to question things if you keep doing things and don't get anywhere. Certain bands just kinda throw in the towel.

It's tough to keep going job to job, and going to those labor-ready places and make seven bucks an hour to hold a sign, like on an interstate. It's like, "Dude, I don't want to do that..." But yeah, we're not into the whole tour bus thing and the glamour of having a tour bus so far, but we'll see what happens.

But it's still fun. When I get home, I'll probably find a job lumping fish on a dock or something .

I'm about out of questions, but do you have anything to say about Beyond The Embrace's future?

Our new record ['Insect Song'] comes out May 18. We've got nationwide distribution on Metal Blade, so check out BeyondTheEmbrace.com. I don't know...Stay on the lookout for us coming around, we're gonna keep doing it, so any response is always good. We always appreciate any fans we might have gotten along the way.

Beyond The Embrace's 'Insect Song' is available now from Metal Blade Records, as is their 2002 album 'Against The Elements.' Fans of American rock n roll and the Gothenburg sound alike sound give either a listen.