The following is a transcript of an interview I did with Shawn Baker, drummer for the Denver metal band Skyburial. They are currently unsigned and are managed by E.J. Shannon Management.
Mike DeStefano: Hey Shawn. I hope that this interview will expose a new group of people–and some current fans–to you and your music! How about we start off with you introducing yourself and telling me a little about your band? Tell me how you got started, describe your sound and influences, and whatever else you would like to share.
Shawn Baker: Well, my name is Shawn Baker, and I play drums. Ricky Germaine plays guitar and Shane is the bassist. If my memory serves me well. I believe that Ricky was jamming with a guitarist Josh that I had played in bands with in the past. So we all decided to come together and jam and liked how it went. So we decided to try and make a band of it. Cody had been a very close friend of mine for years. We had previously been in a pop-punk band together. I talked to him about doing vocals since deathcore/heavier music was more our thing and he was interested and it all just came together from there. We’ve changed rhythm guitarists and bassists a few times, but we’ve had Shane for over a year now, and we recently picked up a new rhythm guitarist Viktor Martinez, and he’s awesome, and plans to stay long term. Nate Myer, our co-vocalist, was a strange addition because he did guest vocals for us on a couple of shows very early in Skyburial’s existence, and we loved how it sounded and decided we might as well keep the two-vocalist dynamic.
We try not to say we have any solid influence as far as our sound goes, because when we write we like to sound like Skyburial.
We have a lyric video for our single, “Devoid” on YouTube. Someone commented on the video and called it “Donkey Kong core”, so that’s kind of comedically what we’ve coined our sound as, though we don’t advertise it as such.
M: What do you feel you bring to the table with the two-vocalist dynamic? How does each vocalist contribute to your unique sound?
S: I would say energy and stage presence in my opinion are the biggest thing. In my personal experience, I have not seen many single-vocalist bands, let alone dual vocalists, that put the high-energy great stage presence that those two do. They feed off of each other in such a strong way live. Both are unique to one another. So it’s not watching two people do the same things. All the while with two vocalists, it’s easier to maintain a high-energy show and stage presence without having it affect the sound. To us, we want everything to sound amazing live first and foremost. But we also want the people to leave with an unforgettable experience, whether it be Cody climbing speakers or getting in the crowd or Nate hitting the ground or hitting himself with his microphone and bleeding everywhere.
Also with Nate, he has the deeps and low ends that mesh well with our deep guitars and bass, while providing a punch that you get from death metal. Cody, on the other hand has the raw emotion and harshness in his voice that gives us a completely new dynamic.
M: You mentioned your vocalists climbing speakers, getting in the crowd, and bleeding all over during your live shows. How crazy have some of your shows gotten?
S: I got a quote straight from Cody–one of the vocalists–for this answer for you.
Cody: For me, playing shows is an experience; a release of aggression. And I want the crowd to feel and connect with that, so every time I get on stage I give it all of my energy. I’ve hung upside down from sound systems, had kids moshing on and around me when I get into the crowd. I’ve been punched by Nate, the other vocalist, on multiple occasions as we played, once so hard I almost fell off the stage. At our tour kickoff show I smashed my microphone without even thinking about it. At Knotfest last year, a guy was standing front row screaming the words and punching himself in the face the entire time. We even had someone break dance in the pit at one of shows. We encourage people to feel the same aggression we feel and to let it out in any way they see fit.
M: Thanks for the quote! That is actually insane that some guy was punching himself in the face the whole time. laughs It does sound like a fun show though.
But anyway, what show environment do you enjoy the most and is most conducive to the type of show you like to put on?
S: I’m glad you got a good laugh out of it. laughs We try to make the shows as fun and memorable as possible for everyone.
As far as what show environment we prefer, I’d definitely say small venues with a stage. Just because the high energy we try to put on in a floor show can be missed by some people if we’re at the same height level as them. We have a venue in Denver called The Marquis Theater. Which in my personal opinion is, like, the perfect sized venue. A ton of great energy and still leaves for the ability to be very interactive with the crowd. However, we have played both incredible basement and floor shows and larger-scale venue shows. But as a personal preference, I would go with small venues.
M: You have any cool stories you would like to share from your shows at the Marquis Theater? It seems that it’s a hometown venue, so a lot of your local fans probably show up.
S: The Marquis has a lot of memories and stories for us. Our first show as a band was at the Marquis with Veil of Maya, Erra, and Reflections. Playing your first show as a band to a packed show is quite the opportunity. Cody got in some hot water by hanging upside down from the PA speakers while doing vocals. The venue wasn’t particularly thrilled. Luckily we’ve grown to have a strong professional relationship with them, so they were nice enough to let us continue playing. We also won the first Headbang For The Highway Battle of the Bands to open the Denver date of Summer Slaughter. The battle was at The Marquis. That show really helped push us to the next level locally and allowed us to compete with Headbang again to play Knotfest in California. A couple specific incidents aside from the hanging upside down from the speakers would be the first time Nate busted his head open with his microphone was at the Marquis. Our good friend Alex has somehow managed to break his arm, hand and nose in three separate occasions at our shows. Nate tried to tie a noose up from the ceiling on stage at the Marquis once to portray hanging himself during our last song once. But the venue wasn’t having that. Probably for good reason! Laughs
M: That’s an incredible first show! I love all of those bands. I would imagine a ton of people came out for that one. I actually booked Erra once and they’re great guys.
How were your experiences with playing Summer Slaughter and Knotfest, two very prestigious metal festivals?
S: It was definitely a great turnout! Especially for a first show. We were lucky to be apart of it. Erra were great guys! They went out of their way to come talk to us. We wanted to kind of keep our head down low and do our thing, not trying to get all up in all the other bands’ business. But they came up to us and were great. I myself have been lucky to have a lot of past history with Veil of Maya due to my uncle being very close to them. He was a part of the Gunpoint Recording Studio in Chicago that they practiced and may still practice at.
Summer Slaughter was the game changer in my eyes for the band. We played some great shows with good turnouts. We went into Summer Slaughter thinking, “Hey, we’re gonna be able to play this show. It’s going to be amazing sharing the stage with bands we look up to and have this opportunity.” We went into it thinking that us having such an early time slot that the crowd might not be too crazy or full. But we were just so happy to be able to play anyway. Then when we went on we came out to 900 people at The Summit and it was just packed. The crowd responded incredibly to us. It was an experience I will never forget. It’s still surreal to this day.
Knotfest was a literal dream come true for all of us. Shane is from Iowa, so for him to have the opportunity to play a show with the band he grew up watching blow up was amazing for him. Nate and myself grew up together since he was 13 and I was 14. We were the young teenagers that lived and breathed Slipknot and Korn. laughs We grew up together and he lived with me and my family for a lot of the time. Our whole time of growing up together as best friends our dream was to have an opportunity to play with those bands. It was something that seemed impossible to imagine actually happening. When we got announced at the Battle of the Bands that we were the winners, I didn’t even register other people talking to me and congratulating me. I immediately found Nate. He was in tears and we just hugged and were just like… “We did it.” I can’t believe we did it. Playing was incredible. We managed to have probably 400 people watching us play that had never heard of us in their lives. And all of those people were loving it. They were giving us the energy back that we were giving them. It’s almost a blur laughs. I still have a hard time believing it: being able to play a show and at the same show go see the bands that are the reasons we started playing music in the first place.
I apologize for the very long and personal answer. Laughs
M: Regarding the long and personal answer, no need to apologize; I enjoyed it. Feel free to share any of your other favorite memories as part of the band or while growing up listening to bands.
S: There’s a ton of memories, so it’s hard to pinpoint. We’re a group of people who play music together, but we also have been really great friends even before the band. So we’re lucky to be able to have the success we have had with our best friends, doing what we love with the people we’re closest with. We’re incredibly excited to be a part of the E.J. Shannon Management roster and look forward to what’s to come!
M: Last question: Tell me about some of the first memories you have with your band mates, when you first became friends. How far back do you guys go? How do you feel you have all changed, and as you look to the future, what do you hope to accomplish?
S: Nate and I have been friends about 13 years. His favorite memory is one night probably in 2004 or 2005 we were in my basement at my parents’ house probably playing the first God of War game. Nate off and on lived with us. My dad comes downstairs. The basement was split into two rooms: one was where my games, drums and computer were, and the other was basically my dad’s office. He has the last of some food that I was going to eat. And I told my dad that I was going to eat that and he made a wise crack back. So I told my dad to get a job, to which he replied “I do have a job.” So I told him to get a second one because I see too much of him. Nate laughs about that to this day laughs. Though I’m sure the story doesn’t translate that well here.
Cody and I did mushrooms at our house and he was out back infatuated with the tree that grew from out of the concrete out back, trying to tell me how beautiful it was. He thought he was hiding behind it when really he was standing in the open with only his face barely hidden by a couple of leaves. I then had to explain to him that it wasn’t like he was in the forest; he was just standing next to a tree in concrete in our backyard.
Time-of-friendship-wise, it’d be something like Cody and Nate about 10 years. Cody and I, about 8 I think. Shane and I, I want to say 7 years. Ricky was the odd man out. I knew who he was for a long time. However, we hadn’t really established much of a friendship so much as just knowing who each other were until right around the time the band got together in 2014.
We all used to live in a house together, minus our new guitarist Viktor. But the other 5 of us had a house together so there has been a lot of great memories there just from being around each other every single day. It was a great experience, and I feel it helped the band grow stronger together.
We’ve all definitely changed a bit. In maturity and of course working full time, paying bills, et cetera. We have all grown up a lot. But at the same time, we are still ourselves with each other. That will always be there. Some of those younger characteristics: the humor, being assholes to each other. But we’re a family, here for each other through thick and thin–band and personal life. And that’s a rare thing to find with any person, let alone a group. We couldn’t ask for more if we wanted to.
As far as what we wish to accomplish.. Right now we just want to work on this new music, release it and hit the road. We of course have our future dreams of landing a label, big tours and traveling the world. But really we just play our music and are happy in the present. Enjoy the ride, and whatever good things find us along the way, we will gladly accept.
M: Thanks for sharing that with me, Shawn. I think we can end things here. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you and get to know about you and your band. Good luck in achieving your goals, and a lot of people will be keeping an ear open for you guys!