Los Angeles based metal band Butcher Babies are quickly becoming one of the hottest bands in the metal world. Having played such heavy weight festivals like Monsters Energy Drink’s Aftershock Festival, the UK’s Download Festival and many others, the ‘Babies’ are showing no signs of stopping their quest for domination – and they are conquering that task one stage at a time. With the success of their sophomore album ‘Take It Like A Man’ feuling their momentum and a massive tour with alien rockers GWAR behind them, the California rockers are poised to take 2016 by the horns. Before they leave for the Cradle Of Filth tour next month (which kicks off January 26th in Philadelphia) the band is taking a much needed break from touring over the holidays to spend time with their families. Butcher Babies’ superwoman duo of vocalists Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey called in to talk about writing, touring and more. Examiner got the back story on some of the album’s deepest and most rocking songs, and the ladies went into detail about their creative process and the importance of writing from the heart. We also talked about the best and the worst of fan-made gifts and what it takes to get ready for a Butcher Babies show.
Examiner: “Are the Butcher Babies traveling right now or are you back in LA for the holidays?
Carla Harvey: “We are at home for the holidays. We had a very long, roughly three and a half month tour so we are taking a much needed little break for a minute and enjoying the holidays at home with our families.”
E: “It’s great that you all get to spend it at home.”
Heidi Shepherd: “Everyone’s home, but I’m actually in Oregon right now; I drove up for a couple of days so I can see some snow, which we don’t get in LA.”
E: “We actually don’t have any snow here in Boston, so we’re missing out on it too. Besides seeing snow, what’s something that you’d both be excited to find under the tree; what do you get the Butcher Babies for Christmas?”
HS: “That’s a good question! We always need socks, those are a big plus. I think anything that is conducive to tour life is really important for us for gifts.
CH: “I agree with Heidi on that; anything that we can use on tour. You know, I love getting are supplies so I asked for just that basically.
E: “Art supplies would be great for passing time on the bus. Are both of you are artistic?”
CH: “Yes, Heidi and I are both crafty on tour and we like to spend our free time on tour being creative. We worked on a couple of purses this last tour; she likes to customize and cut things up and I like to draw. We worked on some items together that we actually sold as Christmas presents to the rest of the world. So that was kind of cool.”
E: “You must undoubtedly receive gifts from fans occasionally. What’s the best and the weirdest thing a fan has given to you?”
HS: “I think that the best is whenever they make an art piece of you, whether drawing or painting, digital art. I have several pieces hung up in my house that fans have made for us. I think the weirdest for me is, I got a fart piano one time and each key you push is a fart. I also got a fart gun, a Minion fart gun which I though was kind of funny; but yeah those are the best and weirdest for me.”
E: “So each key is like, a different fart tone or sound?”
HS: “Yeah! It’s so funny, I still have it and I crack up every time!”
CH: “I think that fans always take the time to look at what we like and learn what we like and they bring us gifts by that. Every one knows I love comic books, especially the Hulk. So I have everything Hulk you could ever imagine. I literally have boxes of comic books and Hulk toys when we come home from tour, which I love. I have a shelf in my house where I have all my nerdy collectibles and I keep everything that anyone ever gives me and I think it’s really sweet that people really take the time to learn more about us and bring us things that pertain to our hobbies.”
E: “Well any fans that might wonder what happens to the stuff they give you will be happy to read that! Speaking of touring, Butcher Babies will be heading out on the Cradle Of Filth tour which starts near the end of January. Have you ever toured or played a show with Cradle before or is this a new audience for the band?”
HS: “No, this is actually our first time ever playing with them anywhere, which is exciting! We met Dani Filth (Cradle Of Filth vocalist) back in 2010 just for a brief minute at an interview, but we’ve never met any of the crew or any of the band. It’s going to be really fun and really exciting. For us, we’re excited to play in front of the black metal crowd and I think it’s going to be quite a fit for us.”
E: “Do you ever worry about playing in front of an audience that you wouldn’t normally play in front of?”
HS: “You never know what people will grasp on to. We thought we might have had an issue going out with GWAR crowd these past couple of months, and it was actually a perfect fit. Their crowd was very much the same as our crowd so it worked out really well. So you never know, and I think it’s going to be a very positive thing for us.”
E: “Getting that crossover audience is great, and a lot of that comes from playing festivals, which Butcher Babies play a fair amount of. So you’ve basically shared a stage or at least played at the same show with every popular metal band there is. If you could create your own show, with Butcher Babies headlining of course, what bands would you want to play?”
CH: “I’m going to start off by saying that Pantera and Slipknot would have to be on the bill.
HS: “Yes! Those were the exact two in my head, like ‘obviously Pantera and Slipknot’. We’ve played with Black Sabbath before, but I think that would be incredible to even witness that again in the last couple of years that they’ll be doing things. Iconic bands like that are some of our favorites. I would love to play with Rammstein; I think that would be good.”
CH: “Oh that’s a good one.”
HS: “Rammstein would be incredible to play with.
E: “They’re currently working on new material aren’t they?”
CH: “I heard that they are working on new material and that they’re going to tour again. So I’m going in my head ‘what can we do to make sure that when they start touring again they are on that bill?!’ They are still I think the one of the best selling bands that sell out every show and one of the biggest metal bands in the world. It would just be insane to tour with a band like that, especially because their stage show is just so renowned. We’ve always been fans of putting on a big show so I think that would just be quite the experience.”
E: “One thing that definitely sticks out about Butcher Babies on stage is your sense of style. How do you decide on what to wear during a show, do you have a certain cycle of outfits that you follow or does it go off of more how you’re feeling that day?”
HS: “We always say that we’re going to do a routine that we’re going to have four outfits to rotate between. So we always say that is what we want to do, but we always end up bringing a huge suitcase full of stuff, and we never know what to wear until five minutes before the show. We’re usually running around frantically like ‘I don’t know what to wear. Carla what am I going to wear!?’ you know? It always happens too even if we have hours upon hours to get ready, it always comes down to the last minutes of what we’re going to wear. We have our favorites here and there, but everyday you just never know what we’re going to pull out of our suitcases. We’re girls!”
E: “That’s definitely girl problems right there, and we all do it. As you’re getting ready and pumped up for a show, do you have any rituals either as a band or that you just do while you’re preparing?”
CH: “You know Heidi and I always like to get ready together. I think it kind of puts us in show mode together, giving us that unity and it kind of relaxes us before we get up there. About an hour and a half before the show starts it’s usually her and I alone on the bus, the boys know to get out, and it’s just us. We just listen to gangster rap or whatever we feel like listening to at the moment and kind of get in sync with one another and enjoy that space that we have together before we go on. So that’s one routine that we do. Before we all go up onstage together every night we have a little like fist pump thing that we do all together. We’ve done it since the beginning; I can’t remember not doing it.”
HS: “You can actually see that fist pump in the very first scene of our ‘Igniter’ music video. It started because one time Chris our drummer was drunk and he was like ‘who the f*** are we? We’re the B-b-b-butcher Babies!’ and he stuttered it. So now before every show we all put our hands in the middle and just yell it. It’s just a nice way of saying, you know, we’re a team and lets go up there and kick a** and no mater what happened during the day before hand or if anyone was in a bad mood it just kind of pumps you up.”
E: “Since you mentioned ‘Igniter’, let’s talk about the album now. ‘Take It Like A Man’ is the newest record and it came out earlier this year. Having been talking about style and everything, musically that has changed from the previous record ‘Goliath’ to this one. You have a song like Monster’s Ball that’s so catchy and has really quite a bit of melody if you listen for it, but is still a straight up headbanger at the same time. What are some of the influences, either musically or otherwise that you might have pulled from going into this album?”
HS: “The difference between ‘Goliath’ and ‘Take It Like A Man’ is that for ‘Goliath’ we had our past entire lives to write it because it’s out debut album. Some of the songs date back a long time from diary or journal entries, songs that were written when we were just teenagers or even young adults. For ‘Take It Like A Man’ we really focused on a lot of emotions that we’ve developed over the past couple years of touring and being ripped away from our usual lives. You’re thrown into this whirlwind of touring which is a lot of fun but very grueling and you sacrifice a lot. We dove into those emotions and we also pulled from emotions that we had compressed for our entire lives, stuff that we wanted to talk about. Writing music for us is a very therapeutic experience just as it is for the listener who is listening to it. There are some songs on there that touch on some subjects that we had shunned and put away and never wanted to think about, but we knew we had to for ourselves and to grow. We took those emotions from deep into our childhood and exposed them and it became very raw. I think the difference between ‘Goliath’ and this is that it has more balls if you will. I really feel like this is a more honest album where you really know exactly who we are and where we came from and things that we have gone through. The emotions that we have now as opposed to back in the day make it a very raw, honest album which we’re really excited about.
E: “You can definitely feel it, especially in songs like Dead Man Walking, and Thrown Away. There is so much to this album lyrically. Do you find it easy to write about personal things or do you kind of have to remove yourself from it and almost make it into its own story, kind of like an autobiography versus a book that is maybe based on a true story but has a lot of added elements?”
CH: “I think it’s actually easier to just be honest and a lot healthier to just get it all out. It becomes a cathartic experience and I think for both of us, like Heidi said, it’s become a lot easier to just tell it like it is. The emotions are still strong and we are lucky in the fact that we are not young girls, you know? We’ve been through a lot and we have this great material right within us, so why not use that? We don’t have to dig for a story or dig for emotions, it’s there and it wants to come out. It’s very easy to let it do that.
HS: “There are different times where it is fun to do a song based on a true story and research on something and really write in that perspective. We did it with ‘Grim Sleeper’ off of ‘Goliath’. It was about the serial killer Lonnie Franklin who was called the Grim Sleeper in LA. It was really interesting to dig into that story and research it and write from what you would think would be the killer’s perspective and the victim’s perspective. So it was really interesting and a neat experience. When it comes down to putting emotions out that mean something to us and getting on stage and singing these songs and showing the emotion in them, I think it’s so much more important for us to be honest about out lives and really focus on what we can give through all of our past experiences.
E: “Quite interestingly, in the song ‘The Butcher’ there is a specific mention of someone named Ed. Who is Ed and what is his significance?”
CH: “Heidi and I found a story about a kid in the UK who was obsessed with the TV show Dexter and he murdered his girlfriend, acting out something that he had seen on the show. He already had mental health issues and he had a voice in his head that would talk to him and its name was Ed. We were fascinated by the story and so we wrote this song based on this kid the voice inside of his head that was telling him to do these awful things.
HS: “It was very interesting too because the boy’s sister came home and had done; he had chopped up his girlfriend and put the pieces in bags, just like in the show Dexter. He told his sister ‘Ed made me do it’ and so for us not only were we fascinated by the story but I love Dexter so that became one of the songs we did research for and dove into story and the mindset that someone might be into for that.
E: “The first thing that came to mind when you said Dexter was not that show but the cartoon Dexter’s Laboratory. Even though he’s kind of a mad scientist he probably wouldn’t kill anyone!”
HS: “Dexter’s Lab-or-atory! (Laughs) Yeah, it turned out to be a great song for us. With that one in particular we wanted to dive into more of a death metal sound that we usually try to achieve with the really high screams and low guttural ones and putting them together in that blended mix. That was fun for us to try.
E: “Are you constantly writing and putting ideas down for possible new material?”
CH: “Everyone in the band is always writing and jotting down things and I know I can speak for Heidi and myself when I say that we’re always writing in our notebooks and even on the notepads in our iPhones. She and I both have great one-liners and things that fit perfectly with the other ones that we’ve been making up. So we’re always writing, otherwise it becomes overwhelming when you have to come up with a whole album’s worth of material so last minute. There’s a lot of beauty in the things that come into your head in the middle of the day that you just jot down and you find the perfect places for them later on. So we’re always doing that.
HS: “Even the boys as well do that. When we first started the almost four month tour that we were just on, we had just released ‘Take It Like A Man’, but the boys were still on the bus writing together on off days. I know that every single one of them have brilliant ideas that they’ve gotten down and I can’t wait to get into the studio and hash some of them out. At the same time I think that right now when it comes to rehearsing and getting together as a band we are focused on perfecting our show. Personally we will always be writing so when it comes time to create that we all have material to pick from. I think, as a creative person, that you can’t stop…writing, no you can’t stop writing, no you can’t stop! (Laughing) So, yes we are always writing.”
E: “There seems to be a nice balance of contrast in terms of writing and subject matter and like you said with the vocals, both in the high and low screams and in the clean vocals. The video for ‘Monster’s Ball’ definitely is a good visual representation of that light and dark, the horror and the glamour. Kind of like those images of zombie Marilyn Monroe. Are those elements that play a part in the underlying aesthetics of the band?”
CH: “It may come off that way although I’ve never really thought about it like that. I know Heidi and I both like to glam it up sometimes, and enjoy dressing up and putting on heels. At the same time I really don’t think we consider glamour to play a role.
HS: “I think for ‘Monster’s Ball’ it was really just that we wanted to make it a jazzy feel for the club, because the music kind of calls for it a little bit and just make it a real monster’s ball. We wanted to be the jazz band that was playing who inevitably ‘turnt up’ as the kids say and got crazy with the rest of the monsters. As far as the whole horror and glamour I guess you could see that but for us we really don’t focus on that we just go out and be ourselves.
E: “It’s a cool video to watch and the make up looked great. Did it take a long time to do?”
HS: “Our make up artists did a really good job. We had a team of three artists who did twenty five people in three hours. Mine took about an hour, and I think Carla’s took about an hour as well. They really detailed us and made all the rest of the monsters look incredible. Our make up crew did a great job.”
E: “On the album over all, do you have a favorite song or one that you feel you’ve worked the hardest on?”
CH: “For me, mine is probably ‘The Butcher’, I love that song and love the dynamics in it. Then ‘Thrown Away’ is another favorite of mine because it’s a song that is so different from anything else we’ve ever done. In the beginning with Henry’s guitar track, we didn’t know quite what we would do with it. We thought maybe we’d just throw it in between songs as some filler or some ambience noise. It ended up being something really special though; I had an idea for the verse and Heidi had an idea for the chorus and it ended up becoming a song. The fan response to the song was incredible and we knew we had something special. I think after even recording it when we listened back the first time I think everyone in the room got chills because it was something that became so cool and so gorgeous and very special. I’m very proud of it.
HS: “I agree with Carla on ‘Thrown Away’, I think that’s a very beautiful song which I am very proud of, that we came up with something like that. One thing that we’ve always told ourselves is that we would never pigeonhole ourselves in a specific direction; we’ll go wherever we want whenever we want. It was really neat to dive into something unexpected with that. My favorite on the album would have to be ‘Gravemaker’. I really love that song because it’s very detailed. It could be considered gruesome in some points, but it’s about getting to the point where we realized we had become role models to some people and we started living our lives in a more positive way because of that. At the same time, people look at you and you’re supposed to be perfect and not make a mistake. For us, we’re just human like everybody else, and that’s what the song is about.”
Butcher Babies will be performing with Cradle Of Filth at the House Of Blues Boston on January 27th, 2016. For more tour dates and tickets, check out butcherbabiesofficial.com or livenation.com.
To see Heidi’s creative customs, visit her Etsy page here.
View Carla’s unique drawings and find out more info about her book here.
‘Take It Like A Man’ is available everywhere now via Century Media Records.