With latest album Lilith wowing fans and critics alike the Butcher Babies are on a roll right now. Their live shows are gaining them a reputation as one of the hottest acts around with circle pit mayhem and fun the order of the day. The band have come a long way and overcome many obstacles in the eight years they’ve been together. Gary Trueman sat down for a chat with Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey. Up for discussion was the new record, reaching a wider audience and being best friends in a band together.
You’ve described Lilith as a kind of rebirth moment for the band. Do you feel the momentum created in eight years of what you’ve been doing is now beginning to pay off?
Heidi: “Definitely. I think that one thing that Lilith has shown is that we have eight years of growth and we’re growing into our own skin as a band. We’re more mature and it’s a rebirth too because we had our first member change too right before this album (Chase Brickenden replacing Chris Warner on drums) and things became a little bit different. Any time you add a new element to any sort of band things change. It’s was actually really refreshing and really positive. Chase adds a lot to our band as you can hear on the album and at live shows. The past eight years are paying off but there’s still eight more years after this. But by then we’ll be full blown adults, haha.
Lilith has your trademark intensity but it’s a lot more diverse. You said you have a new band member which has made things different. Is it a case too that you are looking to explore a bit too?
Carla: “I think it’s just a case of us wanting to explore the things that we grew up on and the things that we’re all interested in. People say it’s a much more diverse album. I think it’s better than anything else we’ve done but we’ve always had different types of songs on each album. We’ve always had singing and screaming. I think the diversity has always been there but I think now the songs are better so people notice it even more. It was really fun for Heidi and I to harmonise more than ever on this album as well.”
Heidi: “From the beginning of our career we’ve always been like we’re metal chicks and we’re gonna scream and as time has gone on we have a lot to sing about too. I think that having to prove yourselves as metal chicks is the dumbest thing ever. We can sing and we can scream and one or the other doesn’t make you metal or not. On this album we opened up our minds to vocal harmonies and writing about subjects we hadn’t written about before and opening ourselves up to different writing techniques and it’s really paid off.”
It probably means you’re opening yourselves up to new topics too. Obviously you write from personal experiences. So you can do dark stuff and are we going to see more lighter subjects too?
Carla: “I think we have seen lighter. I mean the song Pomona is not necessarily a light subject but it is lighter. It’s about emotional turmoil, going out and getting drunk with your friends and the light hearted fun and turmoil that ensues. The car broke down and we can’t get home blah blah blah, so it’s fun stuff. Butcher Babies is light hearted and we’re funny people.”
Heidi: “For us we also like to story tell which you can hear a lot on all of our albums. From Goliath where we had Grim Sleeper about a serial killer and we had I Smell A Massacre which was about an infamous school shooting. Then on the last album Take It Like A Man, The Butcher was a spin off of this story of a kid who was obsessed with the TV show Dexter. He ended up chopping up his girlfriend in the same way Dexter did. We like to story tell and research different stories. Like the song Lilith, it’s the classic tale of Lady Bathory, a mix of her and the Queen Of Hearts. It’s cool for us to be able to do that and really dive in. It’s like a school. We love learning.”
So you’re almost performing a live history lesson?
Heidi: “Oh my, I’ve never even thought about that. Hey if you want your kids home schooled we’re available.”
The first single and video from Lilith, Headspin, a lot of people commented that it was a brave move putting that out. You actually felt confident to broach the sex subject. Was that good to get that out?
Carla: “I think it’s good to be at a point in your career when you feel confident that you can do whatever you want to do and say whatever you want to say and we’re so lucky that we have a fan base that allows us to be who we are.”
Heidi: “Any time you hold yourself back from talking about or expressing natural human instincts then it can take away from you as an artist. For us it opened up the door to so many other things, not just the subject but also the popiness of that chorus. It’s just pop and we grew up loving metal. We’re both metalheads but we don’t discriminate in our music. I love me a good pop song sometimes. So it was fun for us to write something in that vein as well.”
You’ve toured Lilith extensively in the US but we’re speaking just before the first UK date. So how has it gone stateside?
Carla: “Our last run in the states supporting Lilith was awesome. We were on tour with Hollywood Undead for two and a half months so it was a long one. It’s hard for bands to go out for that long and you’re missing everyone at home. Things can fall to pieces with a tour that long but we all hold each other in the highest regard and we’re all friends, we keep our bonds strong. It was especially fun because we went out with a band that is not like us at all. We usually play to metal fans which is awesome but at the same time we want to branch oiut and get new fans and we totally did that with Hollywood Undead.”
Heidi: “It’s good to see if you can appeal to other audiences and it was really fun. Our fans showed up in full force. It was so cool because before the album came out they were singing along to Pomona and someone told us they had seen it on Youtube. So our fan base had gone on to Youtube and listened to the new song and then they would come along to a show and sing along. It was mind blowing for us. It was so cool. It’s hard though going out every night and having to win over a whole bunch of people. It’s a terrifying thing because there are people who are going to be like ‘what is this? I didn’t come here to hear girls screaming at me’. Then there are others in the crowd that are like ‘I didn’t know I liked metal’. I was a mix of emotions every night.”
That was a long tour so presumably you had to look after your voices?
Carla: “ We always do. At least when you’re supporting another band it’s not a full hour and a half. We were doing about 45 minutes a night, which is still challenging, but not as hard as headlining every single night. This run will be more challenging because we’re playing six nights in a row for pretty much the whole run and the acoustic sets, and we’re playing a full throttle show every night. You’ve got to drink water, you’ve got to get some sleep, you’ve got to drink tea.”
Heidi: “We’ve been touring for six years now. Your voice is like a muscle. The more you work it the easier it is to jump right in and for it to perform well.”
You’re like sisters on the road. You’re very tight together. So what are each others best traits?
Carla: “Heidi’s best trait is loyalty but she has so many. We’ve been friends for so long. I respect her as an artist, I respect her as an athlete. She’s a loyal friend. I respect her opinion. She’s pretty much the first person, like the other day I had an incident and Heidi was an hour from where I was. I called her and said I need you to come and get me right now and she came to get me no questions asked, and she had a hangover. I don’t think to call someone else when I need something desperately.”
Heidi: “It’s the same thing for me. I’ve never had a friend that has allowed me to really be myself in all aspects like Carla does. Even my bad vices she’ll help me work through. She’s been able to talk me through things that no one else has been able to. I have two sisters and three brothers and we’re closer than I am with any of my siblings. Also Carla works hard. When we started this we were very green and there’s a lot of hard work and growth that has to happen. It wouldn’t have been the same with anybody else. She inspires me to work hard through her art. It’s nice to be in a band with my best friend.”
If you could travel back in time what would you say to a 16 year old each other?
Carla: “I think that I would just tell her to ignore all the bullshit in her life. Keep writing, keep singing, keep doing what you love because one day you’re going to find your purpose.”
Heidi: “I think it’s hard not to say the same thing but I know that for her she was getting, as a bi-racial female in Detroit, and saying you’re a heavy metal fan, it’s a difficult thing. The African American girls want you to like their music and be with them and then the white kids too. It’s very racially divided there. I would just tell her like she said, ignore the bullshit. Love what you live and don’t be afraid to be who you are. Shine like a bright star because someday all that bullshit will fade.”
Interview and images by Gary Trueman