When 20 year old, Caleb Shomo announced his departure from Attack Attack! thousands of fans were shocked to learn that behind his motivational speeches and rising success, he was struggling with depression and alcoholism. Thankfully, Shomo has spent the last few months at home, recouping and enjoying the newlywed life, and started two new musical endeavors- a dubstep project called CLASS, and a heavy project, Beartooth. In January, Beartooth played its first show, and has since released three songs, which are hardcore and metal-driven. Shomo opened up to us about his struggles over the past few years, and gave us insight on the ground workings of Beartooth and what the future holds for his musical career.
Substream Magazine: You were a part of Attack Attack! when you were so young, so was it scary for you to leave behind people you’ve worked with throughout your adolescence and songs you’ve written and performed for the past five years?
Caleb Shomo: Yeah, obviously, it was a massive decision for me to make to leave and yeah, I’ve been making music with those guys since I was fourteen years old. We had made probably half a record worth of new songs before I left and they were really cool and I think they’re going to use some of them [for their new album].
It was definitely scary but I think in the end it was what I needed to do for myself and where I was at mentally- I was just a wreck. So I just needed to step back and figure out my life and get myself back on track.
SM: How quickly did all of these new songs come together? Did you take any break afterScream It Like You Mean It or were you already writing when on the road with AA!?
CS: I had been writing the Beartooth songs that are out now for a while, since I’ve been in Attack Attack!, as a different musical outlet. I just wanted it to be a lot more straight forward aggressive, stemming from hardcore and punk rock. It’s definitely not hardcore or punk, but it’s rooted there. I just wanted to make stuff with a very raw feel, that’s loud and aggressive. I didn’t really start diving into it until after I was in Attack Attack!. I write in really weird spurts and I got in this weird routine where I was literally writing a song every night for a week straight. I was just really in the mood so I would just write a song and it all came together really fast.
SM: You have a great team behind this band, with support from Thomas at The Artery Foundation and Dave Shapiro at The Agency Group. Do you hope to reach as many people or even more than you did with AA!? What do you want to do differently this time around?
CS: My intention with this band, when it first started was just for fun, literally for just an emotional outlet. I didn’t even plan on getting a manager or doing tours, maybe playing a few shows here and there but it all came together after Tom had been asking me if he could manage it and wanted to also be a part of the electronic project I’m doing called CLASS. It was literally this spiral of events that I no way intended to happen where he got involved and a bunch of labels started asking what was going on with this and what I wanted to do. Dave Shapiro got involved and really wanted to book it, and it just kind of happened really quick. My intention though is just to have fun with it and literally I don’t ever see us touring with more than five or six people on the road. I don’t want to tour in a bus. I just want to tour in a van and keep it small and just keep it a lot more low key and low pressure. And literally every tour, just do the tour because it’s something fun to do and we enjoy doing it. I never plan to write a song to achieve something. I don’t think I’ll ever sit down with a Beartooth song and think “the only reason I’m writing this is to get on the radio” or “the only reason I’m writing this is to gain fans”. The only reason I write is because it’s my emotional outlet and because it’s fun and I like playing songs with my friends. We just like playing them in my basement and tiny venues, and going insane and having a good time.
SM: You went through some of the issues we commonly hear young child stars going through- drinking problems, depression, and weight issues. How do you think being on the road constantly and growing up in the public eye has shaped you as a person? You’re still so young, but you always seem to carry yourself as mature beyond your years.
CS: It definitely makes you grow up really, really fast. I was on my own and gone for most of the year on the road, where you don’t have authority figures, you don’t have anybody telling you what to do. Most of the time it’s just a bunch of people cheering on your band or telling you that you suck at what you do. It definitely makes you grow up. It got o me after a while,. Definitely becoming the front man of the band changed the game a whole lot. First, I was the random dude who stood on the side of the stage with the keyboard and played notes every so often, and was in no way in the limelight. And then to go from that to getting put in the spotlight and having thousands of people tell you that you suck or that I was really fat or was never going to amount to what Austin did. Obviously being 17 years old, or being any age at all- going through that is very stressful mentally. It just got to me in a lot of ways, obviously with weight. A lot of the weight I lost honestly was healthy and I will say that proudly, and I definitely did a lot to get myself together but there were times when it would screw me up and I would get into really,really messed up dangerous habits. And then from there, there was a point towards the end of right before I left where I was just drinking my problems away and my thoughts away all the time- trying to drink my depression away I guess. Basically whatever I could do to numb myself was what I wanted to do and it was terrible. Honestly I was pushing away all of my friends, I was pushing away my fiancé, my family and just not even couldn’t even tell just because of how off in my own world I was. I was a completely different person and it was terrible. It was sad- I was still depressed, and it definitely didn’t work. It was a temporary solution but it does nothing when you wake up in the morning again and you’re just as depressed and suicidal as you were the last night. It was rough, so that’s why I left when I did. That was the same reason why John left. He took a different route, but he was definitely unstable. We were both at this point where we just wanted to drop everything and get our lives together. It wasn’t with the band, it was just life. I just kind of dropped everything and just figured myself out and surrounded myself with people who I knew would help me and build me up and help me become the person I used to be.
SM: You played your first show in a small, intimate venue in Columbus, OH recently. How did it feel to be performing in such a personal setting again? I heard someone in the crowd tore the ceiling down…
CS: That was unexplainable. That was the most fun I’ve had on stage in a while. It’s a totally different feeling. Obviously playing with Attack! was great, those dudes are really awesome to play with and they’re great friends of mine but this was just a different experience, solely because of the size of the venue. I haven’t played a show that small in a long time. It was just nuts, it was chaos. It really brought me back to realizing why I love playing shows so much and why I love music so much. I don’t care about how big the venue is or how many people are there. I would rather play that show at Kobo for 200 people and have the time of my life and have a show that is way more intimate (for me) and way more intimate for the people there than play at the LC which is way bigger venue for 2000 people, ever with Beartooth. That’s exactly what it’s about. That show at Kobo-that’s the point. Small crazy shows where you can just lose it and have fun and not care about anything else.
SM: Every night during your shows last year, you would give a motivational speech before playing “The Wretched”. Was it hard for you to get in that mindset every night of sending out a positive, motivating message to these kids when you were going through such a tough time behind the or was it therapeutic?
CS: That was definitely therapeutic. I never planned what I was going to say ever. It just randomly just started happening. That song was very personal to me about a whole lot of emotional stuff. I would just talk about what the song meant to me and I guess I never intended to be like today I’m going to make these kids feel good or anything, I would just get up and talk. I think it just turned into what it was over time and it was honestly because I was so desperate for hope and for a way to continue on. I knew it was out there and I guess that’s what I wanted to tell people just because of how far I was down the path I was of being lost in my own depression. And escaping and I was just pretty much crying out of desperation for those people to not go down that path because I know how terrible and pointless it is. I guess that’s why I gave that speech every night.
SM: Since you struggled through so many personal issues throughout your career with Attack Attack!, did you ever consider hanging up the towel and just sticking to producing bands, and stepping away from the spotlight and touring life altogether?
CS: Yeah, absolutely. That was my plan originally after leaving AA. I was going to stop touring and maybe just do some shows. I was just going to do bands and hang out and have a home life and just get into the song writing game but it just kind of spawned that I wanted to keep going and give it another shot, just in a different way and with a different mindset and a lot learned about myself, mentally.
SM: Beartooth has released three songs so far. Do you intend on putting out a full length or 6-song EP this spring still?
CS: Originally it was just going to be a 6 song EP and it was going to come out in April, but at this point we’re just looking through labels and figuring out who we want to go with. It’s probably going to be a full length because I already have almost a full length written. Obviously I need to perfect them but I think it’s going to be a full album at this point.
SM: Do you have any plans to be on the road later this year as well?
CS: I don’t know. There’s a few festivals that we’re playing and we have some shows here and there. We just confirmed one tour for the end of the year that I sadly can’t talk about, but that’s extremely awesome and that I’m really pumped about. I’m sure we’ll play a lot more shows this year once everything is figured out with the label and the record.
SM: Lastly, tell our readers why they should check out Beartooth!
CS: Because it’s a very care free and honest musical outlet. And hopefully I want people to hear it and feel just a part of it as we are. When they’re at the shows I want people to know that they are just as much a part of the show as we are. And the only reason we’re playing that show is because of the fans who got us there.
By Caroline Jensen