The Butcher Babies are the most talked about band in metal. And rightfully so.
Fronted by Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey, the Butcher Babies may have caught the metal world’s attention with their insanely good looks and strategically placed nipple tape, but after the release of their debut album, Goliath (Century Media Records), and an impressive (nipple tape-free) showing on the 2013 Mayhem Festival, the LA metal band has proven they are far more than a gimmick.
I caught up with Heidi and Carla to talk about the busiest year of their lives, how they fit in with the men of Mayhem, and what it means to be back home in LA as they celebrate the release of their debut album.
Tell me about Mayhem Festival…
Carla: It was the most incredible time of our lives. We were very well received on tour, and going out there, we weren’t sure how we were going to be received. I mean, it’s the biggest touring metal festival there is. The fans loved us, and we had a blast. Every day we got to play in front of thousands of people — it was just a crazy, crazy summer.
Heidi: We were touring with some of our biggest influences as well. Being on tour with Rob Zombie was in and of itself just incredible. It was kind of a dream come true, if you will. Not only that, but for every metal band, it’s your dream to play Mayhem Festival. It’s now something that we have under our belts, and we learned a lot and came out a better band than when we went into it.
Now was that the first time Butcher Babies have played with any of those bands (from Mayhem)?
Carla: Yeah, actually. That was our first time playing with all of those bands. We did a one-off in Las Vegas a couple years ago and a couple of the bands were on that show — I know Five Finger Death Punch was on that one — but this was our first time actually touring with these bands.
These are all bands that we respect a lot. They were all sizing us up and didn’t know what to expect from us. You know, you read on the Internet a lot of negative comments about us — like we’re “not a real metal band, blah, blah, blah…” — so it was so cool to see all the guys from the big bands check out our band. And they would do it every day! We were the most talked about band on Mayhem, supposedly. I mean that’s coming from people from Mastadon and Rob Zombie. I think we really gained a lot of respect from bands on that tour.
Did you guys pick up any tips from the bands on Mayhem? Especially a band like Rob Zombie, which is extremely theatrical like Butcher Babies.
Heidi: If there’s one thing that we definitely picked up, and I wouldn’t say that we exactly picked it up, is really justifying what we are doing. The theatrics were justified. I mean, that’s what people want to see. People pay money to see theatrics, and when they go to a show, they want to see a show.
That’s something that we’ve always believed in, and that’s something a lot of people have always given us a lot of shit about over the past couple years. When I saw people paying money every night to see Rob Zombie put on one of the biggest shows in rock ‘n roll and one of the biggest shows in metal, I think it was a huge justification for what we’re doing.
Were there any stops at all during Mayhem where you actually didn’t receive a warm welcome?
Carla: Not at all! Every show got bigger than the last. We didn’t have any problems with not being well received, and we gained a ton of new fans. That’s the thing: our forte is touring. We’re a great live band. Most people form an opinion about us before they even hear our record, before they see a live show, so that’s two strikes against those people. But once they see us live, they get what we’re doing.
Switching gears now, let’s talk about Goliath. This is your debut album and your first impression on the music industry. Are you happy with the outcome?
Heidi: The great thing about Goliath is that it’s very diverse. There’s something for everybody, and we’re that kind of band. We all come from different metal backgrounds, and you can hear all of those influences on the record; every single one of us has our voice on the record, so-to-say.
For us, we’re very happy with it. We came out with a very dynamic album, and it’s real. It’s who we are. Another great thing about Goliath is that you can really hear the evolution of the band. You hear the second song we ever wrote — the second and third song actually — and the last song we wrote (in a day) in the studio.
Carla: It wasn’t going to make it onto the album because it was too late, but we forced it on.
Heidi: You get to hear a wide spectrum and the evolution of what Butcher Babies is.
Carla: And it’s doing really well on the charts. It charted immediately, and critics seem to love it — we’ve gotten a lot of great reviews. But most importantly, our fans, who have been waiting for this album for years, really like it. Every time we get a Tweet or a Facebook message or a post on Instagram about how much people love the album, we’re so flattered and so happy that we made something that people connect with.
How was it working with Josh Wilbur on your debut album?
Heidi: He’s a huge producer. I mean, Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Avenged Sevenfold. He’s worked with the biggest metal bands in the world. Gojira. I mean, everyone you can think of. So we were a little nervous thinking, “Oh geez, he’s a big time producer…ughhh.” But then we walked in, and he treated us like he was our older brother.
Carla: He dove into it and helped us as musicians and us as people really pull out emotions and the best possible performances he could get.
Do you think it’s easier or more challenging being a new band in metal as opposed to a new artist in the pop world? Do you think metal is more forgiving of new bands or more critical of them?
Carla: That’s a hard question to answer. I think music in general is a hard thing to break into, and there are so many bands nowadays doing it, but how do you make yourself heard? And that’s any kind of music. I don’t think we every really thought about whether or not it was harder to break into pop, or rock, or metal. We just wanted to do what we wanted to do, which has always been metal. We love metal.
Heidi: One of the things that’s true about metal and what really separates it is honesty. That’s what is great about this genre — we have the ability to be us and write what we want to write and really express ourselves artistically. That’s one thing that I think is easier about metal. We are true to ourselves and true to what we want. I don’t know if people get away with that in pop.
Carla: You can also say that pop is easier because you have someone writing your songs for you. And if you’re decent looking and have the right connections, you just use someone else’s lyrics. That is not something we’d ever want to do, and we’ve never entertained that.
Do you think being based in LA has been beneficial for Butcher Babies? Especially being so heavily styled and theatrical?
Carla: I think that, like anything else, you go where the business is, and most music is based out of Los Angeles, so it’s a little bit easier here. A couple of the guys in the band are from Los Angeles, but I mean, Heidi is from Utah, I’m from Detroit, and Henry’s from Oregon. We all moved to LA because we knew that moving to LA was the right thing to do for our careers.
Heidi: And not only that. Being in Los Angeles, there’s this…energy. Everyone is here for a dream, and I think being around that many creative people really pulls out your own creativity. That’s where you really find the right people to work with. I mean, I wouldn’t have been sitting in Utah figuring out how to do this. None of this would have happened if it wasn’t for Los Angeles. None of us would have even found each other. That’s another thing right there — just being around all these people with the same visions and making the same sacrifices as you.
So what are the emotions right now surrounding your first album release in Los Angeles?
Carla: Personally, I haven’t even had a chance to breathe and think about it. I think after the show everything will really set in that we’ve done something pretty incredible. We put out a great album, and we just got off the biggest tour that we’ve ever been on. It’s a really special time for us, and we have to remember to think that way, to take a moment to take it in, do a shot with each other, high five each other, and say, “Hey, we did this!”
Heidi: The thing is we just got off the biggest tour of our lives, and we just put out our debut album…it’s a surreal moment. It’s something every single one of us in this band has looked forward to and dreamed of our entire lives. But, like Carla said, we haven’t really had time to sit back and think about it.
Moving forward, all we care about is getting our album out there. Getting people to hear our art and touching people’s lives with it. For us, just sitting back and celebrating — that can’t happen yet. There’s more work to be done.
Do you have another tour in the works right now?
Carla: We do. We have a lot of things coming up. We’re doing Aftershock Festival in Sacramento with a bunch of cool bands like Korn and Testament and Megadeth. That’s September 14th. Then we’re doing Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare on October 26th in Pomona, California. We have a tour planned for October that we can’t really talk about right now, but we’ve been making some hints about it on our Facebook.
Butcher Babies will celebrate the release of Goliath tonight, August 21st, at the Roxy Theatre in West Hollywood.
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