For many people, the last twelve months have been pretty brutal. Some people have struggled through lockdown while others, like Florida’s experimental doom metal crew, Yashira, rose to the challenges they faced and came through the other side. Halfway through writing their crushing new album, Fail To Be, the group tragically lost their drummer Seth Howard.
Regrouping, the band completed the album, which is out now through Good Fight Music and we caught up with Luke Barber to discuss how they coped with the loss of Seth, what the album means to them, and what lessons they learned from the whole situation.
Thanks for your time, how is life treating you at the moment?
Luke Barber: “Thanks for having us. Life is just about as good as it can be despite the insane state of the world at the moment. We’re doing our best, that’s for sure.”
Your new album Fail To Be is out now. You’ve touched on how important the record was to you, can you explain why?
“The album was extremely important for us to see through, as we lost our great friend and drummer, Seth, a little over halfway through writing it. His death was something that is extremely difficult to move forward from but getting this album finished and recorded was a tough but essential step in the healing process. Not to mention, the fact that his final creative output was able to see the light of day in a legitimate release is just wonderful to us. It feels great to be able to keep his memory alive. We hope that people can understand and appreciate his legacy beyond just enjoying the music. He established such a strong foundation with us and we just want to always give the utmost respect to that fact.”
Given the tough time you went through getting to this stage, what were you feeling as you first heard the final version?
“The feelings came from many different directions when we first heard the final; excitement, sadness, love, anxiety. I think above all, the feeling that sums up how we felt and feel is extreme gratitude. Moments like these should not be taken for granted, a lesson we, unfortunately, learned the hard way. We are beyond grateful for each other, grateful we have such an awesome team on our side, grateful we were able to pull ourselves back up and complete an album that we love deeply and truly needed.”
Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of writing the record and what kept you battling through to the finish line?
“The most challenging part was probably going back and finishing the songs which we had started writing with Seth. Our current drummer, Ryan, and Seth have two pretty different styles. A lot of details had to change to make their styles mesh while giving respect to each player’s styles and contributions. Naturally, a lot of the structures changed as we went into the studio. Navigating what changes were necessary to make the record have maximum cohesion was initially a challenge, but we had great input from our producer, Greg at Silver Bullet Studios, that made that process pretty painless.”
How much did it help you writing those songs and what does it feel like when you’re performing them knowing what you went through?
“Since Ryan lives like 700 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee, we don’t get the chance to meet up to jam very often (especially since COVID-19 has fucked everything up). I know when we do get to jam, a lot of different elements have to fall in place. So when we do end up in a room with Ryan, it’s a pretty magical feeling. It serves as confirmation that we made the right decision to continue. When we jam, we grind at the songs for days at a time. This process is much different than how we used to be when Seth was with us when we could jam leisurely once or twice a week.
It feels like a lot more ‘work’ now when we get together, which is not a complaint. It goes back to not taking things for granted, we know our time together is pretty limited and we always take advantage of what timeframe is available. It makes the songs feel that much more important when we are playing them or when we’re writing new music. We can’t waste any time being bad communicators or having nonspecific ideas. It’s very special knowing we’re all equally contributing to this band that we’ve essentially rebuilt.”
Obviously, the next step should be to perform those songs live. What do you expect them to be like?
“We’ll let you know when we have a better idea (laughs). We haven’t played together in months. The songs are challenging to perform, but we know the more we play them, the better we will get. It’s always been like that for us. That being said, once we are at a point when we can physically perform the songs and feel good about our performance, we will get right back to it. We’ve never really compromised on our live sound (we play loud as shit) so the idea of doing a digital live stream isn’t super appealing but it’s likely the route we will take. Doesn’t seem like actual live shows will be happening anytime soon (err… doesn’t seem like they SHOULD be happening).”
Looking back at that whole period, what did you learn about yourselves as a collective group and as individuals?
“Above all, we have learned a valuable lesson in patience. When you lose a band member in such a horrible way, in such a formative time with tons of opportunities on the horizon, you lose control of your situation. You can’t force anything to happen, you’re at a stalemate. The odds are not in your favour. We had to learn to accept the lack of control and make small steps in spite of it. We figured out that to write better songs, you need a lot more time than we initially would dish out. We learned that if we all share the same vision, and we focus and really put in some elbow grease, we can overcome many obstacles. We learned how to keep our heads up and find the positives in horrible, fucked up situations. We learned to value and love each other, and the people in our circles more. We found out very quickly that Yashira is not something we want to just give up.”
On the flipside, looking forward, is the future a new chapter for the band now the album is out and, if so, what do you hope that holds in store for you?
“We have no expectations. We would like people to connect with the record, we would like to sell a billion copies and play Madison Square Gardens across the world but at the end of the day, our long-term goal is to just continue being friends and writing honest music that we think is badass. That has always been our goal. So in ways, this isn’t a new chapter but a continuation. We’re taking it one day at a time, not getting our hopes up for anything specific. We’re just enjoying being in this band, in this moment.”
2021 is going to be an extremely uncertain time now. Do you think that by proving what you’re capable of battling through with Fail To Be, that you can take on whatever 2021 throws at you?
“Don’t want to speak too soon! We’d rather not have to deal with any other bullshit being thrown our way. We’ll cross that bridge if we come to it!”
Do you have any plans lined up yet for 2021 or are you going to be winging it like the rest of us?
“We have nothing concretely planned for the band at the moment. We are in the middle of writing new material for a small release we will be doing. It would be nice if we can get that out in 2021 but again, we have no expectations. We all have our plates pretty full in our personal lives so those things will continue to get the majority of our attention until band activities start to make more sense.”
Going back to the recent single, “Shades Erased,” you talk about the song being about the disparity between human and technological capabilities. On the plus side, do you see the usual of technology during the lockdown as being a helpful thing for people as well as a hindrance?
“Without being able to see friends, shit does get kind of dark. I know technology has made it way easier to be connected during the COVID era, which is what a lot of people really need right now. I’m glad to see that meme sharing is probably at its all-time peak. Keeps morale as high as possible. On the other hand, the misinformation and hateful rhetoric that seeps into people’s psyche on a daily basis is quite concerning. All in all, technology isn’t inherently a good or bad thing. It’s made good or bad by the fingers who push the buttons.”
Twelve months ago, the world was in a very different place. Looking back to January 1st, 2020, what were your hopes for the year and how did they pan out?
“We were shaping up to hop in our van and drive to Connecticut to record Fail To Be. There was a bit of uncertainty about how everything would go but there was never any doubt that it would be completed. We were ultra determined to squeeze out the songs that we had reworked, we felt responsible for ensuring Seth’s legacy wasn’t tarnished by a flaccid release (he would’ve loved that dick joke). So, really we got everything we wanted. We tracked and released the record. The great response to its release made the whole ordeal of driving like 30 hours total and spending three weeks in a cold basement that much sweeter.”
Finally, thanks for your time and good luck for 2021. Just to finish, on a personal level what are your hopes for 2021
“Here we are, a laundry list of wishful thinking. First and foremost, people have to start trusting science for COVID to fuck completely off. Vaccines must be seen as a viable solution, not a misguided conspiracy. Racism cannot be tolerated at any level any longer. Police departments must be defunded and reformed across the board. Nonviolent offenders need to be released. ICE needs to be destroyed. People have to stop praising sociopaths. In fact, people should generally just trust politicians less. Above all, we hope everyone can just stop being assholes to each other. We won’t hold our breath though.”