By Brian Tucker
Five years is a long time between albums but things are great for He is Legend. Time between albums and two years off the road served to help the band and didn’t cause fans to lose interest. He is Legend will be playing an album release show at Ziggy’s Saturday for Heavy Fruit out on Tragic Hero Records August 19th.
On tour in support of it, lead singer Schuylar Croom sees the positive in time off and changes that occurred. In 2013 the band revealed drummer Steve Bache amicably left the band for school. They found a new drummer in Sam Huff, someone Croom says brought new energy to their music. That, and the time away, made the band hungry again.
“We needed time off because we had been doing it for ten years and just needed a break. Everyone had their own jobs, but nobody lost touch. W
e just didn’t want to tour at the time,” Croom said. “We’re definitely hungrier than before we decided to stop touring because at that point we were bloated.”
Heavy Fruit is an album showing He is Legend still a hard rock act but whose new music has a different vibe on songs. Sonically it’s caustic but has smooth qualities the theatrical “Bethozart,” the hypnotic “Time to Stain” or the bluesy, dynamic “Miserable Company” that’s blistering and sultry.
“I don’t think it’s anything new,” Croom said of the song. “We don’t pigeonhole ourselves. We just write whatever we want to write. “Miserable Company” is different for sure, and when we’re playing it live it’s really fun, but I don’t see it being that much different from a song like “China White III” (from 2009’s It Hates You)
On the surface lyrics on Heavy Fruit conjure themes like turmoil, remorse, frustration and violence, illustrating an album more personable than before. Still, Croom’s wordplay is cagey, though not exactly literal.
“I like to disguise situational things in a love song. I’m not necessarily talking about “a witchy woman,” but maybe about marijuana,” Croom said. “I mean, Heavy Fruit is kind of self-explanatory, but it’s an interesting title because it can mean so many different things. Just think of the imagery I guess of bearing fruit, the heaviest of all fruit. What happens to it, it’s so fragile. It’s intense for something so large to have such a short lifespan.”
Almost as heavy is Croom’s praises of Huff breathing new life into the band. From the moment Huff joined everything seemed to fall into place, allowing for a more dynamic sound and a new perspective. He’s the most professional Croom says, noting his ability to read and chart music as well as keeping the band grounded.
“I literally cannot say enough of about Sam. I do not think there is another human that could do the job Sam has done. We’ve been riding this magical wave lately where everything is falling into place and feeling great. Being positive and staying aware of what’s going on. I think we were all at wit’s end and didn’t know what to do.”
The time off helped shape Heavy Fruit musically but Croom’s observation of being home for an extend period of time and seeing a different side of life aoart from living on the road playing shows.
“Not being around for two years and to come back with this positive light and good vibes, it’s just fun. And it’s been a long time since we’ve said that.”
More with Schuylar Croom
How did He is Legend keep things burning with line-up changes and time off?
Croom: Everyone had their own respected jobs, but nobody lost touch, we just didn’t want to tour at the time. The whole time Adam Tanbouz was writing and had ideas, later down the road we picked up Sam and now Denis and we all came back with new life.
It was easy to stay away while we were working and we don’t really play when we’re doing that. We would play a couple shows here and there before Steve Bache left the band (for school), but there was still that old stigma with the band. When we got Sam there was that new life and everything kind of changed and gave us a new spark. Writing the record just fell into place real easily. Like a fresh girlfriend.
Did members participate in other projects that helped shape Heavy Fruit?
Croom: Not really. We jammed with some people, but that was all in good fun. I think the time (off) is what shaped the new record. And being home and seeing a different side of life. It offers a great perspective. When you’re in a different city every night for eight to ten years and then you get to be home for two years it’s kind of a culture shock. You go from entertaining people on stage to serving drinks or like Adam who went and worked with his father in construction in Fayetteville. Matt worked at Hook’s Alarm, installing security systems.
You have to take a step back and realize, you never want to say “well, at least I have the guitar to fall back on or at least I can be a vocalist.” Because that’s what you’re supposed to be doing so go do it. We just all kind of learned that the hard way through the time off and decided it was time to put out a new record. We had the music and it felt like the right time. It didn’t ever seem like it was too late. We had music again so why wouldn’t we?
It has a dynamic quality, a different sound than before.
Croom: It definitely has a different vibe because we have a new member. I think Sam brings such an amazing element to it. I’m sure in that aspect we can all say it seems a little different, but I hear it as He Is Legend. I still hear the way Adam and I blend things together. I think the fans do too.
We’re learning a lot on this run because it is terrifying to put out new music after being out of the spotlight for two years. It’s amazing and humbling to still see people coming out and get super excited about the album. It still sounds like He Is Legend, it still feels like the same band.
There’s probably only one person on earth who could have taken Steve’s place and we happened to find him. He’s added such a new element to the band and now it’s the same thing with Denis. They grew up together so it’s the same situation with the other half of the band. Matt, Adam, and I have been doing this for so long and Sam and Denis grew up doing the same thing. It’s very serendipitous that it happened the way it did.
How good does it feel to be back touring and behind new material?
Croom: It is extremely humbling and I think that we’re smarter now and we’ve learned a lot from taking a step back. It’s so positive and amazing that people are still coming out. Not being around fr two years and just come back with this positive light and good vibes and it’s just fun. And it’s been a long time since we’ve said that.
Were songs for Heavy Fruit written close to recording or from over the years?
Croom: They were all kind of re-worked. I think Adam is a savant in the way that he knows what the song is going to sound like. He has an idea for it and he hears the whole thing. Our producer knows our band really well and has played with us so he knows the sound that we are going for. We don’t scratch songs; we go in with all the songs we are going to put on the album. So, it’s fortunate that we are able to work that way.
Did Sam’s addition change things personally and creatively?
Croom: Absolutely. I grew up a drummer and I think Sam is the greatest drummer I’ve ever played with. I think we were all at wit’s end and didn’t know what to do. We all knew it was important to us to continue going and we knew for Steve it was important for him to focus on his career and there were never any hard feelings.
I literally cannot say enough of about Sam; I do not think there is another human that could do the job Sam has done. From the second he stepped on the scene it was “ok, this is it.” We’ve been riding this magical wave lately where everything is falling into place and feeling great. Being positive and staying aware of what’s going on. The little things like that where you have a phenomenal drummer come in and take on the band in such a dynamic way and add new life and give us a new perspective.
Out of all of us, Sam is the most professional. He’s the most professionally trained, he can read and chart music, all these little things that inspire us through a guy who is kicking ass and shredding on the drums every night. The stuff we needed to become a bigger He Is Legend. He’s done such a great job at keeping us grounded and he slayed on the record and it’s like it was in the stars.
And with Denis it’s like the circle is unbroken. How often does it happen that you get a new drummer and then you need a new guitar player and that drummer has a best friend that is willing and able and talented, and can sing back up? All this stuff that came out of the new situation is just the greatest, it really is.
What does five years between albums do to a band? Is it harmful or make you hungry again?
Croom: I think it makes you hungry, I think being away will do that to you, but it’s hard to say. It’s like asking “What did five years without changing their menu do to this restaurant?” You don’t know because you didn’t try to change the menu. We’re still listening to It Hates You and loving it and the new one isn’t out yet so we don’t know what’s going to come of it, but it definitely feels like we’re on the right track.
How did Mitchell Marlow challenge you on the He is Legend sound?
Croom: No, he just knows our sound. He would offer suggestions, but he doesn’t really push. He just knows what we sound like and what we have the ability to sound like. Any pushing or changing would be like “that’s not ya’ll, don’t do that.” Little things like, I don’t know how I sound in the studio and he’ll be like “You usually sound a little more like ‘this way’” or “when you do ‘this’ in this song do ‘that’ voice.” And I will change my voice a little bit.
Was there a conscious effort to try different things?
Croom: I just do what fits the song or what I think is needed. I’m not afraid to sing softer or more intimately. I actually prefer it rather than balls-out heavy metal. Like, I’d rather listen to Jeff Buckely over Metallica… Well, maybe that’s not true. Definitely Jeff Buckley over new Metallica, but Jeff Buckley over Kill ‘em All, I don’t know about that.
What do you think about the album pressed on vinyl, along with It Hates You?
Croom: Best feeling ever. We’ve been fighting for that forever and it just so happens we are going to be able to do that. It’s really difficult to get your back catalog pressed when it’s from a record label, but luckily enough we are going to be able to get It Hates You and Heavy Fruit this run. I could not be more stoked, man. That’s something I’m really excited about.